Contest #166 winner 🏆

Letting go

Submitted into Contest #166 in response to: Set your story at a retirement or leaving party. ... view prompt

122 comments

Sad Inspirational Creative Nonfiction

This story contains sensitive content

I dedicate this story to my partner and to everyone who has carried or is carrying the burden of grief.


Sitting by the bed, holding my hand, you think my mind is fighting against the decision of my body to quit life’s game. My eyes are closed, but I sense your will through the fingers laced tightly around my own. Tenderness is a force and you stake my claim to life through the insistent pressure of your hand. How it has grown over these long years from its immaculate small perfection to this manifestation of adult capability: greeting strangers, shaking on deals, carrying children of your own. From the first moment, holding tight to my little finger in the hush of the darkened hospital room, it wanted to latch onto me and the world. You needed reassuring then; you do now. 


Beloved child, my hand rests peacefully in your own. Let it speak to you with the words I can no longer form: I am ready, so let me go. 


Quitting seems such a nasty word. I used to think so too. Lying here, I remember telling you not to give up; to keep trying at those school projects, at winning over the sour-faced teacher, at striving to do your best in the world of work and family. So, it is no surprise that you desperately want me to go another round; you aren’t ready for me to hang up the boots and to let this be the final whistle. 


Doctors speak in plain language of their expectations for this last round of play. You are resigned, seeming to concur with their prognosis; yet, when they are gone to the next ward, I feel the pulse of rage in the heartbeat of your hand. It troubles the peace I feel begin to slip about me like the blanket I wrapped you in, our blessed first night together.


Beloved child, tuck me into this long sleep. 


Strength is sometimes a burden. I sense your head bowed with the weight of this demand: to fight on for my life. You are a pillar of strength threatened by tides of emotion. Let them come; lay down the boulder of your mighty will and trust me that there is no wrong or shame in this. It is ok to feel as small as a pebble, waves washing over it, again and again, caught up in the pounding tides of life; but there is also so much strength, even in the smallest stone. 


If the doctor’s words have lit a fighting fire in you, they have quenched my last longings. I have been delivered from the exhausting expectation to struggle and soldier on. My body has long known the relief of a lie-down, now my mind can too. At the end of this illness, I can finally embrace myself once more, body and mind hugging each other tight.


Nurses come, those kind attendees with their needles and bottles to help ease the passing of my days. Quietly and efficiently they dismantle the apparatus that has helped me cling to life. Monitors and machines are disconnected and wheeled away; drips suspend their drops and beeps are silenced. Life lines are hauled out and I am my own net, catching my life’s dreams and memories. Holding them safe inside me, I am ready to let go. 


Deep within you, I wish for a long-lost memory to stir. Do you think you can remember our first night together? There was noise, so much! The bustle of nurses, the instructions of doctors; machines robotically noted key data while I gasped my ragged breath and blew blast after blast on the trumpet of pain. Everything was labouring and then you shuddered into this world on a wave of love. 


You added your noise, of course you did, roaring in a way that silenced everything else. I knew I had never heard a more beautiful sound than your first-born cry. There must have been other noises: temperatures read and recorded, pens scribbling on charts; your armband identification filled in and the blue plastic snapped onto your little wrist; sheets rustling as they were changed and freshly laid; casters clicking on the floor as we were wheeled to another ward, but I was deaf to it all. The only thing that returns to me, in the serenity of now, is the silence we shared as the rest of the world seemed to sleep; those first hours together when it was just us two, with eyes only for each other.


Eventually you closed yours and drifted off to sleep. I was beyond exhaustion and yet, watching your little chest rise and fall in a rhythm so wonderfully familiar and new, I pushed tiredness away as I held you closer to me. I wanted that night to never end; to put off that moment when we would be parted for the first time, even if you were just in a crib a few feet from my bed. My will was strong but eventually the night nurse came by and laughed at my stoic fight to stay awake and keep guard. 


“He’ll be alright, he knows his mum is right beside him. Remember, there’s plenty of time for tiredness in the nights to come!”


She was right. When she lifted you from my arms and placed you in the crib at my side, you never stirred. The last thing I remember before sleep claimed me, was stroking your little hand with the tips of my fingers, realising that you knew I was there, and I knew you were there for me too.


Silence cups us as it did that night eighty years ago. Yours was the small hand then, now it is mine. Things seem different, but nothing really changes at all. Our hands will always reach out to each other across time and space; but in the circle of your memory, you'll reach me and we'll hold each other once more.


Beloved child, my hand rests peacefully in your own. Let it speak to you with the words I can no longer form. Tuck me into this long sleep.


I am ready, and you are too, so let me go.


October 07, 2022 10:57

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122 comments

11:05 Oct 15, 2022

I'm so proud of you Mummy.

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Rebecca Miles
18:10 Oct 15, 2022

Thank you my darling xxxx

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Marshall Den Boer
01:40 Oct 17, 2022

cringe

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08:07 Oct 24, 2022

Your social media rattled brain, with a one-digit IQ cannot really fathom the bond between a mother and her daughter. Just because you have had a loveless life doesn't mean others have. So please, stop being a bitter hoodlum and do something worthwhile.

