I know you think me crazy for making us write our story before we finally leave our home, but I have my reasons and I thank you for your patience. I never told you why, but now I think it is time for you to know. We have lived a lifetime most couples never know, and when I look at you I am frightened by the knowledge that all this will be ending soon. For we both know my prognosis. I worry more about you than I do about me, because I fear the pain I know you will go through. There are no words to express my sorrow for this.
I love you so deeply, so much, that I will find a way to come back to you despite my disease, I promise you that. And this is where the story comes in. When I am lost and lonely, read this story — just as you told it to the children — and know that in some way I will realize it’s about us. And perhaps, just perhaps, we will find a way to be together again.
Please don’t be angry with me on days I do not remember you — we both know they will come. Know that I will always love you, and no matter what happens, know that I have led the greatest life possible. My life with you.
Noah, wherever you are and whenever you read this, I love you. I love you deeply, my husband. You are, and always have been, my dream.
I put the letter aside, rise from my desk and find my slippers. I must sit to put them on. Then, standing, I cross the room and open my door. I look down the hall and see Janice seated at the main desk, which I must pass to get to Allie’s room. At this hour, I am not supposed to leave my room, and Janice does not break the rules.
I wait to see if she will leave, but she does not and I grow impatient. I finally exit my room anyway, slow-shuffle, slide-the-right, slow-shuffle. In the end, I am discovered, but I am not surprised. I stand before her.
«Noah,» she says, «what are you doing?»
«I’m taking a walk,» I say. «I can’t sleep.»
«You’re not really going for a walk, are you? You’re going to see Allie.»
«Yes,» I answer.
«Noah, you know what happened the last time you saw her at night. You shouldn’t do this.»
«I miss her.»
«I know you do, but I can’t let you see her.»
«It’s our anniversary,» I say. This is true. It is one year before gold. Forty-nine years today.
«I see.» She looks away for a moment, and her voice becomes softer. I am surprised. She has never struck me as the sentimental type. «Noah, I’ve seen hundreds of couples struggle with grief, but I’ve never seen anyone handle it like you do. No one around here has ever seen anything like it.» She pauses for just a moment and her eyes begin to fill with tears. «I try to think what it’s like for you, how you keep going day after day, but I can’t imagine it. I don’t know how you do it. You even beat her disease sometimes. Even though the doctors don’t understand it, we nurses do. It’s love — it’s as simple as that. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.»
A lump has risen in my throat, and I am speechless.
«But, Noah, you’re not supposed to do this, and I can’t let you. So go back to your room.» Then, smiling, she says, «I’m going downstairs for some coffee. I won’t be back to check on you for a while, so don’t do anything foolish.»
She rises quickly, touches my arm and walks towards the stairs. She doesn’t look back and suddenly I am alone. I look at her desk and see her coffee, a full cup, and once again, I learn that there are good people in the world.
As I begin my way to Allie’s room, I take tiny steps, and even at that pace, my legs grow tired. I find I must touch the wall to keep from falling down.
When I finally reach her room, my body is weak. My legs are trembling, and my eyes are blurred. The door opens and light from the hallway illuminates the bed where she sleeps.
She is lying with the covers halfway up. After a moment, I see her roll to one side. She looks small in her bed.
I think I hear someone coming, so I enter her room and close the door behind me. Blackness descends and I cross her floor from memory and reach the window. I open the curtains, and the moon stares back, large and full. Though I know I should not, I sit on her bed. Then I reach across and gently touch her face. I stroke her hair, and I feel wonder. She moves and opens her eyes and I suddenly regret my foolishness, for I know she will begin to cry and scream, for this is what she always does. But I feel an urge to attempt the impossible and lean towards her.
Her lips meet mine. And suddenly a miracle, for I feel her mouth open and I discover a forgotten paradise, unchanged all this time, ageless like the stars. I feel the warmth of her body, I close my eyes and become young again — a mighty ship, strong and fearless, and she is my sails. I gently stroke her cheek, then take her hand in mine. I kiss her lips, her cheeks, and listen as she takes a breath. She murmurs softly, «Oh, Noah… I’ve missed you.» Another miracle — the greatest of all! — and there’s no way I can stop the tears as we begin to slip towards heaven itself. For at that moment, the world is full of wonder as I feel her fingers reach for the buttons on my shirt and slowly, very slowly, she begins to undo them one by one.