"The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it..." -Nicholas Sparks
If it was irreversible, she wanted to be taken off life support and not left in a vegetative state.
She had made the decision to allow herself to slip through the darkness and away from him. Away from their family. Away from life.
And while he did not fault her for making the decision, it knocked the wind out of him that he had not known.
When he first saw the living will, he did not believe what he was seeing. Disbelief was not an uncommon feeling in the last few days, but he had hoped that this was simply one of those things that was not real. Horror quickly replaced disbelief once he realized that what he was reading was the truth.
And the end of life as he knew it.
They had gotten married three years ago. The ceremony had taken place in the church she had grown up in with all of their family and friends surrounding them. It was a crisp early June afternoon that had been filled with more joy than he ever thought he would know.
She had been so beautiful. Her big, beautiful eyes had sparkled and her soft red lips were quirked up in a smile as she glided down the aisle on the arm of her father. When he reached her and the priest began to speak, he knew nothing but the soft touch of his love's hands and the awe at the life ahead of them.
The first year of their married life rushed by them in a whirl of laughter, kisses, fights and love making. They lived each day for each other and were so in love that the kisses and laughter far surpassed the fights, which were trivial and inconsequential.
It was a few months after their first anniversary when she told him she was expecting.
And so, nine months passed with more excitement and joy than either thought possible. They moved from an apartment to their first home, an old yet lovely white farm house, which was fair sized and surrounded by nature. She had fallen in love with it at first sight, and he had grown to love as well. They painted, furnished, landscaped and decorated the house while the swell of her belly grew larger. And at nights they would simply rest by the grand stone fireplace, hands resting on their unborn child in a tender embrace.
Four days after they celebrated their 2nd anniversary, she was washing dishes and staring at the window over the sink, daydreaming when she dropped a soapy plate and clutched her abdomen. She called out to her husband who came rushing into the kitchen in more of a panic than she was in.
She had managed not to laugh at him and he had managed to drive to the hospital without crashing. This drive only occurred after she had talked him out of calling an ambulance, careful to hide her smirk in an attempt not to hurt his feelings while speaking.
Twenty six hours. She endured the agony of childbirth while he endured the agony of seeing his wife in pain. And the agony of the blood she drew from his hand in five different places due to her long nails when a contraction hit. But it was mostly difficult to watch her pain.
And after the hours of labor had concluded, sweaty and exhausted they had held a small pink bundle tightly in their arms. Their hearts pounded with excitement as they stared down at their tiny daughter. When both his girls were asleep, he couldn't help but reflect on how blessed his life was.
Parenting had been a challenge for the couple, but one they embraced whole heartedly.
Neither of them had ever been particularly good with infants, a fact that had worried them tirelessly during the nine months leading to their daughter's arrival. He had never been in a situation where he was required to care for a baby, and she had always been admittedly the least maternal among her circle of friends.
But somehow it worked.
The first bath had been a tense experience, but ended in laughs when she sprayed the nozzle of the kitchen sink at him for being an ass. The baby had stared up at them with a look of something akin to exasperation, if that was possible in a newborn. "Sorry, baby girl," he had said with a laugh, "You're stuck with us for the next 18 years."
The late night feedings proved interesting, as did the system of changing diapers they worked out. Well, there wasn't really a system. He usually ended up changing the diapers because she insisted that she did the work at night by feeding her. Since he felt it was valid argument on her part, he complied willingly. Unbeknownst to him, she liked to sit in the hallway and listen to the way he spoke softly to their daughter and calmed her cries.
Their baby grew with each passing day and never failed to be a joy to watch. Soon, she gained control of her neck, learned to sit up, scoot on the floor, and most recent had begun crawling rapidly around the house as she approached her first birthday.
They excitedly planned her 1st birthday celebration like the proud parents that they were. Pastel invites with animated giraffes were sent out to relatives and friends, inviting them to the momentous occasion. The cake was baked and the pink balloons blown up and floating obliviously.
