Gary writes “Grit Fiction,” because life isn’t always smooth. His stories are characterized by wit, wordplay, and plot twists that will leave the reader guessing.

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Live Love Pray Die

LIVE LOVE PRAY DIE

Cancer is killing the love of my life. My precious girl – my wife for ten years, sweetheart for twice that, best friend for eternity. Terminal cancer is stealing her life away. And it’s poisoning me, with hopelessness, helplessness, confusion. This shouldn’t be happening. I am filled with unfathomable rage while I watch what it’s doing to her. She’s done nothing to deserve this. I used to think that death was mankind’s worst enemy. It isn’t; not by a long shot. Cancer is dying a thousand times over. It’s inflicting so much pain on someone I vowed to protect, and I can’t stop it. Can’t even slow it down.

Cancer steals what you have, and what you could have had. Tears it from you, taking flesh along with it. We’ve tried our best to defeat this murderous thief, she and I. A couple of troupers we’ve been, following an army of doctors’ orders, doing everything possible. We are strong, brave warriors, at least we imagine ourselves as such. It’s a weak and easily penetrable facade. I’m a child in a costume, pretending I have superpowers. Neither of us has the strength for a foe that is too real, too powerful, and unrelenting. We are losing ground and losing hope. We’re losing the battle, inch by inch, though neither of us will admit it to the other. Each day of the past seven months, I’ve watched her die a little bit. No one should have to see this, suffer this.

I’ve been so lucky, so blessed, to have found her. She’s that person you feel like you’ve known your entire life. It’s true in my case, because my life began when we met. Coming to the end, this end, is more unbearable than I can put into words. I’ve seen her true smile, the radiant one. It’s dazzling. The smile she wears now, brave for my sake, pales in comparison. It isn’t enough. Why did this happen to us? To my sweet girl, who is only gentle, loving, anything but hurtful? This is a huge hurt, one so much larger than she could ever conceive of, let alone inflict on anyone. How is this fair?

We were supposed to watch our children grow up, the ones we haven’t had yet, and now never will. We were supposed to grow old together. To finish each other’s sentences, dance at our children’s weddings, at our own fiftieth anniversary. We were on our way. This isn’t a bump in the road, or a detour, it’s a dead end. None of our future dreams will come true. Barely thirty, and our best days are behind us. They are. I’ll never say it to her, but I know it. This is so unfair. She deserves better, so much better.

We’d already been inseparable in health. In sickness, our union is even more concrete. We listened to the horrible words together. “It’s cancer.” And the crumbling began. The doctor said many more words, but after those terrible first two, it was difficult to absorb anything except shock. We gave each other tight smiles, clasped our hands even tighter together, resolutely, while we learned what metastasizing meant. The two of us have been one in purpose, promising to fight this together. But at what cost, I think, during the rare moments I am alone. At what cost? It’s killing her. It won’t let up. I’ve heard people curse cancer, challenge it defiantly, and believe me, my wife and I have added our screams to the collective. Cancer doesn’t care, doesn’t listen, shows no mercy. It’s killing her, and I can’t let it, and I can’t stop it.

Six months of chemotherapy is a year of hell. I look at my wife, my partner’s beautiful eyes and watch them fill with tears. I’m failing her. Neither of us discusses the lost pounds, lost energy, lost resolve. The lost hair. She tries to clean it from the drains, bless her heart, but I won’t allow it. I won’t let her mop up vomit, wash soiled bedding, despite her brave protests. I can’t do that to her. She’s enduring much too much as it is.

We ought to be walking barefoot on beaches, hand in hand. Instead we sit together in cold, sterile hospital rooms, staring at anatomical diagrams and pharmaceutical advertisements instead of sunrises and sunsets.

“Babe?” I hear her voice bring me back. She sounds exhausted, but she’s doing a good job of disguising it. I look at her, trying not to break down. “I love you,” she says, in a calm, steady voice, and I’m no longer under the draining fluorescent lights. I’m with her outside in the bright warm sunshine. No cancer, no cares, no one else. The two of us and our undying love. We can’t stay, and it’s killing me like it’s killing her. “We’ve got this,” she lies, and I nod as my eyes tear up again. I hold her close, mindful of tormented nerves, fragile bones, frail, atrophied limbs. I want to promise her that one day all of this will just be a distant memory, a challenge we overcame together. I can’t make myself say those words, whether it’s due to honesty or cowardice, I’m not certain.

Every unit of interferons, a kinder word for toxins, was administered. The excruciating defensive barrage failed to stop or even slow down the cancer. Then the radiation began. It provided little relief and no results. She and I are regulars at the hospital, and we are weary. This is where we spend our days. Our final ones. I wake up each morning hurting, knowing that her pain is double. I can’t begin to understand the emotional anguish that she’s trying to hide.

I’ve never once been drunk, but I am familiar with the feeling of the cold tile floor against my cheek. The bathroom is my temporary refuge, a place where I don’t have to be strong. I can never stay here for too long. Just enough time to cry for her, for myself, for our unborn children, for our future. Then I wash my face, and hope it looks confident after I towel it off. Today is different, though.

I hate that I’m doing this now. Not praying, but praying to someone I’ve been so angry with. Instead of giving thanks, instead of praising, I’ve been demanding answers. Why? Why, God? Did we fail somehow? We were doing everything right. We believed the highest law is love, and we’ve practiced it. So why this? Did you make it happen, or just allow it to? Tell me why I see the person I love most on this planet in agony. What purpose could this p0ssibly serve?

I don’t expect answers. And now, apologizing and pleading as a last resort, fury giving way to humility and lamentation, I turn to Him. I expect nothing, deserve nothing. Still, for her, the love of my life, I will petition with all my heart. From my knees. With tears streaming down my face, and my voice lost after wracking sobs. I hope He can make some sense of my deep despair, because I can’t even make words come out.

God. Make it stop. Please. End it now. It’s too much. I love her too much to keep this up. It will be the death of her. Take me, right now, and help her heal. I’m begging you. Please.

I feel the last enfeebled bits of my life slip away, and I’m thankful that I have been heard. Because it was killing her, my cancer was killing her.