Ten days, until the man they loved was dead. Even now, life drained from his body, at the same pace as the IV fluids tried to drip life back into his swollen limbs. His gorged face bulged over into his neck. Morphine was slowly injected into his tired veins by one of
Nine tubes linked him to this world, suctioned his soul from a peaceful end. With each tortured breath, he sank deeper into a miry wallow of his muddled mind. His glazed vision shifted, and he could make out
Eight young pairs of eyes peered back into the blurry focus, the window to his spirit. Four brown pairs. Three hazel sets. And one blue pair of eyes, like his own, only alert, wide, innocent. He struggled to reach a hand out, to give comfort to his grandchildren, but all he could offer was a weak sigh. His hand was grasped anyway.
Seven years he had known this child, fair-haired like his mother, and just as bright. Worried fingers twined around his own, gripping, promising to hold tight as long as possible. A sweet, clear voice piped, "I love you, Poppi!" Other little voices chimed, "Me too!!"
Those six words set into motion what sheer wishing could not, a spurt of energy. It coursed from his warmed heart, through slowed arteries, briskly to his brain. He found the strength to squeeze the boy's hand and say, "I love you, son. All of you... you are always with me, and I'll be there for you..." And the strength passed. He fought to stay awake. A nurse entered the room, quietly.
Five milligrams. That's all it took. Five milligrams of a calming substance, given intraveinously, and he let go, as his heart settled into a faint, steady beat. His memories drowned him, and now it was 1974. Sherry sat beside him, her upturned gaze so full of love, he thought his heart would burst. He held her to his chest. Tears flowed freely down his wrinkled cheeks, unable to contain his joy. He thought he'd never hug his bride again.
Four minutes to rouse him. That was a bad sign, thought the young man, as he tried softly to wake the sleeping father. Like swimming through honey, it took a while to rise to the surface of unconsciousness. At last, his tears dried, his arms let go, and his Love vanished. He opened his eyes to the harsh glare of the hospital reality.
Three children were his greatest treasures, and they stood around him now. A little refreshed, he opened his arms and they gladly accepted his embrace. His daughter tearfully kissed him, clinging to his ragged body. The two younger boys-no, men now-stood near and held his hands.
Two hands now held by his sons. These hands, now aged and shivering with cold, weren't always so fragile. They had tossed grandbabies above his head, and had gently wriggled loose teeth. They had held weeping children when they lost their mother, but also tickled excited babies. They placed a ring on the hand of the woman he swore to love always, and had worn a matching band to this day. They had rescued a man from a burning barn, and even now, they sent quiet assurance to hands desperately in need.
One life, nobly lived. And unsung hero, he came, lived, and he will go, but he has made a difference. He is good, and he will live on in the hearts of many. But he cannot yet go, because he has one more message for his children. His last words are,
"Don't Forget to Live"