"I fell in love with her when she was so young." He whispered.
"Sir? Are you ready? Your ride is here."
Sitting up a little straighter, the weathered man raised his eyes to study the young intruder in the doorway. He had come to steal him away from his wife.
Glancing back in my direction, he redirected his attention to his wife, lifting her hand to his cheek. She slept peacefully in her hospital bed.
Shutting his eyes he softly said, "When you've spent over 70 years with the same person, how can you spend a single day apart?"
Not knowing if it was a question or statement, I stood and put my hand on his shoulder.
"What would you like to do?" I quietly asked.
"I need to stay. I'm not leaving her."
Glancing at the person in the doorway, I motioned to go out to the hall. "Is there anyway he can stay a little longer? He really wants to be with her."
The employee from the retirement home where the man lived shook his head. "I really need to get him back Ma'am." Scratching his head, he continued, "If it was my wife in that bed though, I wouldn't want to leave her either. I'll see what I can do."
Giving me a quick wink, he turned to walk down the long white hall.
As I reentered the patient's room, she had shuffled in her bed a little which made her watchful husband more alert. "I don't want her to fall. Since her stroke she's unaware of herself."
He was right. She had lost the ability to control her left side and gave reasonable concern to worry.
She slowly opened her eyes and frowned to focus on her protector. Her expression changed from confusion to peace. She was relieved to see him and her eyes softened. He smiled at her.
"I'm right here. You're okay."
I could see her small right hand squeeze tightly onto his. She was a young 93 to his 97 years.
Stepping out of her room into the hallway, I leaned against the cold hard wall with my clipboard and tried to hold in the tears. It was useless. To see this lifelong love had an effect. The most overwhelming sense of happiness and heart crushing sadness filled my chest.
Every week when I go to work now, I see him, watching over his wife. She is getting better and stronger but he never wants to leave her side.
It's a blessing and a curse to work with people in the end stages of their lives. I learn more than one could possibly imagine from the knowledge and history of the past 100 years. More than anything they have taught me is that life is too short. The happiest of those in the end know that faith, love and friendship far outweigh money, power and greed.
I will go to work next week and walk down the hall in hopes to see her there. More than that though, I'll hope to see the smile in her eyes as she holds onto him, refusing to let him go.
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