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That Smile

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“Tom, you look like you need some coffee. Go on, Trish will be fine.”

Usually doctors call visitors and patients Mr. and Mrs. Not me, I’m a regular here. Trish was diagnosed with cancer in her stomach three years ago. The hospital is our second home. Soon to be our only home.

Our real house is too much for us. We’re living paycheck to paycheck even with insurance helping with the hospital bills. But I just can’t bring myself to tell Trish, it would break her heart.

Even though she says she can take whatever bad news I don’t tell her, I know she’s just being optimistic. She’s a fighter, stronger than most people I know. Mentally of course.

I head back to room 21B with a cup of bitter tasting water the hospital calls coffee. You’d think a place for sick people would have better tasting stuff.

Trish is sleeping, so I quietly take my spot next to her bed. It kills me to see her with all those tubes stuck in her. She doesn’t mind. Figures. Well, it’s about time for her to wake up. I kiss her forehead, just like every other time I wake her up.

“Trish! It’s time to wake up!”

She groans. “Can’t I just sleep the whole day?” she says with a weak smile.

“Sorry, doctor’s orders!” I automatically feel like a jerk. Stupid doctor. She should be able to sleep more.

Her smile fades a little. “You know, I think these doctors are out to get me sometimes.” She says this in a joking tone.

She may not be happy now, but she will be later. Her old students are coming in to visit her today. Trish is the best teacher around. Or was. I wince.

Never mind that, I think. The kids should be here anytime now. I’m anxious to see her reaction. Every now and then, I catch her with this smile. It’s the most beautiful, genuine smile in the world. I don’t see it that much anymore.

“Trish! You’ve got visitors!” The doctor is grinning, excited for her.

A group of kids, around sixth grade come in the room. Trish’s face lights up when she automatically recognizes them.

“Hey guys! I didn’t know you were coming!”

They exchange hugs, greetings, and how are yous'. I say hello to all of them and stand on the outside of the room so the kids can crowd around her bed. This is Trish’s time.

About an hour later, they get ready to leave. “Mrs. Trish? We have a surprise for you! “

“Nothing could be better than this, but what would that surprise be?” She’s very curious, I can tell.

“Well, our school has been raising money for you for the past four months. We’ve raised enough money to pay for all of your hospital bills for a whole year! We love you Mrs. Trish!”

I can’t believe what I just heard. I quickly look at Trish. Hoping, praying, for that smile.

Her eyes are glassy. Just like a sunrise, her face lights up with that perfect smile. When I see it, nothing else matters. Not sickness, not bills or money, not anything. Just that smile.





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