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Samuel Bissonnette
18:19 Oct 17, 2022

so cringe

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Rebecca Miles
18:39 Oct 17, 2022

Well she is my daughter and it's ok for her to be proud of her mum. Perhaps if you've got kids you'll feel the same regarding how they perceive you. Please don't spoil my joy on the win; it's come out of a hard place...

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Lynda D. Green
15:54 Oct 14, 2022

What a beautiful story. It made me sad while reading it but it was such a peaceful story. Congratulations, I agree you deserve this win.

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Rebecca Miles
16:18 Oct 14, 2022

Thanks ever so much Lynda.

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Carla Ward
21:22 Oct 14, 2022

As a mother entering her senior years this really touched me. Sometimes I broach the subject of my eventual demise with my kids, but I'm pretty frisky for my age, and they're not really ready to talk about it. But it will come. I want my kids to feel the same assurance when it's my time to go. I want them to be at peace with it. This is a beautiful story.

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Rebecca Miles
05:59 Oct 15, 2022

Hi Carla, that sense of assurance was what I wanted to get across. Writing can be so many things, my teenage daughter reads just trashy romances at the moment and it's complete wish fulfilment for a 16 year old, and that's fine. But I wanted to write something really relevant, especially for those who have lost a parent but also to really capture the thoughts of the aged parent. I thought it might open conversations or start an internal dialogue on how best to proceed in this stage of play. I know it has got me preparing to talk more honest...

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Amanda Lieser
18:51 Oct 23, 2022

Hi Rebecca! Congratulations on the win! This is such a deeply personal story and so beautifully written. I love you the reader gets to go along on this complicated and painful journey with your characters. I also thought that you empowered your characters with incredible imagery and heartbreaking words. Nice job!

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Carolina Garcia
23:20 Oct 19, 2022

This is so beautifully written. Your choice of diction, imagery, and tone had me drawn in the entire time. I enjoyed your story immensely. This is a well deserved win, congratulations and thank you for putting this out into the world.

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Rebecca Miles
04:50 Oct 20, 2022

Thanks so much Carolina. I'm so pleased it really resonated with you.

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Janet Boyer
03:18 Oct 19, 2022

After 7 years of marriage, my first husband died of leukemia after a one year battle. It was the reverse of this story: he, a Pentecostal minister, and everyone around him, expected--and fought--for him to be healed. I was only 26 when he died; he, almost 29. I'm almost 52 now and convinced those of us in the West "don't die well". In an ideal world, your story would be required reading. 🙏 Well done; you deserved to win!

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Rebecca Miles
05:00 Oct 20, 2022

Thanks for your really interesting comment Janet. I'm so sorry to hear about the tragedy of your younger life. Dying badly and dying well; does our culture have a big part to play? There's so many motivational phrases from the casual sporting ones; going another round, staying in the ring; to the fighting talk we hear and say for terrible often terminal diseases: battling on etc. Part of me thought it was to do with being human but then I wanted to explore just what a burden that is, how you might be inflicting another level of pain- complet...

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Janet Boyer
05:14 Oct 20, 2022

Western culture, especially America, influences society's stance towards death: from the pioneering "can do!" attitude of the Puritan to Judeo-Christian mythos, humans are cast as "warriors", "soldiers" and "conquerors"...so death is something to be resisted at least and "fought" at best. In fact, the New Testament states that the last "enemy" to be "conquered" IS death. However there's a completely different mindset from the East and non-monotheistic religions. Reincarnation vs. "only one life" plays a part in that...

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Belinda Callahan
18:01 Oct 18, 2022

Wow! Your story really blew me away. I wasnt expecting the emotional response it produced in me. The story is well written and on a subject that our culture doesn't often bring out in the open for discussion. Thank you. I look forward to reading more of your work

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Rebecca Miles
19:16 Oct 18, 2022

Hi Belinda, first off, thanks for your really generously given praise. I thought this story would be judged a bit harshly as it's personal; although I think writing from the heart can be so empowering to both writer and reader, most of the stories on the platform seem more fictional. I love feeling authenticity sometimes, especially when it's something so universal and important as letting go of a loved one. That said, there's a place for flights of fictional escapism too! I'm just glad so many on Reedsy agree with you and me that writing sh...

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Taskeen Tarannum
17:47 Oct 18, 2022

Excellent story sensory perceptions, emotions, comparing the situations with newborn to the end life was outstanding,

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Rebecca Miles
19:10 Oct 18, 2022

Thanks so much for your warm words. I'm so glad the sense of cycle came over.

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Brenda Wilson
17:01 Oct 17, 2022

Wow! What a twist on the prompt! I did not expect this. Great job! I really felt the emotions in this post.

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Rebecca Miles
18:24 Oct 17, 2022

I'm glad you liked the twist. Different sort of party but one still celebrating a life, even if it's being departed.

