a short story by Hunter Caulder
I lied in the stiff, lifeless bed with the coarse and wrinkled sheets. I’d been in the same bed for weeks and I’d never quite gotten used to the feel of it. But today, in this very moment, I was okay with it. The mattress was now not just familiar, but comfortable. I picked at a loose string in the covers because I didn’t want to look around me. If I did, everything would change…it would be final. I wasn’t sure that I was ready, but I forced myself to gaze upwards anyway. Surrounding the bed on the left side of me were my parents. Both of their eyes were filled with tears, their faces emotionally drained.
There was a lump forming in my throat just at the sight of them, so I looked back away. I glanced over beside me, staring at the machine that was giving me life. My heart rate was slow…slower than usual. My breaths were becoming shorter by the second. Yet still, something about this moment felt right. I knew it was time. The fight was over. My lip trembled and before I knew it, a tear fell from my eye. It rolled halfway down my cheek before stopping when it touched the nasal cannula that went from my nostrils and wrapped behind my ears. From behind my ears, the small line of tubes hung off the side of my bed and connected to the oxygen tank, gifting me my final breaths.
To get my attention, my mother grabbed my colorless hand softly. I turned to face her, trying to speak. I knew I had over a thousand things to say, but nothing came out. I’d said goodbye to them a million times, but this one was different. I knew this would be the last, and that realization was what broke my heart. My father knelt beside the bed, placing his hand on my knee. “I love you,” they said. More tears began to fall from my eyes as I nodded my head and responded. “I love you, too. I love you both so much. I…” my words became hung in my throat. “I think it’s time.”
As I spoke those words, their faces held so much pain and brokenness. But in the midst of it, they wiped the tears from their cheeks and pushed through. They had to be strong and brave for me. “It’s okay,” my mother whispered. I glanced to my father, and he gave me a slight nod. Before I closed my eyes, I gave them a smile as I looked to them knowing I would see them again one day. My eyes fluttered closed and the white walls of the hospital room faded into a white light. The illumination was full of happiness, prosperity and hopefulness. I was no longer scared of what was to come. In comfort, I held on to my mother’s last loving words to me. I carried on, knowing that it’s okay.