Disclaimer: Not mine. Poor holodoc would have a name if they were. The lyrics are Martina McBride's. The line of verse is T.S. Eliot's.
Summary: My sister told me to get off my bloomin' arse and write Janeway's piece of the "Last To Go" series. So I did, already. This is the third. The others are "The Last to Go" and "The Road Home." I'd recommend reading TLTG, otherwise this might not make sense.
When you are old and tired and gray
And wear your overcoat on sunny days
When your brave tales have all been told
I'll ask for them when you are old
Kathryn Janeway saw life's small gifts in a new light.
On visiting day, B'Elanna brought her carrots in a red enamel bowl. She'd taken to gardening in her old age, fending off weeds and hedgehogs with the same intensity she'd brought to battle in her youth. Kathryn hardly ate but one, just gazed upon the vivid colors for a long time, thankful for fresh carrots and all the springs she'd enjoyed them. She was taking her leave of simple pleasures.
Death was easy.
Of all her roads, this last was the smoothest, the least frightening in a space-faring life. In her day, she was a trailblazer, cutting pathways into the unknown. Now she followed a well-traveled route, one that led into darkness, yet surely opened on the dawn. Every day, her breath grew shorter. She was detaching, falling away like a leaf ready to catch the wind and soar.
Nearly a century ago, she'd entered life with a cry, in discomfort and confusion. She'd hit the ground running, taking her first steps unassisted, setting a pattern for the rest of her days. At her father's burial, the Minister had said that we bring nothing into the world and carry nothing out. Dying in that very faith, Kathryn knew the truth. Entering the world with nothing, we leave full of grace, enhanced by experience, rich in love. All her trials were fading, banished by a sense of completion, of having come full circle and fulfilled some higher purpose.
When you are old and full of sleep
And death no longer makes you weep
When your body aches with cold
I'll warm your heart when you are old
Chakotay used to read to her on summer evenings, Native American poetry or T.S. Eliot, swiped from Tom's library. His rich voice hovered like a firefly in the warm, moist air, and they were at peace. She could almost hear him now, across the miles of time and the veil of death. In my beginning is my end. That line of verse, written centuries ago, held so much truth. As we wind up our life, something within draws us home, to a place of total acceptance and endless possibilities.
Chakotay died in flight, amid the nebulas and asteroid fields he loved to study. Space had claimed all there was in a flash of light, even his body. The memory of that last day was the clearest of all. Crossing the tarmac together, she'd leaned her head on his shoulder. He'd placed an arm around her as they walked, and spoke of settling down, of fixing the broken screen door and planting flowers around her garden gate, needlessly apologizing for things left undone. Maybe the Sky Spirits were whispering of his fate, calling him to their circle. He was calling softly to her, now.
Cheating death on Voyager, time and again, she'd never imagined the fates would demand repayment. Naomi Wildman, Voyager's first daughter...Kes, whose bones probably rested on a lonely planet, far from Ocampa...Neelix, who'd hitched a ride on a Starship and never left.
Harry Kim. Who'd have thought a young Ensign could teach his Captain about courage? He'd lived well and died unafraid; she'd seen it on his face and heard it in his last words to Tom Paris before he closed his eyes: I'll see you in the morning.
You'll still be the same to me
A comfort and a mystery
And I will be old too, you see
I'll need someone to comfort me
Now, only a few remained to see the morning light. Seven still lived, but she was gone from Kathryn's life, angry at her fate, at the Federation, at the woman who'd brought her to the Alpha Quadrant. In her egotism, Kathryn hadn't looked beyond the next light-year to see what might become of a former Borg on an intolerant planet. The last she'd heard, Seven was at the Tendara colony, where she'd been born and known the only brief peace in her tumultuous life.
Tom and B'Elanna didn't know of the rift. They were connections to the past, and to Chakotay, constants in her world, which was narrowing everyday. Sometimes, Tom offered her his arm and they walked on the quay together. As she turned to him, the older version would disappear, replaced by a golden-haired young man, dressed smartly in a red and black uniform. She'd scold him for being late. Together, they'd set off for engineering.
Once, she met Tuvok on her way to the Dayroom. He was irritated, complaining that Brianna Paris had smeared jelly on his tricorder. According to the Vulcan, that child lacked discipline.
"That child lacks discipline," Kathryn told the nurses, who smiled and patted her indulgently.
In her clearer moments, Kathryn realized that her mind was deteriorating, conjuring up the ghosts of her past. This dying was a wild night and a new road, for she'd never been good at being vulnerable. This dying was easy; living on was the hard part. If she dwelled on the situation, it would be frightening, but there was no time. They had to get to their battlestations. The Hirogen were a scurrilous lot.
When you are old and pale and gone
And a gentle hand is all you want
I will give you mine to hold
And I'll be here when you are old
Kathryn had made a request of B'Elanna. When she was gone, she'd like roses planted in her memory. Roses to remember her by, and roses for Chakotay, who never got to place them around her garden gate. It would be a living, growing memorial, fragrant with life, flourishing beside B'Elanna's vegetables, safe from weeds and hedgehogs. She wondered if there were hedgehogs on the bridge. She'd have to ask Neelix.
Suddenly, he was there, nattily dressed and colorful as she remembered, sitting in the rocker at her side.
"Neelix!" she cried. "How is your lung?"
"Ask the harvesters-they have it!" his quip sent her into gales of laughter.
The nurse smiled, patted, and hurried on.
They sat in the sunlight, speaking of Voyager, and Kes's cabbages, of the mess hall, and the crew's aversion to leola root. As the afternoon shadows lengthened, the others appeared. They looked young and vibrant; not a day older than when they'd stepped off Voyager for the last time.
There was Chakotay, no longer lost to her. Harry Kim was out of his casket and at his station. There was Tom, as she'd first known him. Kes and Seven were there; no longer angry and disappointed with what she'd tried to give them. Was this a glimpse into that portal that opened on the dawn? In her loss did she regain all that had been and gone? For such, there was no grief.
She could stay here forever, just breathing life away.
There is a time in a patient's life when the pain ceases to be, when the mind slips into a dreamless state, when the need for food becomes minimal and the awareness of the environment all but disappears into darkness-------Elisabeth Kubler-Ross