Though unspoken, they both knew that after 38 years of marriage their time together would soon draw to an end. Despite the valiant war she waged the cancer had overtaken every aspect of her being and we all knew she would not be with us when the morning came. We moved her into the family room as she requested, so she could be among her children and grandchildren, not tucked far away from them in a corner bedroom.
My father knelt beside her. Thinking he was simply bathing her (a task I myself had performed every day over the course of that week), I began to tidy up the nearby kitchen. He raised her left hand and kissed her wedding band. He began to bathe her hand, her arm, her shoulder. He stroked her hair, over and over. She was much calmer, and her breathing that had been so labored in the previous minutes seemed to become less difficult. She turned her face toward him…they were only inches apart from one another.
They did not speak. Their gaze locked onto one another. His hand lingered over her shoulder, then moved toward her chest. Through her entire illness, I had never seen her shed one tear, until now. His hand did not move. I could only imagine what each of them was thinking.
Were they remembering, were they longing? Yearning? Were they aching in anticipation of separation?
Was he trying to memorize her? She, him?
It suddenly dawned on me what was taking place just a few feet away from me. I hurriedly left the room, allowing them to be alone for the last time.
To the casual observer, the scene unfolding may have appeared to a be a sponge bath from a loving caregiver for his dying wife. But it was so much more than that.
What I was witnessing was a most tender act of love making.
Photo Credit: Man met bril (Flikr.com)