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Unsaid Goodbye

Disclaimer: This story can be upsetting. It deals with death and the effects of it on loved ones, reader discretion is advised.

By Donna Fox (HKB)Published 5 months ago 4 min read
Unsaid Goodbye
Photo by Frederic Köberl on Unsplash

Beep, beep, beep.

The sound of my heart monitor machine filled the near-silent room. The only other sound that impeded my peace was the incessant ticking of the clock that counted down my final hour, which was coming faster than I anticipated.

My chest ached with each laboured breath and my eyelids drooped sleepily, as my body threatened to give in. It took everything I had left to fight to stay awake but I had no choice, I had promised myself I would remain conscious until Herman arrived.

But just as I was about to give in and my lids were too heavy to hold open, I heard a gasp and light footsteps coming closer.

Peeling my eyes open I was met with the concerned expression of Herman as he hobbled towards me.

His cheeks are flushed and glasses balanced precariously on the tip of his nose. His icy blue eyes were almost completely hidden behind a saggy furrow and wrinkles that creased his brow. He smacked his lips together in anticipation of speaking as he loomed over me from the side of the bed.

Seeing him this dishevelled, made my heart ache in a whole other kind of way. Although we both knew this day would come, it didn’t make it any easier.

“M-“ He began but I suddenly placed a few fingers on his lips.

Where that burst of energy had come from I will never know.

All I knew for sure was that I couldn’t bear to hear the goodbyes he would try to utter, I wasn’t ready. All I wanted was just a few more minutes with him before I greeted death as an old friend and went on from this life.

Also caught off guard by my actions, Herman stood motionless as he watched me in apprehension. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he gripped the side rail of my hospital bed, his knuckles turning white as he squeezed the bar while waiting for me to make the next move.

I shook my head, silently telling him not to speak. Then removed my hand from his lips and placed it on mine, indicating what I wanted from him.

With a tear-filled nod, he agreed and leaned in. He planted a soft wrinkly kiss on my lips, as another few tears ran down his cheeks. He then bit his lips together, trying to remain silent as per one of my final requests.

He continued to lean over the side, appraising me with weak eyes as he slowly accepted the inevitable.

I placed a shaking hand on his cheek and wicked away a few stray tears, smiling fondly at my husband for what I knew to be the last time.

He returned it with a weathered smile of his own and a new set of tears tracked down his cheeks. His hands found mine that rested on his cheek, then clasped them around it in desperation. Squeezing it gently as his weary smile began to falter and I knew his courage would soon follow.

My chest continued to grow heavier and I knew I only had a few moments left. Using what little strength of mine that remained I squeezed his hand back as hard as I could, then used my free hand to hand him a piece of paper.

It was a letter that contained what I wanted my last words to Herman to be, something he could hang on to in the years to come. But I didn’t want him to read it in front of me, I wanted him to save it for later, as I felt my time grew nearer. The last thing I wanted was to share his silent, knowing gaze before accepting my fate.

He accepted the letter with shaky hands of his own, swallowing hard as he used a finger to flick the frail crumpled piece of paper open.

I gently pushed it closed and gave him a head shake, hoping he’d understand that I didn’t want him to read it here.

He nodded again in understanding, folding the letter and placing it in his left breast pocket. Then gave it a reassuring pat, letting his fingers linger just over his heart for a moment. He watched me in fear-filled anticipation, biting his lips together again as he fought back another wave of tears that emerged anyway.

With the last of my strength, I gripped both of his hands in mine and pulled them to my lips. I gave them one last kiss as I relaxed and felt the last of my strength leave me. My eyes began to close in fatigue as I stole one last glance at my Herman, still wishing for more time. With one last deep breath, I sighed the last of the air from my lungs and my heart machine beeped a single note that carried out the rest of my life.

The Letter:

Dear Herman,

Parting is such sweet sorrow. If love were enough… and all that sappy romantic crap.

We have always been beings of few words so I will keep this simple.

