Those last days in the hospital seemed to drag on forever, but later on Walter would look back and think that they passed by too quickly. Katie had always been a fighter. She always had been strong, and her body refused to give up the ghost without a fight. So the fight lasted far longer than it would have had she been a woman of weaker constitution. She knew what was awaiting her though. She had since Walter returned and found her with that one nurse; that mysterious nurse with the reddish-brown hair and striking, familiar eyes. They had shared a long, intimate conversation, and Katie accepted the hand that she was dealt with all the natural grace that was within her.
At first, she wanted to fight it completely. What young wife and mother wouldn't want to fight to remain with her husband and children? Her visitor explained things to her in such a way though that she knew to deny the truth would be more detrimental to her most beloved than to spend what remaining time there was preparing for the long separation.
The nurse seemed familiar to Katie, but she didn't know her from Adam. She wouldn't have known a great many people from Adam then though. She knew - she could feel that something was wrong. John - Walter left abruptly after speaking with the doctor. He wouldn't have done that unless he couldn't bare to see her because he had been given news that was too much for him to handle. She grew angry with him just then. She grew angry with God and everyone who lived to a ripe old age, because she knew that she wouldn't. Her temper, though normally slow to flare, was ferocious, and in frustration she threw a glass of water with her hand that wasn't in a cast.
It was then that the nurse appeared out of nowhere.
She was calm and pristinely dressed in her white uniform. Her skin was creamy white - not unlike dear Hope's. Katie could tell this person wouldn't stand for tantrums. "Now Mrs. Blythe, you shouldn't be throwing things, causing them to shatter. That's no way to act."
"How am I supposed to act, nurse? I'm dying. I can feel it. That's why my husband fled. I'm dying and no one has the courage to tell me to my face."
The nurse calmly straighten Katie's bed covers. "Your husband will return in due time. It's a horrible thing to be told your lifemate is terminally ill. Just think about it. You may be leaving him and those two dear children of yours, but when you get to where you're going, it'll seem like no time at all has passed until they join you. That's how your mother and father will feel when they see you again. That's how Albert feels. Walter, Hope, and Tenny - well, time is finite here, and what seems like nothing to you will seem an eternity to them. They all three will be without you for a very, very long time."
Katie's eyes grew close together as she scrutinized her nurse more and more. Though her hair had a great deal of brown in with the red, she looked almost exactly how Katie imagined Hope would when she grew up. What's more, this nurse seemed to have in intimate knowledge of her family, even facts that she had just learned herself.
"You called me Mrs. Blythe?"
"That is your name, isn't it?"
"Yes, yes I suppose that it is, but legally it still must be Darcy. Walter just remembered his name today. You know my parents are gone, and you know the names of my children and of my brother who..."
"Of your brother who is waiting to escort you to the other side?" the nurse asked while finishing Katie's sentence. "I know you very well. I've kept watch over you since the day you met my brother in France. I was even at your wedding and close by when the twins were born along with Albert. You know that a part of you will always be with them, don't you?" She asked Katie.
"You were at our wedding, weren't you? You spoke with Walter. You're his sister, aren't you?"
The nurse smiled, "I'm Joyce Blythe. My parents planned to call me Joy, I was their firstborn, but they only had that one day with me. Part of me remained here though. My mother kept up with me in her heart, and could almost hear my laughter through the years. I was with them the day that Jem went off to war, then Walter, then when Shirley joined the Air Corps, and every day in between and since. I've especially been near Walter as he took part in this extraordinary journey that was planned out for him. It was all part of a master design too. I'll be with him as Albert escorts you to the other side, and when his time comes, I'll be there too. Though in body, I had to leave my family, I was never too very far away. Neither shall you be."
"What will my babies do without their Mama?" Katie asked as tears started to flow from her eyes.
"They'll grow up in the bosom of their family. Walter will return home to Ingleside with them. They'll be loved and doted on a little more than their cousins even, because they thought that Walter was lost at Courcelette. With the love of their family, all three will eventually heal from this and they'll carry you with them forever."
"It really won't seem that long?"
"The blink of an eye. They'll accept this easier and heal easier if you accept it though."
The anger slowly abated in Katie's heart, and she longer was angry with anyone. For seven years she had been married to Walter. They were seven wonderful years, despite the trials and heartache. For five years she watched as her children grew. She would still be able to watch them. With her good hand, she clasped Joy's and asked of her, "Will you stay with me... until it's time? We are sisters, you know, and I have never been good at being alone."
Joy told her with that knowledge of things beyond, "I'll be with you every step of the way." That was how Walter found them, and though she gave the couple privacy, Joy never fully left Katie.
"Walter, I think you should contact your family. I think that you and the children will be needing them soon," Katie timidly told him.
Walter realized that Katie was aware that she was dying. A self-loathing worse than he ever felt after the sinking of the Lusitania overcame him. "I am a coward. You know, don't you? Did the doctor tell you after I ran away?"
Katie held her hand out to him and motioned for him to sit beside her. "No one had to tell me. I know my own body well enough to know that things are not good."
Tears formed in Walter's misty gray eyes, "I''m so sorry, Katie. I did this to you. You're paying the price for loving this horrible wretch. I should have at least had the courage to tell you myself, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't even imagine it, and I've never been able to face the things that I imagine."
