The patient struggled to breathe.
Each stertorous inhalation was marred by a hoarse wheezing. He wasn't sure exactly where he was but he knew what was happening.
He was dying.
His family circled him, bathing him in the lambent warmth of their love; each taking turns offering words of comfort, a gentle caress, a warm hand tenderly clasping his own.
He had been like this for days. The pain had become excruciating. He couldn't eat, he couldn't drink, he could barely stand. He knew it was his time.
But he didn't want to go.
Who would care for his family? Who would watch over them in the dark night? Who would comfort them in their sorrow? Who would share their joy?
"It's ok", he heard the young girl say to the little boy. She was cradling his sobbing form, his wracked shoulders juddering with inconsolable grief; her soothing tones futile in the face of his agony.
The patient felt a hand on his shoulder.
"It's ok", the bearded man said to him as his eyes welled with tears. "We'll see you again brother." He looked away and cursed under his breath.
There was so much sadness in the room. The muffled sobs of his family echoed the threnody reflected in their glistening eyes. Even the stoic man was moved; the one who had long ago drowned his wailing depths in the waters of Lethe.
The mother cooed her children. The patient took comfort in that. New life was there to replace the old.
The doctor entered the room. She was young, competent, professional, and despite her trained empathy, sterile. She spoke with the elders of the family while the other siblings continued to comfort him and each other. His parents listened and nodded, hoping they were making the right decision.
The family gathered close as the doctor leaned in. She touched his arm gently and smiled.
The patient felt a surge of light rush over him, the pain was gone, he wanted to jump up and tell everyone that he was ready to go home, that he was ready to play fetch, that he couldn't wait to feel the baby ride on his back like a horsey. He wanted to run through the hills like when he was a puppy.
But he just slumped forward and started to slip away.
And as he did, the love inside him filled the darkness. His heart overflowed with joy. He was overcome with gratitude for all the blessings of his life. He had loved. He had been loved. He had mattered...
he was free.
"We love you Bear dog", he heard the crying bearded man say one last time in the distance.
"And we'll see you again brother."
Copyright © 2017 Short Stories by Christopher Daniel Barnes - All Rights Reserved.