“It’s time, Mr. Jensen.” The nurse’s hand gently rests on my shoulder. I look up into the most caring eyes I have ever seen. How can she do this every day and still be so compassionate?
I pull myself up from my chair, as she graciously directs me. “Go down to the end of the hall, make a left and it’s the first door on the right.”
I make my way down the pristine hallway, brightly lit with a faint scent of disinfectant. Behind my eyes flash all kinds of memories; sparkles in time like fireworks that split the night sky. Memories of walks along the beach, the sun warming our faces, and the cool water splashing her feet.
She loved the outdoors. I’m not sure which season she liked best, crunching leaves in the fall, walking in the first snowfall, or finding the first flower bud of spring. Being with her family had to be her favorite. It didn’t matter if it was a big holiday celebration or a lazy afternoon watching movies, she was content. And oh, how she loved our kids, how she would do anything to comfort them and keep them safe.
My heart is heavy as I try to fathom how we will manage without her. I’m going to miss how she greeted me at the end of each day when I came home. I could just see the love and joy radiating from every fiber of her being. But how can I be sad when I know she had a perfect life, filled with happiness and love, she, the perfect companion. Another memory brings a smile to my face; the first day I laid eyes on her. Here it was Christmas Eve, she was introduced to me as Holly, looking adorable in her big red bow.
It doesn’t get any better than that. I quietly laugh to myself.
I’ve managed to find the room. I reach out to open the door. As my hand grips the door handle the cold steel jolts me from my reverie and plunges me into reality. I know once I cross this threshold, my life will be changed forever.
I enter the room, and there I see my wife. Our eyes lock and it’s almost as if time stands still. Even though her face is blotchy from crying, she is still the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her green eyes are even more vibrant, probably intensified by the red puffiness that has overtaken her lids. The absence of tears leads me to believe that she is now trying desperately to be strong. This makes me love her even more, if that is at all possible. My arms ache to hold her, so I close the gap between us with two long strides. When I reach her, she collapses in my arms. At this point, words spoken would be meaningless, all I can do is hold on tight. I strengthen her with my embrace and then I look down at where Holly is lying, her breathing a bit labored. I stroke her soft, auburn fur, “Hey girl, it will soon be over. We’ll miss you so much.”
Together my wife and I continue to rub her ears and caress her back. Whispering comforting words as the vet injects the serum that will bring her everlasting peace. Her eyes flutter closed as she takes her last breath.
That same nurse is there by our side, she escorts us into another room where we can spend a few more moments to grieve. Before she leaves, she places Holly’s collar in my hand. The familiar jingle of her tags, which once symbolized vibrant life, now clanged with a hollow sound of a life gone too soon.
Holly was my wife’s Irish Setter; my gift to her one Christmas. Ten years ago, my wife was diagnosed with cancer and began chemo treatments. I knew my wife would need all the love and support she could get during this time. What better than the unconditional love of a pup? She always wanted an Irish Setter; it was the perfect gift. They became instant buddies and were inseparable. Holly knew exactly what my wife needed when she needed it. When all my wife could do was lay in bed, Holly was right there beside her.
As my wife grew stronger, they would go for walks. Holly was there barking to encourage her to go a little further or tug her sleeve when she needed to stop and rest. Holly grew to be the life force in our family, always there for each one of us, with a warm nuzzle or her comforting presence.
My wife is now cancer-free, though the irony is not lost on me that the reason Holly was brought into our life, is the same reason she was taken out of it. I am grateful that Holly’s cancer came later after she lived a full life and she didn’t suffer long. Still, knowing that will not erase the pain or fill the hole in our hearts.
Only time will mend this void in our life with memories that sparkle so bright from a love so pure.