By Lote <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: April 2002
Summary: Reflections on a moonlit beach of a life shared with love, in this poignant deathfic.
Warning! This is a death fic.
Dedication: To all FOLCs who have lost loved/dear ones to cancer. In loving memory of my mother whose courage never faltered even at the very end.
He walked alone on the beach, his shoes held in his right hand, the legs of his pants rolled up to avoid the splash of the incoming waves. The soft sea breeze ruffled his dark hair, giving it a tousled look that only enhanced the handsome visage even further. His steps were measured and his gaze lowered, as if he were deep in thought. An artist painting the scene would have produced the picture of a lonely figure against the gold of the setting sun, for there was nary a soul on the beach besides him.
A seagull flew in front of him and rode the wind currents, climbing higher and higher till it was barely a speck in the sky. His eyes followed the bird's path till he could see no further. His feet stilled and he turned to face the sun as it set over the horizon. The waves lapped at his feet as he stood transfixed at the beauty before him.
"Oh, how she would have loved this." His thought escaped his lips, startling him with the jarring sound when previously only the melodic sound of the waves crashing upon the sandy beach had broken the silence surrounding him.
Tears streaked down his face as the unbidden thoughts of his wife overwhelmed him. His late wife, that was. How he missed her, his life partner, the mother of his children, and most of all, the other half of himself. Every day that she was gone was a single day that he had to walk alone. His gaze turned to the single set of footsteps in the sand, remembering the days of yore when there were two sets of footsteps side by side and close together on the same beach. A sad smile graced his face as he recalled the last time they had spent the day strolling along the beach.
It was the same date, just a different year. His wife had rested her head on his shoulder as her arm encircled his waist, while his draped across her shoulders. He had leaned down to whisper sweet nothings to her as they slowly followed the coastline from one end of the beach to the other, paying attention to none besides each other. A sudden, mischievous imp had prompted her to break away and challenge him to a race, even though she knew she would lose. He had given her ample lead time before he started chasing her, only to pick her up and stride into the sea when he caught her.
She had shrieked, pleaded, and threatened when she realized his intentions. He silenced her with a distraction; he lowered his lips to hers and deepened the kiss as she began to respond in kind. When he thought that she was sufficiently distracted, he broke away and let go. Her shrieks almost burst his eardrums as she sputtered and struggled to get up. His laughter had only angered her even further as she stalked him back to the beach and they started another chase, this time with her doing the chasing.
His smile faded as he was brought back to the present by the chirping of another seagull. That had been a carefree time, when his parents had volunteered to look after the children while they celebrated their wedding anniversary. Then came the darkness, as he came to call that painful period.
He felt so helpless as she faded away, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day. He, who was gifted with all these abilities to save other lives, could only watch as his beloved wife took slow steps towards the grave. He recalled the first time they heard the news; she had been having chest pains and labored breathing. Concerned, he had harassed her to visit the doctor. The doctor had been concerned enough to do an x-ray. As they sat in her office, the doctor laid it out for them.
"Zero chance of recovery," she said. She explained that the cancer had spread from the breast to the lungs, making surgery useless, and chemotherapy would only help to prolong her life by mere months. The doctor predicted that she barely had a year to live.
Neither of them knew how to respond as they sat there shocked. Anger rose within him as he silently blamed the doctor for being so callous in her delivery of the bad news. Of course, in retrospect, his anger wasn't truly targeted at the doctor. Instead it was actually an aimless, helpless anger. One that was born out of a sense of desperation. The doctor was just the easiest target for that anger. He was ashamed to recall abandoning his wife in the office as he hurried into the restroom and cried bitterly.
"Why her? Why cancer? It's not fair!" he raged, wishing with all his might that this was a nightmare, that he would wake from it in another minute. But when the moment passed and he was still faced with the nightmare, resignation settled in and the realization that his wife was out there, needing him, needing his strength.
With the thought of his beloved wife, he had been able to pull himself together and went out to seek her. He found her looking out a window in the waiting room of the hospital. Slipping his arms around her waist, he pulled her close. Neither broke the silence as she leaned back and rested her head on his chest.
"I'm sorry," he finally whispered, his voice hoarse as he tried to stop himself from breaking down again.
"No, you shouldn't be," she whispered back, traces of tears in her voice. "We need to think of how to break this to the kids."
He tightened his hold as if he didn't ever want to let her go. She turned round to face him, smiling tremulously. She knew what he was thinking. Stroking his cheek, she said, "Be brave, beloved. Remember that the two of us together is stronger than either of us alone."
"But that's exactly it, isn't it? We're not going to be together." His harsh voice shocked both of them for he had never raised his voice with her. She flinched at the bitterness of the tone, but instead of breaking away, she had drawn his head to her bosom and held him as tears came pouring out. The nurses passing by averted their eyes, not wanting to intrude on the private moment.
