Perspective is an amazing thing. Through 48 years of marriage he never saw her age, even though each morning he saw more of his father's face in the mirror then he did his own. Each daybreak he awoke to gaze into the eyes of the 26 year old girl he fell in love with and married so long ago. Looking at her now he finally saw all those years and the toll it had taken on her.
Perspective also has a way of tempering the past when you look back. Theirs had been as close to a fairy tale as you could hope for. There had been bumps, some bigger than others. Any time he had hurt her feelings she had forgiven him; he had never forgiven himself. They rarely fought, and when they did they more than made up for it. Life had been an adventure they had shared together. Raising two kids had been the most adventurous of all and how proud they both were of the adults their children had become.
When the nest emptied life was filled with days of travel and lazy afternoons holding hands. An early and comfortable retirement gave them more freedom than they ever could have imagined and not a day was wasted. Everything they did they did together. And now would be no different.
The fairy tale ended abruptly after an annual visit to her doctor. By the time the cancer was discovered it had taken more of her than medicine could save. Her last days were a blur to her. To control her pain the medications had to be strong and it took her away from him. When she would surface from the fog she would feel him there beside her; a strong hand stroking her hair or holding one of hers. When the life that remained finally left he was there beside her; right where he had always been for 48 years.
In all those years one had never gone anywhere without the other. This journey of hers would be no different. He had made time to prepare. Papers were on the table and instructions were handwritten next to them. He crawled into bed alongside her and felt the familiar comfort of her form as he molded himself against her. The bitter taste in his mouth tried to be a distraction but he swallowed hard and pushed it out of his mind. He wiped a strand of hair from her face and gave her the final of so many kisses to her forehead. He took her hand in his, just like he had done on the altar so many years past. But the years seemed like just a handful of yesterdays. He could remember that day so vividly. She was so beautiful! A hundred people were gathered in the pews to watch as they exchanged vows, but he had no sense of them. She was all he could see as they promised each other they would be together "Till Death Do Us Part." Throughout their marriage he had never broken those vows, but now he was about to. He closed his eyes and smiled. If he could have told anyone he would have sworn the last sound he heard was the music of her laughter.
Two hours later a son used his key to open the front door to his parent's home. He had tried to answer a text message from his dad but the phones went unanswered. Fairly certain of what he would find he stepped gingerly into the quiet house. The living room was as clean and orderly as ever but the air was thicker than he remembered it ever being. "Dad?" he called out, knowing there would be no reply. He opened the bedroom door and saw his Mom and Dad lying together on the bed. "Oh, Dad," was all he could say as the tears filled his eyes. He picked up the bedside phone to dial 911 and as he did so he looked at his father's face. It was so peaceful. The last few months had been hard and peace was something he had not seen in his dad's face for quite some time. He saw the two them, holding hands. He couldn't remember NOT seeing them holding hands and knew what the call for help would bring. He returned the phone to its cradle and quietly left the room, closing the door behind him. Eternity could wait till morning. After 48 years they deserved one more night.