This is my Short Story Sunday inaugural post. What does that mean? Every Sunday, a short story will be posted for your reading pleasure. I'll invite authors and readers to share a short story as well. Are you up for this challenge? Do you know someone who might be? Let me know.
"You'll be okay," his small, breathy voice, filled the cold room.
A quick inhale helped ground me in place. Everything hinged on my reaction to his words. He needed me. Perhaps not as much as I needed him in that moment and for every agonizing moment after that.
"How do you know," I asked, my heart splintering into shards of regret and sorrow.
"You're stronger than you think you are."
I laced my fingers through his, fearful that I'd never feel the warmth of his skin again.
"What are we going to do without you?" The tears I'd fought to keep at bay poured out of my eyes and swam down my cheeks, spilling onto the front of my shirt.
His eyes - the warm brown eyes I'd spent my entire life looking to for support and understanding - had become distant, a part of him already making its journey to the other side.
With a gentle squeeze to my hand, he whispered, "You and the kids will be alright. Take care of each other."
Movement just outside the window overlooking a small corridor, leading to the emergency room, caught our attention. A family made their way out of the area that would be my grandfather's last stop on Earth. Their happiness didn't go unnoticed. Their loved one would live to see another day.
I didn't begrudge them. How could I? I would've given anything to see my grandfather live another day.
"Are you afraid?" I don't know why I asked that question. I hadn't planned to ask. The five sleepless days and nights I'd spent witnessing what we knew were his final days had been the most difficult days of my life up until that point. Why did I feel compelled to ask him?
His once strong hands - the same hands that had tended to the farm, built the family ranch and held fourteen children and countless grandchildren in them - were now feeble.
I breathed in, hoping that my nostrils would fill with the familiar scent of his after shave and years of hard, back breaking work. The scent had long since faded. Yet, another part of him that would never return.
"I'm not afraid. I'm ready." He said, ready to face the inevitable.
"I love you, Grandpa." I whimpered.
"Love you too, Mija." That was the last time I ever heard that sweet nickname uttered by him. A part of me vanished in that moment.
I scrubbed the fresh tears from my face with the back of my hands.
"It will be okay." He said.
"I don't want you to go," My selfish thought spilled from my lips.
A lone tear spilled from his now gray eyes. The end was near.
One final squeeze of my hand. One teary kiss on his cheek.
Five hours later, nursing staff removed the machines from the room. The cleaning crew emptied the trash bin and disinfected the surfaces. Five hours later, the only real man I'd ever known left this Earth, but not without leaving a lifetime of memories and hearts filled love.
For the love of books and chocolate,