Her hand was clammy, but he could still feel the softness that had touched him for fifty-two years. She was his first and only love, their courtship had begun in high school, marriage had followed soon, then children, responsibilities, the routine commitments.
With her he had known a love that had no judgments, no greed, no whimsical conditions.
It had been a relationship specially crafted by God, arranged in the heavens, meant to last for eternity.
And as time had passed, he had often asked her – Will you be my life partner for many lifetimes to come?
She would always laugh and pat his stubbled cheek – Oh yes, dear, I’d be delighted.
Her words were more precious than all the treasures in the world. They were the biggest consolation to a man who couldn’t imagine himself without her.
But now as his hand gently gripped hers, his eyes repulsed by the tubes and pipes that were keeping her alive, he sensed the woman slipping away from him.
And he had to know one more time.
‘Sweetheart, please tell me.’
She moaned and moved her fingers.
‘Will you be my life partner for many lifetimes to come?’
The woman was weak, but she made an effort to answer, her mumbling lost in the beeps and whirs of the surrounding machines.
‘What was that, sweety? I couldn’t hear you.’
The man was distraught and desperate to hear his wife’s answer. It was the only thing that would allow him to let go of her. The hope of reuniting in a new life, the promise of living it together.
She clenched her fingers and opened her mouth, but the words were stuck inside her. He encouraged her and patted her arm, coaxing her to hurry. Time wasn’t on her side anymore.
He brought his ear near her mouth but only felt her breaths shortening, their warmth decreasing till there was nothing.
Closing his eyes, he whispered in her ear.
‘Sweetheart, don’t go too far without me.’