Letting Go

October 25, 2008
By Madison Iszler, Hollywood, FL

The soft, slow footsteps echoed down the silent hallway, finally stopping in the doorway of a small, faintly lit room. A boy of about six or seven lay sleeping on the bed with the smallest of smiles on his face as he dreamt of unknown things. His father stood over him, watching the boy for a few moments, and then puttered back down the hallway to his room, a troubled look on his face, and then came to a sudden stop. He had just come to the conclusion that he was scared. Deathly, horribly afraid. And there was nothing he could do about it.

After dropping Joseph off at school the next day, Reuben took his usual route to the hospital where he worked. But this morning his steps were slow and slovenly, not purposeful and confident as before. Reuben took the flight of stairs up to his meticulously organized office, and hastily snatched up a letter lying on his desk before flinging himself into an armchair. Reuben was not used to receiving anonymous mail. Opening the letter, Reuben read the scribbled lines quickly, “You have just been granted two wishes by an anonymous friend who wishes you well. Be careful with what you wish for. It just might come true.” Reuben threw the letter aside before breaking down into tears. It was all too much. He looked up at a picture of Joseph sitting on his windowsill, bits of too familiar dialogue running through his mind. “So young………..bone cancer……….nothing can be done………so young……………three months to live……….so young.” Reuben had walked out of the doctor’s office feeling utterly helpless, a new sensation for him. Reuben had never felt this helpless before. He was a successful surgeon with a promising and experienced career. He could save Joseph. The doctors and experts were all wrong. Reuben could do something, anything. These thoughts ran through Reuben’s aching head. He had recently had to come to grips with the fact that there was nothing he could do, even if he still did not truly believe it himself. Glancing at the wish letter, Reuben plucked it from the garbage can and put it in his pocket. It was a childish whim, he knew, but he had tried everything else. Just then the notification came to prepare for the next surgery, and Reuben had to rush off, momentarily forgetting about the wishes.

The first wish wasn’t even meant to be a first wish. As Reuben leaned over his patient, rapidly searing and cutting as he methodically eradicated the problem, he thought of Joseph. His one and only cherished son, his only memento of his first wife, Rachel, who had died of cancer as well. First her and now Joseph. Reuben had devoted his life to trying to eradicate cancer once and for all, and now all of his efforts would be in vain. Rachel and Joseph were the only things that mattered to him. As the pain seared through his body, the words were out of Reuben’s mouth before he realized what he had done. “I wish that Joseph would stay with me forever.”

Reuben drove down the street towards Joseph’s elementary school at top speed. He scanned the crowd of little children, wondering where Joseph was. And then he saw him. The boy had the most peculiar look on his face, a look of patience and a tiny, secretive smile. Joseph got into the car and sat down beside Reuben. “Hi daddy!!” the child eagerly exclaimed, before telling Reuben about the day’s activities. Reuben listened quietly, wondering how he could break the news of the cancer to his bright, eager son. When they arrived home, Reuben watched his son run merrily across the yard towards Bailey, their brown mastiff. Reuben stood absentmindedly watching Joseph before hastening to prepare dinner. Suddenly, he heard a blood curling scream. Rushing out to the yard, Reuben saw that Joseph had fallen in the grass and was screaming at the top of his lungs. Sensing some wrong and remembering the doctors’ warning that something like this could happen, Reuben snatched up Joseph and raced to the hospital. Once there, Reuben had to be forced to let go of Joseph so that the doctors could take him away. Reuben felt a sudden wave of horror wash over him. What had he done with his selfish wish?

Weeks later, Reuben sat at Joseph’s bedside, silent tears streaming down his face as he watched his son sleep. Joseph had fallen and fatally injured his rib cage, which had punctured his heart. The doctors had given Joseph three weeks to live, but Joseph was still hanging on to life. Reuben knew, deep down, that his wish was all that was keeping Joseph alive. He didn’t know how he knew, and he couldn’t explain it, but he just knew that the wish had worked. Joseph would be with him forever, even if he was in this condition. Reuben glanced out at the darkening horizon before turning back to Joseph. The boy’s bright blue eyes looked up at him, gazing calmly out of a face not unlike his mother’s. Reuben smiled weakly, setting aside the papers he had been attempting to work on, and forced himself not to gather Joseph in his arms. Joseph smiled again in that calm, peaceful way that made Reuben feel as though he were missing something before speaking. “Daddy, I can’t stay with you forever.” Reuben’s face crumpled. “Yes, yes you can, Joseph. I wished for you to stay with me forever, and you will.” Joseph smiled wanly again, before taking one of his father’s worn hands in his own chubby one. “But daddy, maybe I wasn’t meant to.” In that moment, Reuben felt a sudden surge of understanding and with that understanding, pain. Reuben couldn’t explain how he knew, but he knew that Joseph had orchestrated and granted the wish, and Joseph was trying to show him the biggest flaw in the selfish wish. Reuben had wished for Joseph to stay with him forever, but Joseph still had to live with cancer and pain. Reuben looked into the child’s face with streaming eyes before saying, “I know, Joseph. I know.” Leaning over the child as every part of his soul broke into pieces, Reuben kissed the soft cheek. Before speaking, Reuben looked into the face of his last remaining tie to earth. Joseph’s face was sad, but calm and there was a peaceful look about it. Reuben had learned the lesson the boy had been trying to teach him. He had to let go. Joseph wasn’t his to hold on to. So with his heart breaking, Reuben let go of all that was in him as he whispered, “I wish Joseph would die peacefully.”

The author's comments:
I love writing poetry and sometimes fiction, and I submitted this story for a literature assignment. I hope to follow a career in journalism when I'm older.

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This article has 2 comments.

Cathy said...
on Nov. 2 2008 at 3:52 am
drew tears to my eyes

on Nov. 2 2008 at 12:41 am
this was obviously done by an extremely talented writer. I hope that this young person will soon be able to put their talent out there and make the best of it...I too love writing and hope to grow to be a writer...


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