"Walter, loving you has never led to any punishment. There was an accident. At least rather than taking me right away, we have this time together to prepare. You really do need to contact your family. They've been without you far too long, and they'll be good to you and the children after..."
"I already contacted family. I sent a telegram to Grandfather Henry, though Gideon sent one right after the accident. They're the only family we need right now. You need your family."
Katie's eyes began to glisten and with a prophetic glare, she told him, "Oh, but I have family all around, Walter! Those who've crossed before us are still with us in a manner. I won't even go by myself. Albert will be with me, and Joy."
"Yes, Joy. The sister you never knew. She was just in here, you know. She was at our wedding. You spoke with her. Don't you remember?"
Walter managed to laugh at the memory. "I have had so many other things on my mind." He pointed to the door and asked, "She was here just now?"
"Yes, but don't let on that you know its her. I don't think everyone would feel very comfortable knowing that a woman who died as an infant is walking the halls posed as a nurse."
"I would imagine not," Walter responded.
Katie yawned and told him, "I'm tired, Walter. I haven't the strength to remain awake very long..."
"Do go, not yet," he pled.
"Not yet, Walter. Not yet. Albert is not here yet. I'm just going to sleep. Have Ginny and Gideon bring the children. I want to spend as much time with them as possible, and I want them to know what's happening. I won't have my children shocked that one day Mama has disappeared. I want them to know I will always be with them."
"Yes," Walter answered the only thing he could say to the demands of his dying wife.
The next day, the sun shined brightly into the windows, and the white blossoms of the dogwood tree could be seen outside the window when they took Tenny and Hope in to see their mother. Though Tenny's eyes were wide, he was determined to put up a brave face despite his trembling lips. Hope was very upset to see her mother's arm and leg in casts and bandages, and was even more upset by how pale her mother appeared. She laid down next to her Mama and buried her little red head in her Mama's chest. Without really knowing, she knew her mother was leaving her.
Overcome by everything, Tenny crept outside his mother's hospital room and sat his little body up against the wall. He too knew what was happening, but his little nature fought against the urge to cry.
"You can cry, you know Tenny," a friendly nurse told him.
"No I can't. I must be brave for Daddy and Hope and especially my Mama. I must take care of them. They both feel things."
"You feel things too, don't you Tenny?" the nurse asked.
"Yes, I do, but it's different."
"It's not really different, Tenny. You love your mother very much, and you should spend this time with her while you can. It will be fine if you cry in front of her and the others. You should just be yourself with her. She wants to spend every second she can with you."
Tenny stood in a very erect manner for a lad so young, bravely marched himself back into the hospital room, crawled into the bed with his mother and sister, and cried as much as he needed to. He realized it did his mother good to dry his tears one last time as she looked to the friendly nurse and mouthed, "Thank you."
The days passed by in a blur, and though she grew progressively weaker, Katie remained with them long enough to greet her Grandfather and Jane thusly, ""Hello Grandfather. I want you to meet my husband, Walter Cuthbert Blythe."
Thinking Katie delirious from the fever, he looked at her with anguished eyes. They explained how Walter regained his memory with the accident. Grandfather tried to make lite of the manner by saying, "I'm quite thankful that you're no vagabond tramp, though I always had a feeling that you weren't, Walter."
"Thank you, Grandfather," Walter told him as he and Jane gave them a little time alone.
Katie's voice was hoarse as she told them, "I'm glad that you made it here before, well you know."
"Katie, you can fight this," Grandfather urged her.
Katie stiffly shook her head. "No, Grandfather, I can't. I've sustained to many injuries and infections. It's a miracle that I've lasted this long, but I believe that someone wants me to have all of my goodbyes."
Grandfather reached to soothe a strand of her golden hair and felt the fever that coursed through her cheekbones. Resignedly, he whispered, "Oh Katherine."
A day later as the sun slowly laid to rest in the eastern horizon, Katie kissed Hope and Tenny goodbye for the final time. Alone with Walter, as she struggled for breath they shared their goodbyes.
"I love you so much Katie. You've been the very fibre of my being. Now the children shall be that. You were my salvation in the deepest darkness. You've been my soul's mate. I can't tell you again how much I love you," he gently stroked her cheekbone that had grown cold.
"Walter, you've been both my comfort and my joy since the day you opened your eyes. Know that I am always with you, and our love is greater than the divide that is to be between us." They shared one last kiss for all eternity as her eyes grew bright. "They're all here, Walter! Oh, Albert is here for me. Remember I love you."
She was gone. The curtain on Katherine Victoria Darcy Blythe's life fell for the final time.
Ginny sang "How Great Thou Art" with an unprecedented devotion. The infant grass was very soft and very green and swayed about in the wind alongside the lanky tulips and jonquils and the leaves of the willow tree. The sky was a cloudless azure, and the ground let out a fresh, "clean" scent as they lay Katie to rest between her brother and mother. On either side of Walter stood his own comfort and joy, his children, as they said goodbye and placed Forget Me Not roses on the heap of dirt that blanketed their beloved mother and wife.
Weeks later, they said their goodbyes to the MacGowans as they boarded the train to New York on their way to a new home. Young Jacob followed the car a distance, waving wildly at his friends, wondering if he would ever see them again.
With tear-stained eyes, Hope looked up to her father and asked, "Daddy, where are we going?"
Walter gather both children in his lap as Grandfather Henry and Jane looked on, "Let me tell you about a little boy name Walter, who was once, of a place called Ingleside."