The Final Breath







He laid there, the immense pain in his chest beginning to numb under the realization that he was dying.  Just moments before he was alive, enjoying the morning with his beloved, laughing about the memories they had created the night before.  Now, he was sprawled out on the living room floor fighting for air, and wanting so desperately to talk.

She was there, above him, her hands holding his face as they had a thousand times before.  The worry in her eyes was clear as she begged him not to leave her.  “I love you baby, please stay with me.  We never have to be apart again, I promise.  Stay with me, I love you so much.  Please…please.”

He wanted to talk, but the words just would not come out.  He wanted to remind her that he loved her too.  He wanted to bring her back to the many moments they shared.  As her blue eyes cried the rains of hell onto him, he wanted to bring her back to Heaven, the place that they shared when their bodies meshed and their minds fell into each other.  He wanted so badly to comfort her as she tried to comfort him by touching him, kissing him, and reminding him that yes, he was all she ever needed.  All he could do, however, was lay there.  As the tears streamed down from the corner of his eyes he could only stare at her and beg whatever gods there were that this would not be the end.

His desperate struggle for air began to settle as his mind drifted back to the first time he saw her.  It was a picture, and her eyes had enveloped his senses and drew his attention.  He couldn’t explain the feeling, he only could utter something to himself that he would say to her a short time later: “beautiful”.  She stole his attention to the point that despite loving the mountains he did not notice them behind her.  All he could do was look at her face, those eyes and that smile.  He felt he knew her once, although he couldn’t say when.  He also felt he needed to know her again, although he couldn’t say why.  So, he sent a simple message, and then came her reply.

He could remember the reply, the poetic way she stated her emotions of the moment.  He could feel her presence despite never meeting her.  In a brave and courageous moment this man had sent that woman a message and she had replied.  He knew then that something was happening within him.

A sudden shift brought him back to his reality.  “I’m going to get the phone to call 9-1-1.  Baby, please hold on!”

“NO!” he wanted to scream.  “Please stay here with me.  I need you baby, hold my hand.  Kiss me.  I don’t have much time left.  I have so much I need to say to you.”

She was gone, and although only a few feet it seemed like a million miles had separated them.  They had begun their relationship hundreds of miles apart, and although they had settled into a routine he could remember the pain of being separated from her.  So many days had to be spent missing her and wishing she was there with him.  In the early days he had often doubted that this woman could love him. He had often doubted that she could stay true to him.  He often caved to the frantic fear of his mind created long before he ever met her.  Even at its worst when they ended for a short time, she came back to him proving that he mattered, and that he had value to someone.  She loved him, he could see it in her eyes and feel it in her touch, and now as he heard it in her voice as she frantically begged the dispatcher to get there as fast as he could.  As she screamed at the phone, he only wanted her voice to become sweet again like it was when she said “I love you” or “come to bed baby”.

“Please sweetheart, let me hear you sing” his mind whispered as his mouth remained silent.  “Don’t cry, just whisper in my ear and laugh.  God, let me here that laugh please.  I have a joke here somewhere, please just laugh.”

He could almost hear her laugh.  It made him tingle to hear it.  Her eyes would light up and her mouth would curve “just so”.  It was no wonder everyone loved her so much.  It used to drive him crazy, and he often felt in the beginning like she liked them more than she liked him.  She paid more attention to them, and he felt relegated to a dark corner of the room.  He believed she gave them more of her than she gave him, but once he began to listen and to see the truth he realized what a fool he was.  She gave him so much more of herself than she had given anyone else.  She loved him, and offered to him parts of her he was sure no one else had ever seen.  She even gave him what he asked for, and in the process showed him the truth.  “What a fucking idiot I was” he said to himself.  “I want my fucking life back, I want to love her like she deserved to be loved from the first time we met.  Please God, give it back to me, I won’t waste a second…”

God’s answer was a gasp for air and an intense pain in his chest.  He shook his head angrily at the reply, and then focused as he had learned on the beauty around him.  He could feel his children in his arms again as they had been as babies.  He could hear them say “I love you dada” and feel their little hands take his index finger as they struggled to walk.  He could feel them cuddled next to him when they got older as he read their favorite book.  He could remember the lectures to his son about sports, the diatribes to his daughters about boys, the millions of laughs and the relatively small numbers of tears.  He loved to make them laugh, and he would often make himself the butt of his own jokes to get them laughing hysterically. As he looked into his woman’s eyes something must have told her, “please tell my babies I love them.  Please don’t ever let them forget.”

“I won’t.  But you’re not going anywhere.  You will tell them yourself.”

“God I wish” was his heart’s reply.  His children were the first people he ever felt pure love for.  They taught him what it was to love and be loved, and the woman who now cradled him softly taught him how right he was.  His children gave him value as a father, she taught him value as a lover, together they taught him value as a man.  Even now as he spent his last moments in this existence she was here, showing him his value and the true meaning of love.  It wasn’t in the nifty words he could string together.  It wasn’t in the sex.  It wasn’t in the outward show of affection.  It was in the truth that made all of those things possible, but not necessary.  They were necessary to the ego, the truth was necessary only to itself and it owed something only to itself.  He had understood that early on, but it took him time to get over himself to actually use it. His past had once so cluttered his mind that it stole precious moments away from him and from them.  Moments made even more precious by their imminent end.

He could feel the end coming.  Within him became a mixture of peace and pain, of darkness and light.  He realized this interesting parallel in the life we all lead.  It seemed what we call death is just like what we call life, a mixture of suffering and joy.  Even now, as he suffered intensely amid the final pathway to peace he couldn’t go there.  Not yet.  He wanted to spend one more moment with this woman who had changed his life and brought the sunshine where none existed.  For that he would bear whatever pain that had to be borne.  He suddenly became calm, and the pain seemed to subside.  This, as it had been his entire life, was the power of Love.

He looked at her and felt healthy.  His breathing seemed to return to normal, and the pain in his chest subsided.  He shook his head slowly, although he was not sure at what. It felt like the first time they met, with a mixture of excitement and anticipation followed by realization and love.  Then she laughed, oh God she laughed.  Through the tears and sniffles she laughed.  His head, now on her thighs as she stroked his head and wiped the tears from his cheeks, shook a bit with each burst of laughter.  He was able to lift his arms long enough to wipe her hair from her face and stroke the contour of her jaw line one final time.  Suddenly, he found his voice for one last poetic verse to his lover.

“Baby, I love you.  Since the dawn of time I have loved you.  It may be here, or it may be there, but somewhere I will be loving you.  Please, know that it is you, and it always has been you.  I am grateful for last night, and for every night I have had with you.  I am also very grateful for this moment and that it was with you.  I love you…I swear.”

As she bent to kiss him, he closed his eyes, grateful that the last vision he would have in this lifetime was of her, his lover, his friend, his guiding star.  They kissed sweetly with a passion that had never left.  With that, he inhaled deeply and headed toward peace.

photo by: LievenVM