It is early September 2003 and the buzz from the wedding between Wilson Lewis and his lovely wife Jane was still the talk of the town. It seemed everyone had a part in keeping the secret from Jane. Everyone had their part to play, even Anna, the purported bride. Anna had made sure the social editor of the Raleigh News & Observer was present with their best photographer so the renewal of 30 year old vows could be captured for the social pages.
Noah Calhoun is still at the Creekside Extended Care Facility in New Bern, North Carolina. His wife, Allie, died four years ago. It started as a small nuisance cough that would not go away. It turned into a heavy cough which caught the doctor's attention. All the extra attention made Allie's Alzheimer's condition worse, which, in turn, compounded the cough. All the kafuffle meant Noah could not spend time with Allie except late at night. The cough turned into pneumonia and settled into Allie's lungs. Her breathing became labored and sounded like blowing bubbles through a straw. It was at this point that Noah called in the family.
The family meeting included Dr. Barnwell. It was at this time that Noah read out aloud Allie's living will and put heavy emphasis on the fact that she requested no heroics of any sort. To emphasize the point, Noah pointed his gnarly hand at Dr. Barnwell to make sure he understood Noah would be there to ensure his wife's wishes are observed.
Allie's confusion became worse which made giving her medicine orally all but impossible. When the nurses tried to put in a drip Allie's confusion finally took over and she fought off the nurses crying out loud that they were worse than the pixies. Facing bleak choices Noah finally succumbed to the inevitable and gave permission to sedate Allie. That night Noah cried himself to sleep. He knew the inevitable was getting close. It was about this time Noah finally knew he would outlive his beloved wife. He knew he loved Allie more than anything else and that letting go was an excruciating part of that passion.
It was during this time that Noah reflected back on his own wedding ceremony and the words, "… until death do you part." During their marriage the words had no meaning. Now those few words loomed large. Noah, of late, has been spending time with their minister discussing the next big step. His main question being, "Where are we going after this life is over and what will we be doing?" The poor minister did not have anything that satisfied Noah. The minister spouted the usual scriptures and added his own thoughts, but he spoke as a paid preacher and not someone who had authority. Noah's soul felt empty of answers to the questions of life, salvation and will he and Allie to together after this life is over?
The next day Noah hobbled outside the care facility and followed the curving pathway down to the pond. There was a seat that he favored for its view across the pond. It was to this seat that he would escort Allie. On her more lucid days Noah and Allie would sit and talk. Now sitting all alone not only felt wrong, it was wrong: but what could he do? It was at that point that Noah closed his eyes and started to cry quietly to himself. His shoulders gently rose and fell with each quiet sob from the depths of a lonely old man's soul.
The swan was stationary in the water about ten feet from where Noah was sitting. Her legs were working to keep her in place facing Noah. When Noah opened his eyes and saw the swan with a black spot right above the heart: Noah knew it was a sign.
Despite the various medicines Allie's labored breathing did not get better. It was at that point that Noah put his foot down and called another family meeting and asked Dr. Barnwell what was the point of trying to save Allie? If she got better what would happen to her? Her Alzheimer's would never go away, so what was the point? Alzheimer's is a cruel bedfellow.
Noah watched over his wife and watched her die from pneumonia complications. The only consolation was the fact that she was now free of the infirmities of mortal life. When the end came, Noah was holding her hand with their four children standing behind him.
Allie was buried adjacent to Noah's parents in the town's cemetery. It was a spot that Noah and Allie had chosen many years ago. It was a simple graveside ceremony that did not satisfy Noah's soul.
Noah uses his Zimmer frame to get about. He does so slowly and painfully. Years ago his son David added a basket to the frame so he could carry the notebook with him when he hobbled down the corridor to see and read to Allie. Without Allie, the notebook stays in his room. His eyes are very weak, but, as he said, he was not quite like John Milton.
Noah and Allie had five children, four surviving. Jane, born in 1950; Jeffery (Jeff), born in 1952; David, born in 1954; and Katherine (Kate) born in 1957. David was born with a severe case of club foot, which was corrected, and a port-wine stain on his forehead and left cheek. Their last child, John, was born on July 4, 1959. John was a difficult pregnancy and Allie was glad it was her last. Giving birth at the ripe age of forty-three was risky. They named him John after John Fitzgerald Kennedy because they liked what he stood for and the fact that the Kennedy's had one of Allie's paintings hanging in their Hyannis Port, Massachusetts home.
Jane married Wilson Lewis, who graduated from law school at Duke University, has three children and are living in New Bern, North Carolina.
Jeff married Debbie Hamm, after meeting her in the library, earned a PhD in aeronautics, has three children and is living at Huntsville, Alabama where Jeff works at the Marshall Space Flight Center.
David married Lynn Grover. They have known each other since first grade, went to different middle schools and in high school had virtually the same classes throughout their four years. It was during their senior year, at the fall County Fair, that they realized they were more than good friends. That knowledge of each other fostered a bond that transitioned easily into the love of soul mates. They went to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where David earned a degree in financial economics and Lynn in nursing. They settled in Raleigh, North Carolina. David is working in banking and following his father in being a wood turner in the Ed Moulthrop form.
Kate married Grayson Bartholomew, a fellow graduate from the University of North Carolina at Raleigh, has four children and lives close by at Blounts Creek, North Carolina where Grayson is a cotton farmer on two-thousand acres of rented land.