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Letter #19: Our Last Dance
It was a month before you left me. Three weeks before I made a mistake. Two weeks before I started drinking. The day you told me you were diagnosed.
You grasped my hand and I let you lead me through the house. You’d blindfolded me, and all was dark, but I felt safe. Your hand… the touch of your hand showed me a sense of protection. I've missed that sensation.
I was beginning to grow anxious, worrying you redesigned the guest room or a horrifying act like that. But no, the horrors I acquired that day were far beyond an ugly bedroom. Far beyond. “Dave, I know this house by heart. Where are you taking me?”
You stopped walking and replaced my cloth blindfold. You had brought us to the den. “Why here?” I asked. You answered with the click of the stereo’s remote, signaling ‘You Are So Beautiful,’ our wedding song.
Holding out your hand, you smiled so sweetly, so warmly, I fell in love with you all over again. “May I have this dance?” I could have melted in your eyes, your smile, your arms. I took your hand and we swayed to the beat for a few moments. And then something shifted. I lost the feeling of being protected as you burrowed your head into my shoulder and stifled tears like Charles used to do. We stopped dancing and I rubbed your back gently.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I asked softly. I couldn’t stand seeing you so upset. I’ve never been able to. You lifted your head and I wiped the tears from your cheeks.
“I can’t tell you,” You whispered. I gave you a compassionate, concerned look. “I don’t like it when you’re upset. I want you to be happy, always.”
“I will always be happy, as long as I’m with you.” You looked down into my eyes and began to cry again.
“Michelle,” I heard over your sobs. “I love you, more than anything in this world. Promise you’ll never forget me.”
“David, what are you—“
I was so scared, so worried about you by that point, I could do nothing but stand tall and wait for you to regain bravery. “How could I ever forget?”
Gulping loudly, you finally answered. “I have a cancerous heart tumor.” Everything froze. Time stopped, music faded, the room disappeared. I was somewhere else. And then I came back.
“I don’t understand,” I whimpered.
“When Ellie got knocked out a couple of weeks ago playing soccer, she had to get an MRI to see if she had a concussion, but she was really worried so I went in to show her it wasn't that bad. That's when they found the tumor."
It was so much to take in at once, and all I could think of was how much time we might have left together. I whispered, terrified, “Can they cure you?”
“They can slow it down... but there is no cure for cancer,” You'd let a few tears escape your eyes. “This is how my dad must have died, why I was orphaned.” I didn’t know what to think, or what to say. I just held you in my arms, trying to make the moment last forever, savor the heat of your body, the rhythm of your breath. Your voice cracked and my heart broke as you recited your next words: “I’m scared.”
I let myself cry and we were both scared together. You took my hands once more and led us back into a sway. “Will this be our last dance?”
You looked at me with such a sense of grief, of disappointment; I couldn’t stand to keep eye contact. Your facial expression blamed me for a crime I didn’t commit, a cancer that’s no one’s fault, even if it wasn't intended. I focused my eyes on the floor instead, and silently let teardrop after teardrop flow down my cheeks. Could this possibly be our last embrace? Our last breathing moment together? Alone? The song ended but we didn’t let go. You kissed my forehead, then placed your chin on the top of my head. “We can dance again in heaven, my love,” You said, and squeezed me even tighter. “In heaven.”
That wasn’t our last embrace. It wasn’t our last breathing moment together. It was our last dance. I think I’ve earned my ticket out of heaven, David. I think we will never see each other again. I love you with all my heart, more than anything. But Dave—I wish you’d died the next morning. Maybe then you wouldn’t have left me by choice, and we could still have our dance in heaven. Maybe then our son, the most important part of my life, would still look up to me. I’ve been deprived of even this and there is only one soul to blame. If Ellie hadn’t gotten that concussion, your tumor would never have been discovered. You probably wouldn’t have felt anything, and you would’ve died peacefully and with me.
Wherever you are now, I hope you’re safe. I hope your doing well and you have no pain. I hope you hear the letters I read to you, and you wait for them. I love you.
All of my heart,