It looked like the typical greeting card, a bouquet of flowers against a misty background. Then he noticed the picture nestled among them. Leaning forward, he studied it. There was the face of a young woman, beautiful, shy, gazing ahead, looking at what? Was it her future? Possibly, as behind her there was another face, a young man, looking at her adoringly. She reminded him of his wife, when they were both in their very early teens and on the Steele Street School swim team. He was so proud of her the day she won the County meet, and was selected for the Provincial High School swim meet.
His gaze returned to the beloved face resting on the pillow. She had gone on to win many swimming awards, finally capping it all with a gold at the 2016 Summer Olympics. How they had all celebrated! Their two children, eight year old Freddy and five year old Flossy were so excited they were bouncing around like clowns on pogo sticks. And he was so proud, he couldn’t say a word, just hold her in his arms as though he would never let her go. He sighed. That was all so long ago; she was twenty six, he twenty eight. Now they were in their late eighties, and Freddy and Flossy were grandparents. How swiftly, it seemed, the time had passed.
“Joan,” he whispered, “What will I do without you? You have been my whole life, the only love I ever wanted.” His shoulders slumped and his head bowed again. Tears ran down his wrinkled cheeks, and he broke down, sobbing. Gentle arms went around him, and a voice whispered “Gramps, I’m here for you. We all are. Come, sit down, the others will be here shortly, and we will all pray for strength to accept this. And thank God for letting us have her for so long.” The arms urged him to a chair at the bedside. As he sat, he looked up, into the sweet, loving face of his eldest great-granddaughter, Tabitha Joan.
“Thank you, Tabby. You are so like her; it is almost like having her with me again. I’m sorry I broke down.” He sighed again, and turned his gaze to his wife’s beloved face. Reaching out, he took her hand, leaned forward, and rested his head against it. Tabby patted his shoulder and whispered, ”It’s ok, Gramps, You are entitled to as many tears as you need to shed.” The rest of the family quietly gathered around. Anthony, his grandson minister, quietly started the prayers for the dead, the others joining in the responses.
Then their granddaughter Elizabeth started singing the twenty-third psalm. He listened and was greatly moved when she sang the third verse:
“Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear none ill;
For thou art with me; and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.”
Yes, his Joan had not been afraid, there at the last. She had squeezed his hand and smiled, and gathered the strength to whisper “Love, He has come for me, I am ready to go. I will await your coming, and love you always.” Then she had sighed a last breath, and her hand relaxed. Her face was faintly glowing, calm and peaceful, with a soft smile on her lips.
He must not regret her passing, she had been in so much pain. He would miss her, and mourn her loss. But he knew that, before long, he would join her, and they would be together forever.