He wiped away the unbidden tears and continued his stroll, his mind still trained on the memory of that hospital room. He remembered the bitter taste of helplessness. Of not being able to save her. Of losing her to an unknown horror. How could he stand watching her grow weaker day by day, knowing that there wasn't anything he could do to make it better? How could he reconcile that with the knowledge that she would leave him one day? Of course they both knew that one day she would leave him. But not this soon. They were supposed to have a lifetime together. Now, he was supposed to contemplate a whole lifetime without her. How could he do that when he couldn't even remember his life before her?
A sigh escaped him as he remembered the soothing touch of his wife as she comforted him and lent him her strength to go on. They had gone home and tried to break the news gently to their children. He smiled proudly as he recalled the brave faces of each one of his beloved kids as they came to terms with the life-altering news. After all, their mother had been a constant in their young lives. To try and imagine a life without her must be almost impossible for them. But they had borne the news with a grace and courage that belied their young age. As the months flew by, he was grateful for their support. They had taken over the chores without complaining, coming home early and spending time with their mother.
He knew that their courage had been inherited from their mother who, after consultation with the family, had vetoed the option of chemotherapy. Her reason was simple; she wanted to spend time with her family without being too weak to do anything. "A few more months of being bedridden isn't going to help much," she had insisted.
As gracefully as he could, he had given in. He hadn't the heart to refuse her. As per her wish, he had taken the whole family to Indonesia for a vacation. He knew her reason for wanting the vacation; she wanted the children to have one last good memory of their time together. Even on vacation, her children had been supportive, making sure that she took her pain medication, that one of them would always be with her.
Chuckling softly, he remembered her hatred of all the fuss. Every time one of the kids hovered too much she would glare at him or her and gave the child a piece of her mind. Her independence hadn't been diminished at all even though she was facing death. That was what pained him the most as the illness started robbing her of that precious independence. Slowly, she lost the ability to walk and had to be carried around. Then she became too weak to even lift a spoon by herself, depending on him or one of the children to feed her instead. He cried privately for the loss of her independence those nights when he would gather her to him as she slept.
Without him being aware of it, the sun had finally set, and the moon had appeared in the dark sky and was reflected in the sea. Once again, he stopped his aimless stroll and lay on the sand, admiring the full moon. There was a full moon too when she had slipped away from their lives. The last few days, the pain was so great that she had been immobilized, unable to eat or drink, or even talk. But she had managed to rouse herself that last night, her voice barely audible as she requested him to take her to see the moon.
He had delicately carried her up to the roof of their house while the kids spread out the mat. Sitting on the mat, he cradled her to him. The kids sat themselves around their parents, each of them touching their mother. All of them knew without any doubt that this was it. It was time to say farewell.
Oh yes, it was the same moon that had looked down on him as his wife went limp in his arms. It was the same moon that witnessed his tears as he kissed her forehead and closed her eyes forever. It was the same moon that heard his angry shouts night after night since, railing against the unfairness of life for taking away the only person he had ever truly loved besides his parents and kids. It was then utterly proper that the same moon witnessed his actions tonight.
Sitting up, he looked out to the sea, the sea which had embraced her ashes. She had loved the sea and the sunset, and most of all the night. He smiled softly as he pictured her diving into the waters for a night swim. Then he shook his head; if he kept remembering he would never finish what he came here to do. His resolve firmed, he picked himself up and dusted the sand from his back.
"Lois, it's been so many years since you left us. Yet you'll always be a part of us, have been a part of us. The kids are grown up now; Sarah is still studying, and don't ask me, I don't know when or if she'll ever stop. Andrea is married to a man I know you'd approve of. And CJ, our baby, the one you've been worried about…well he has grown up to be a fine young man. You ought to be proud of them.
"You were the one who shaped them, even in your death. The first few years were the most difficult as everyone tried to find something to fill the gap you left in us. But they managed to find one another again, and now they're the best of friends, leaning on each other as they should," Clark spoke out loud, addressing his late wife.
He took a deep breath before continuing. "It was I who had the most difficult time letting you go. For years after you were gone I hoarded all the memories of us together. I went about my life by rote without any spark of life. If not for the kids, I think I might have lost all will to live. But today, when I woke up, I realized that I have to let you go in order that I may go on with this life. It's not that I'd ever forget you or love you any less, but to be obsessed with preserving your memory is not healthy. I realize this, and knowing you, you'd have knocked senses into me long ago if you could." This time, his smile was lighter.
"Andrea is pregnant, and she broke the news to me last night. I guess we're going to be grandparents, and that is what woke me up. Our time has passed and it has made way for the future generation. Life and death is a cycle of life, and only by sincerely letting you go can I embrace this new life of our blood. So tonight, I'm here to say goodbye. To let go of the bitterness in my heart of your passing. Goodbye, my love."
He took one last, long look at the calm sea before floating up and flying off.