“Nurse, he’s conscious, he opened his eyes for a moment. Do you think he’s in pain?”
The nurse shook her head, “No, I don’t think so.”
He heard their murmured conversation and wanted to say, “Of course I’m in pain, it hurts to breathe. Please, let me sleep again.” His eyes closed. The light in the room was too bright. “Please, just let me sleep.”
The nurse opened the drip running into a vein. Soon he was back in a drug-induced torpor, temporarily released from the pain but able to dream, to relive old memories.
It was early in the morning before the heat sapped their strength. It was their habit to drive down to the shore of the dam. He was running, as usual. She, on the other hand, chose to drive along the little road. He liked this arrangement, she was his lookout, if she saw a Zebra she would fling the car door open quietly hissing, “Zebra” and he would dive in. A Zebra might be cute to look at, but they had a temper and a kick from one of them was bad news. Once they circumvented that danger, she slowed down and he hopped out to continue his run, savouring the smells and sounds of the bush. He loved listening to the birds singing their early morning songs perched in the trees along the shore. The gently lapping water made him feel cool and comfortable.
His eyes flickered, but no, he did not wake, just off on another dream. This time they were walking in a green forest. The bracken towering above them, like being in an Amazonian jungle. He had never been there, but she spoke longingly of going there sometime. They spent hours every day walking in different parts of the Forest of Dean. One of their favourite walks was alongside the brook. He never tired of hearing it flow, tinkling over the rocks in the shallows, then just as suddenly, it became deep and gurgled into whirlpools, catching the sunlight, making everywhere sparkle.
Another favorite walk was in May when the bluebells were in flower. They always went to the other side of the forest, where the display was spectacular. Driving along the valley, the experience was difficult to explain. The perfume of the flowers was sweet, almost cloying. While the sight of miles and miles of blue flowers bobbing in the early spring was humbling, all this was nature's bounty, no cultivation, just this annual race to flower before the trees came into full leaf and cut off the sunlight.
On other days, very early in the morning, they would go out when the mist was swirling around, making a magical, mystical world. He knew she loved this time best of all, hoping for otherworldly visitors, fairies maybe, or a fiery Dragon snorting its way down the path. Or even a Knight in bright shining armour. But, sadly, they never met any.
However, on at least two occasions, they had come across the wild boar. Then there would be a few seconds stand-off as each party stared. Then, with a grunt, the sow turned and melted away into the undergrowth with her family of humbug piglets scurrying after. Although it seemed they had stared at each other for ages, in reality, it all happened too quickly for her to grab the camera and take a photo. No matter, those memories last a lifetime or maybe more.
She always did the driving, he couldn’t drive. But they were happy in each other’s company. Often, lengthy drives lulled him into a dozy state listening to the soporific sounds of the tires on the tar road, always shooting back to alert as soon as the car stopped.
After they moved to Norfolk, they still had to go across the country to Cheltenham monthly for a meeting. On these trips, he loved to settle down for a snooze as they drove away from the house early in the morning. They would be well on their way long before the rush-hour traffic; he knew this gave her a sense of achievement and made sure she did not feel stressed trying to negotiate all the roundabouts.
Later, just before they drove onto the motorway, she would pull into a McDonald’s. Ordinarily, they ate very healthy food, but she started to flag and it was too early for chocolate, so to keep her alert, she ran in to get a McMuffin and a hot drink. He loved the bacon, she the egg, and they shared the muffin before setting off again. Both of them were silent on these drives, although sometimes she listened to an audible book. It made little sense to him, but if that’s what she wanted, then it was fine by him.
Their next stop was his favourite, a walk on the hill above Stratford-upon-Avon. They followed the path alongside a little wood until they reached the gate into a field. Now he quickened his pace and left her to walk sedately down the slope and up to the top of the hill where there were two benches. Puffing slightly, she sat looking out over the patchwork countryside and watching the rabbits on the opposite slope, while observing him do his daily run. Then it was back to the car and off to the meeting. More correctly, she went into the meeting while he sat in the dappled light from the tree, warm and comfortable and drowsing. He was happy to wait, knowing it was a women’s only meeting.
This day passed and as the sun sank below the horizon, he opened his eyes again. She was there, holding him, tears running down her face. He looked at her with love and longing, it was still a struggle to breathe and he heard a voice saying, “I’m sorry, there is nothing more we can do.”
He felt the injection and as the liquid entered his body, it released his spirit. He had spent his last day on Earth dreaming of their wonderful life. Then he walked across the Rainbow Bridge, pain-free at last.