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Audrey Harmon
14:31 Oct 17, 2022

Congrats on your win! This was a joy to read.

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Rebecca Miles
18:23 Oct 17, 2022

Thanks for the congratulations Audrey!

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Philip Ebuluofor
12:30 Oct 17, 2022

No doubt, great work. Congrats.

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Rebecca Miles
18:23 Oct 17, 2022

Thanks for calling by and commenting Philip.

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Bonnie Saunders
12:11 Oct 17, 2022

Oh wow what a beautiful story. I have just balled my eyes out in the best way possible. Losing a parent is such a difficult thing to process, and this story has truly helped me with the grief I myself carry. Such a powerful message. Great pov, use of metaphors, description, and conveyed emotion. Absolutely loved this. Congratulations! You certainly deserved the win.

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Rebecca Miles
18:41 Oct 17, 2022

Thanks ever so much for your heartfelt praise; it means a lot.

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Madeline Hurning
01:50 Oct 17, 2022

As a nurse who has witnessed these moments as an outsider far too many times to count - thank you for writing this. You've captured the passing of a loved one in all its heart aching grief and beauty, with a tenderness and peacefulness that I yearn for all of my patients who are nearing this journey to experience. Big hugs to you and your family.

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Rebecca Miles
18:21 Oct 17, 2022

Thank you so much Madeline; my mother in law's nurses were not only competent but infinitely caring. It's an amazing job you do; the quality of care helped no end and I'm so glad I can pas that message onto others. Hugs back.

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11:58 Oct 16, 2022

Hello, Ms. Miles, this was a phenomenal story to read. The imagery, the metaphors, the representations of the cycle of life and death through parent and child, it was all marvelous. Thank you for this great story.

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Rebecca Miles
19:43 Oct 16, 2022

Hi Frederic, I'm so glad you thought I pulled it off and it was moving. That makes me very happy.

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Tracy Rattray
10:51 Oct 16, 2022

Congratulations Rebecca. This story was so beautiful and poignant. I love the point of view you have written from, it made the impact so powerful. Thoughts to your partner navigating their grief.

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Rebecca Miles
19:45 Oct 16, 2022

Thanks Tracy; this POV was really moving this week. Thanks for your kind thoughts; we're doing ok. This win has helped us celebrate my mother in law's life even more.

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Marshall Den Boer
01:32 Oct 17, 2022

I don't

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Emily Grace
02:33 Oct 16, 2022

I have no words to describe how beautiful and heart wrenching that was. Wonderful, Rebecca <3

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Rebecca Miles
07:46 Oct 16, 2022

I hope that the beauty helped counter the heart-wrenching part; I hoped the birth might manage that and the sense of full cycle. Thanks so much for reading!

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Avery Mossop
20:46 Oct 15, 2022

What a beautiful juxtaposition of those two milestones, beginning and end of life. It’s the kind of peace that I think we would all hope to feel when approaching our end. Thanks for sharing. And I hope you and your family are doing okay.

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Rebecca Miles
07:45 Oct 16, 2022

Thanks so much Avery for your comment and your asking after my family. We're doing much better. My partner says he will get my story professionally printed so he can have it as a keepsake so that is wonderful I've been able to give him something to treasure.

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Lily Finch
19:58 Oct 15, 2022

Love it! XO

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Sophia Gardenia
19:04 Oct 15, 2022

Oh Rebecca, this is so poignantly sweet. I love the tender, motherly tone that echoes through this piece; it really touched me. Some of my favorite lines: -"It troubles the peace I feel begin to slip about me like the blanket I wrapped you in, our blessed first night together." -"It is ok to feel as small as a pebble, waves washing over it, again and again, caught up in the pounding tides of life; but there is also so much strength, even in the smallest stone." -"Life lines are hauled out and I am my own net, catching my life’s dreams and m...

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Rebecca Miles
07:47 Oct 16, 2022

Hi Sophia, thanks for taking the time to pick out some of your favourite lines. I am a complete sucker for imagery so those are some of my absolute favourites too!

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Sophia Gardenia
14:21 Oct 16, 2022

Me too! I feel like imagery can really make a story and the conflict pop. If you have time, would you mind reading my newest story, "An Apple a Day..."?

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Rebecca Miles
19:42 Oct 16, 2022

Yes of course, but it may take me a day or two. I'm just back from a concert and need to hit the hay. If you like imagery I'm sure it will be up my street.

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Sophia Gardenia
20:10 Oct 16, 2022

Sure! Whenever you have time. :)

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Rebecca Miles
04:27 Oct 17, 2022

I reported Marshall. I mean..what the!!! That's the first abusive comment I've seen on Reedsy...

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Wally Schmidt
16:59 Nov 28, 2022

I have been guilty of trying to hold on to those who are ready to part and your prose beautifully captures this bitter-sweet struggle. I love how your story comes full circle and goes back to the birth of the child where the bonding first occurred, before circling back to the inevitable. This is a truly beautiful story.

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