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The Time Death Stole
The time death stole was precious. It was something we all treasured; it was a jewel, cradled loving in our palms, and then it was stolen, plucked from our hands by death's cold fingers and carried off without hope of recovery. Gone; all of the promise of weeks and months with someone we loved gone in an instant, cruelly vanished when it was all we dared hope for and desire. Death is a crafty beast, always eying us with his dark eyes, licking his lips and waiting impatiently for an opportunity to strike, never pausing to think of the grief he causes when he swoops in on silent wings and snatches those we love from our grasp and carries them away in his iron like grip.
The time death stole from me and from my family, was the weeks and months we had left with my grandmother. The doctors said two months. Within in a week she was gone, our waiting arms left empty, as she was carried away in death's cold grasp. Pancreatic cancer is a killer--like death, it is sneaky and without remorse, letting you believe you have won only to claim the victory at the last moment, springing forward and crossing the finish line first to claim the trophy of your life.
For six months we waited and prayed that she would prevail. The wonders of modern medicine promised us a miracle; a recovery from this, the worst of illnesses. But in reality the promise was empty. It was hope, but not a concrete fact that she would survive.
"The cancer is mostly gone," they said, sending her home to tell us good news, raising our hopes so that we floated on air for days, surviving solely on those few words and treasuring them as if they were dearer to us than gold.
But death is cruel. She withered. The strong woman, so independent and loving, faded from the strength she had once shown. She remained independent until the end; her one desire that she was hellbent on realizing. But she grew weak, lacking the strength to go about her daily activities, and even the strength to speak quietly into the phone. When she was hospitalized, the nurses and doctors laughed at our fears that this would be the end.
"She'll be fine; we're not worried about her," they said. "She just needs to be given some medicine and then we'll send her home. Just a scan to make sure the cancer isn't back, but don't worry."
So we pushed our fears to the back of our minds and laughed at them, never questioning the words of those so esteemed in their profession.
"Two months," they said. What a blow. So sudden in coming and crushing our dreams for the future. "The tumor's back; two months at the most."
I cried. The dreams I had treasured were suddenly smashed into a thousand little pieces that it was impossible to piece back together again, much like the pieces of broken glass from a windshield after a car wreck, lying scattered on the pavement and sparkling enticingly with promises never to be fulfilled. The glass is broken; the dreams are broken, even though they still sparkle, calling to me to search for them, even though the search is futile. I wanted her to meet my daughter. I dreamed of handing her my little girl; the one I wanted so desperately; letting my child meet the woman who had inspired me and loved me for so many years. All those dreams, crushed in an instant. And the tears did no good.
Twelve long hours spent trapped in a car, knowing that at the end we would reach only an empty house that needed cleaned so that she could come home and spent her last few weeks with us. But it was not to be. Within in a week they said so many things; two months, two weeks, a few days...then she was gone.
The night we arrived my father sat in the hospital room with her, talking with the woman who had raised and loved him from the day he was born. He said she was lucid and spoke clearly; she was healthy enough to come home. But the next morning as we cleared the way for the hospital bed he called for my mother. She left in a hurry and arrived only just in time to take her hand before she died. A few seconds more and she would have been too late.
I never got to say good-bye. Not even a hug or a parting kiss. My good-bye was whispered to the air; a fervent kiss planted on a cold headstone high up in the mountains before a fresh grave. It was a poor substitute for a loving hug and kiss from my grandmother, or even a few parting words.
As I sat on the porch with my guitar, I saw the car pull into the driveway. My mother raised her hand as she passed, a tissue clutched in her fingers, obscuring her face from view. My heart fell, crashing to the floor as heavy as a stone. I stood and placed the guitar down, savoring the feel of the wood that I knew my grandmother had touched.
"She's gone," my mother said as I walked down the slope of the driveway to embrace her. "But you knew that."
And I did, but that did not make her passing easier. I was supposed to have the time to say good-bye, but that time was stolen from me, and my heart is still bitter. As I sat on the porch, rocking quietly in the heat of a southern summer and listening sadly to the crickets chirping beneath the porch and the cicada's crying in the trees, I cried. The tears dripped down my face, hot, sticky, and salty, tasting bitter on my lips. They were worthless, and I knew it; tears do not bring back the dead or the time that was stolen from us, but for the life of my I could not stem their flow. I waited for a friend; craving the words and the hugs sent over a thousand miles by use of the modern technology that could not save my grandmother. It made me feel better, to know that someone loved me; that someone cared that I was grieving. For I could not show my face inside. I did not want them to see me crying; I did not want to start a flow of tears from my little brother and sister; I wanted them to see a brave face that I knew I could not present. It took merely minutes to stop the tears and regain my composure, but those minutes felt longer than hours.
"I never got to say good-bye!" I said, blinded by tears that coated my lashes so that they stuck together, holding the droplets of salty water on their edges like blades of grass hold dewdrops. It was my lament.
It was so hard to never say good-bye, but easier I knew, than holding back tears and whispering a good-bye in a hoarse and choked voice before breaking down. This was easier for all of us, but it still wasn't fair. I should have had the chance to say good-bye, but I didn't. That was what struck me as so cruel. Death broke his promise. He promised me months, weeks, even days. But he stole what was mine and left me with nothing.
I still wish I had it, the time death stole. But there's no use in wishing for it, because he will never give it back.