You are my one true love, I love you and will continue to until we meet again.



valuessatiremarriedliteraturehumanitygriefgrandparentsfact or fictionCONTENT WARNING

About the Creator

Donna Fox (HKB)

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Comments (11)

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  • JBaz3 months ago

    Wow this was a beautifully written piece You hit ever emotion available Shame that stories like this do not get the credit it deserves

  • Lamar Wiggins5 months ago

    Very sad story and very successful entry! I especially loved the note at the end. it’s a clever way to express feelings without using your mouth to say the words.

  • Don't scare me like that by posting it in Families! At least I hope it's fiction. Please tell me it is and that it is not what happened with your actual grandparents. Because if it was, you won't find a bigger asshole than me anywhere 😅 You know, I don't even know what I've become now. I think I'm actually a sociopath with selective empathy. Like if it's an animal, no matter what, they have my full empathy. But if it's humans, I only feel empathy for them if what they're feeling sad from or struggling with isn't a consequence of their own decisions or actions. With that being sad, Herman is going through this because he and Norma chose to get married to each other. His decision. If he didn't get married, her death wouldn't affect him. So I feel that's on him. Yeap, I'm definitely the asshole. I'm sorry Donna, I hope you don't take it as me not liking your story because I loved it so much. But like, you know me, I love being brutally honest, especially with people who I'm close to. So just letting you know my thoughts. In the letter, Norma mentioned that parting is a sweet sorrow. I don't know how. I mean parting for me is a full blown sorrow. Nothing sweet about it for me. So that kind made me think a lot. Whether I'm the weird one and are there actually many people who feel parting is a sweet sorrow. I hope I didn't hurt or offend you but if I did, then I'm truly genuinely very sorry 🥺❤️

  • Thavien Yliaster5 months ago

    Ah, the pull on the good ol' heartstrings that I needed. Thanks, Donna. It reminds me of Scott Wade's "The Commitment." Oh, though Scott Wade is now J. S. Wade. The fight for life, to continue living, is one that not many will ever face for the majority of their lives. To continue breathing, the will to keep one's own heart beating, the strength to fight back against the heaviness of one's eyelids is a true testament of conviction. I remember when I was a student one of my teachers had to tell her father, "Dad, You won't make it, even if You do he won't be able to remember Your face. Please, I don't want to see You in pain any longer." She was so close to her due date, but her water hadn't broken yet, and her father was just trying to hold on as much as he desperately could just to meet his grandchild. This also reminds me about why a lot of people hate hospitals. They go in and see somebody they love stuffed with tubes and wires all strewn about them. Even though those things might help in extending the person's lifespan just marginally for the time being, it's like some weird form of body horror and the only thing those devices are displaying are the signs of death that are slowly taking over that person's body. For instance, popular culture talks about scenes such as this in movies such as "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Onward." When my own mother was admitted to the hospital from a near death experience, I never got the chance to go and see her, but the thought of it terrified me. I knew because all I did afterwards was dive into escapism searching for dopamine high after dopamine high to protect me from the harshness of reality that had pierced my heart. Thankfully she survived. Goodness, I wonder how I truly would've acted if I had seen her with stuffed with tubes and wires lying in a hospital bed.

  • Jazzy 5 months ago

    I love that you included the note and what it said! This was so well written, I have seen this particular scene in the hospital a few times and it never doesn't hurt my heart

  • Dana Crandell5 months ago

    Heartbreakingly beautiful! I like that you told it from the more challenging perspective of the person that was passing. Pardon me while I find the box of tissue!

  • Alexander McEvoy5 months ago

    Devastating! Heartbreaking! This was brilliantly written! I loved just how much emotion you were able to convey from Herman's face alone. And the peaceful, willing voice of the narrator, ready at the end, but needing to say goodbye. You certainly pulled a few tears out of me this time Donna :)

  • Donna Renee5 months ago

    Oh my heart 😭😭😭😭. This was exquisite. Heartwrenching and beautiful. ❤️

  • L.C. Schäfer5 months ago

    I'm not crying 😮 I lingered on "wicked away a few stray tears" - I love that bit.

  • J. S. Wade5 months ago

    Sweet, beyond sweet. Lovely and moving take on the challenge Donna. 🥰

  • Mark Gagnon5 months ago

    Great story, Donna, but now I have to start mine all over again. The one I'm working on even starts with beeping. Talk about great minds etc. Maybe I'll finish mine tomorrow and we can compare them.

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