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         Anna's Sunrise

          Anna slept much more these days.  She would leave Thomas for hours, whether in the morning, afternoon, or evening.  He took solace in each of these naps, for in his mind, he saw this as a time when she could escape from reality for a bit.  The sun filled the room and warmed the hospital bed, a permanent fixture in their small but cozy home, replacing the large bed they once shared.  Thomas always asked why she wouldn’t let him close the curtains so that she may get a little more sleep in the morning before the sun’s early wake-up call, to which she replied with a smile, “I know I don’t have many left, sunrises are a privilege I cannot waste.”  Anna was not one to mince words or try to soften their blow; she was raised a lady but a tough lady and learned it’s better to tell it how it is than to leave it to be interpreted.  For Thomas, though, talk like that always hit him hard.  His imagination always takes the words, the image they painted, and then fast forwards to that day of her very last sunrise.  A brutal imagination, indeed.

          The sun slowly crept in as if it wished not to wake Anna.  The peacefulness of her face warmed Thomas, as it always has.  It almost glowed as more and more warm light filled the room.  Thomas reaches over and holds her hand as he has done many mornings before.  Her sleepy eyes open just a crack at first, then all the way, and then they both enjoy the view through her large sunrise-facing bay window, her window to the world.  One last sunrise, whenever it would come, and then she would slip away.  He has lived that hellish day too many times to count, for now, all in his head, but with real tears and heartache.  It is coming, but not today.  

            Most days, Thomas sat in an old recliner beside her bed.  The location allowed him easy access to hold her hand while they enjoyed the sun and the view out her window.  It was comfortable, oversized, easily fitting both of them, worn but soft material, a deep warm brown, and a little awkward to extend the leg rest, but oh, was it his favorite chair.  Not for its comfort or position by the windows but rather for the memories that filled its cushions better than any cushion could be.  Cold winter evenings cuddled together, listening to music; he could still feel the warmth of her body as he held her.  Playful moments as she would crawl on top, straddling him, she would press his wrists together and hold his arms above his head till he surrendered, which he did eagerly.  Comfort food on rainy lazy Sundays, binge-watching all manner of mindless TV and movies, these were times they enjoyed too much, and their waistlines were the evidence.  The leg rest was difficult to fold when getting out of the chair.  He would often leap out the side, leaving her stranded to try to fold in the recliner to its closed position.  A hilarious sight!  Anna was only just over five feet tall, and seeing her “determined” face brought tears of laughter to Thomas’s eyes.  But in true Anna fashion, she never quit and managed to get out of that chair anyway, no matter how ungraceful and comical it looked.  Yes, indeed, this chair was beloved for so much more than what it was, its comfort, its location, or any other practical reason.  It was about holding on to each moment together, holding on to each other, loving each moment together, and loving each other.  Memories never to be forgotten.

            October mornings have always been a favorite for Thomas and Anna.  The cool, tingling air gave each of them goosebumps and another reason to cuddle up and keep each other warm.  With her large window opened, today was no exception.  The comforting songs of birds as they flew about, music of nature, she called it.  Having propped her up in her bed with extra pillows, Thomas crawled in next to her and held her close as they lay together, preparing for the view to come.  “Wait for it, Wait for it,” Anna jokingly whispered as if the sun would burst onto the scene as one enormous burst of sunlight; she always did have a flair for the dramatic.  But no burst, a slow easing ray, then another poked through the treetops in the distance.  Squeezing his hand even tighter, her favorite moment near, Thomas looked over at her, her eyes a little glazed but still with an appearance of wonderment as the top of the sun’s oval began clearing the treetops, it always seemed so big this time of morning.  It was like watching a child seeing something unique for the first time: the big eyes, the smile, pure excitement, and, in Anna’s case, pure gratitude.  Gratitude was ever present with Anna and warmed his heart more than any sun ever could.  Leaning into each other, they kissed.  Her lips, he swears, were as soft as the day they shared their first.  They held each other so tight.  She didn’t want to let go or be let go, and Thomas felt the same, so they held on.    She softly whispered, “I love you,” nothing existed at that moment but them.  The sun had stopped rising, the birds had silenced their songs, the breeze had stilled, and even the chill was gone.  The universe paused for them.  Thomas closed his eyes tightly, his voice trembling, and whispered, “I love you, Anna,” then, in the depths of an indescribable sorrow, he felt her pass.

© 2023 by Philip Swartwood


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