It had been a good day at work, a day of considerable achievement. I was looking forward to telling Sarah. The last few weeks had been hard on her. She was recovering from a fractured pelvis, and the pain had visibly weakened my Sarah. The news, I hoped, would give her some pleasure.
After the long drive from work, I finally arrived home. Odd. No cheerful greeting. Something was wrong. I found Sarah sitting in her wheelchair at the entrance to the bathroom. She had been there a long time, she said, waiting for me to arrive. She got up, took a few steps, collapsed and lay still.
No doubt it was only a few minutes before the paramedics arrived, but it seemed an eternity. I knew Sarah’s heart had stopped and time was now against her. The paramedics did get her heart going again, but as one of them turned to look at me, his expression, and a slight shake of his head, filled me with dread.
At the hospital I waited in the Chapel while the staff worked to stabilize Sarah. Time passed. The head physician came to get me. His pessimism was apparent.
For a long while I stood beside my beautiful wife’s silent form, talking to her, telling how much I loved her. She seemed to respond to my voice, but it could have been an illusion. Soon the staff told me to go home and get some rest. I turned on every light in the house. It didn't give me much comfort, but it was better than the dark.
Later in the evening the hospital called. Sarah's heart had stopped, but they’d managed, once more, to get it going. They asked for instructions. I told them if it stopped again they were to let her go. But her heart continued strong and steady.
Much earlier I’d called Paul, her son by a previous marriage. He’d immediately started south from San Francisco. I expected he would arrive sometime around midnight, or shortly thereafter, so I stayed up waiting for him. In the morning I awoke from a short sleep on the sofa. Paul had still not arrived. Another worry.
Mid-morning Sarah’s son showed up. He had been so tired on the drive south he pulled off the road and slept through the night. Good. Better late than worse. We talked. He had not realized how serious the situation was.
At the hospital I left Paul alone with Sarah. He had many things to say to her. A couple of hours later he found me, and we stayed with her together.
Shortly before the end a priest arrived to give last rites. Sarah’s blood pressure slowly began to fade. The attending nurse had briefed us, so we knew this was the end. The inevitable continued until only the oxygen machine was still pumping her lungs — simulating a life that was no longer there. I turned it off.
Paul could not bear to stay. This place was now a nightmare. He headed north to be with his family. Alone in agony, I wailed, and wept long into the night.
There was much to do the next day. Work had to be notified and business put on hold. A funeral had to be arranged. A gathering planned. A grave and gravestone had to be purchased. Friends had to be notified. The day passed quickly. Exhausted, I slept, but not well, that night.
The next morning it really hit me. The house was empty. It would always be empty. Half of me was gone. I had been sliced in two, from the top of my head on down. I was deep in shock. There are no words to describe the experience. No language is capable. If you have suffered the like no words are needed. You know. If you have not, you simply cannot comprehend. One thing was clear, I could not stay here. I fled.
My colleagues at work were shocked to see me. I couldn't explain. I needed to be someplace different but familiar. Most of all, I needed the human companionship of my collegial friends. I felt a certain relief being in my office, and tried to work on my project. The nature of my work as an engineering physicist often requires intense focus. This concentration was now out of the question. I couldn’t do a thing. At least, though, I was in a place of comfort.
Sarah was universally loved. At the upcoming funeral our friends would want some reminders of her life. That was my task. I sat for a while, remembering the stories she had told me about the years before we met. I remembered the many things we had shared. Yes, there was much I could report to our friends. Much, but not all. Many things were just between the two of us. I sat in my office and began to write.
I wrote A Great Lady. I told about Sarah’s early life and gave some hint of the troubles she had experienced. I wrote of her talents and triumphs. I wrote about things we had done together. I told of the great privilege I had had spending so many years with this wonderful woman. I wrote my love. And as I wrote, my mood lightened.
The days passed. Friends from all over came to the funeral. It was good to see everyone again. We talked, we told stories, we laughed, we cried. We said farewell to the one we all loved. All gave me comfort. All gave me their love.
After this brief bright moment I sank back into darkness. This depression, I knew, would be fatal. And I knew I must find some way back up towards the light. While I brooded over the question of how to move forward, the warmth I had felt when I wrote my eulogy flooded through me. I knew what to do.
Sarah liked my stories. She liked to hear of my travels to exotic places, of my challenging and rewarding experiences as an aerospace engineer. Most of all she liked to hear about the people I’d met along the way.
Many times Sarah said I should write these tales. I never did. I never wanted to, but now I needed salvation. If writing would put me on the upward path, I would write. I would write stories drawn from my experiences. I would write in memory of Sarah. Writing worked. I began to heal.
Each story is a letter of love to my dear Sarah. Each is an adventure. Each stands complete by itself. Each is meant to entertain or inform. Each is true.
Photo and story "Overture", From The Potato to Star Trek and Beyond. © 2022 Chester L. Richards. All rights reserved.
From Chester L. Richards
Hello, and happy to see you here! A little about what's behind these stories: Having retired from the world of aerospace engineering, I now spend time reading, inventing, listening to music, taking photographs and sharing them with friends. And writing stories. Often about people I've met as I've traveled to exotic places, learned about music, surfing, white water rafting, optics, photography. Every story is true. I hope you enjoy them.