The evening before the event, their daughter began coughing after eating her mashed peas. Her eyes were red around the rims and her nose noticeably runny. When they saw they were out of children's medicine, she offered to go to the store and pick some up some quick.
"It'll be okay, peanut," she promised as she kissed her girl's soft, warm forehead, before she left for the pharmacy, "Daddy's going to take care of you."
"Love you!" she called to him as she slipped through the front door. When she saw the questioning look from her child who was resting in his arms she added with a grin, "And I love you, pumpkin!"
The steady beeping of the heart monitor was a comfort to him as he sat in a hard armchair in the dim hospital room.
She lay on the hospital bed, pale and sickly looking, but as beautiful as the first day he ever saw her. Her hair still was glossy and her lips heart shaped and captivating. And her hands, he never failed to marvel, were soft as they had ever been.
It had been four days since the accident.
She had been brought into the emergency room bleeding and unconscious after the semi-truck had hit her car. And she had not regained conscious after that evening, despite the tireless attempts through the night of the doctors and surgeons.
When he first heard that his wife was in a coma, he felt his world crumble around him. She was his life and without her, he was nothing.
But beyond the despair, there was still hope.
Though it was small, he found himself clinging to the chance which was slim but existent, that she would awake and he would take her home to their daughter and the nightmare would fade away from them.
But as the days passed, nothing changed. Her eyes never fluttered open no matter how hard he wished and prayed. Her fingers never shifted as he held them tightly in his own. She never felt the tears that ran down his face and onto her hand.
Soon, even the hope he clung to was torn away from him viciously.
On the 4th day, he had gone to the restroom, leaving her for only a moment. However, while he was washing his hands he stared into the mirror and couldn't help but pause. He didn't take note of his unshaven jaw, red rimmed eyes or disheveled hair, but instead, stared blankly at the reflection before him. Who was he? Who was he as a person without her? She was the reason of his being, and had been since the first time he had heard her laugh.
He didn't know the answer, and he prayed he would not have to figure it out.
When he exited the bathroom after splashing cold water in his face he froze. Doctors and nurses were swarming his wife's room in chaos. Panicked, he rushed into the room, only to be escorted out by male nurse who was asking him to move out of the way.
"That's my wife!" he cried desperately.
"Sir, her doctor will speak with you in a moment."
Her parents, disheveled and with red brimmed eyes appeared. "What's going on?"
The nurse held his hands up to calm them. "We will know more in a moment, for now, please move out of the way."
Just as he spoke, they wheeled her out of the room and moved right past them with great speed. He called out her name and would have rushed after her had his father-in-law not had a firm grip on his bicep.
They waited for what felt like hours in the hospital's waiting room. Her parents spoke quietly to each other occasionally but were for the most part quiet, able to find strength in the arms they had around each other. He paced the length of the room, unable to sit still. For he knew as soon as he sat, he would be unable to stop the tears from slipping away from his eyes.
Briefly, he wondered where his baby girl was. He had not seen much of her since the accident had happened. He couldn't bear to look at the eyes that were absolutely identical to her mother's. When he had brought her in to visit her mother and seen her tears, he could not bring himself to do it again, knowing he was not strong enough to watch her young heart break as his already had. He knew that she was safe and either with his family or one of their friends.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, where the devil himself made the seconds drag by at the slowest pace they had ever gone, a doctor he recognized pushed through the swinging doors.
Her parents stood along with him as the doctor made her way slowly over to them.
"We have been monitoring her closely to see if she would remain stable, and unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse this evening and her brain began hemorrhaging due to the head trauma she received from the accident. We did all that we could for her and she fought hard, but the damage was beyond reverse."
He closed his eyes, his knees nearly collapsing with the her words.
"And this means...what?" her mother choked through her tears.
The doctor, a kind woman who he had taken a liking to immediately, had tears of her own in her eyes. "Your daughter has slipped into an irreversible coma. Her brain has lost the ability to function."
It was too much.
Shattered beyond words, he fell into the chair behind him and dropped his face into his hands.
He could form only one coherent thought. His wife had slipped out of his grasp and away from him and their daughter. And he would never be whole again.
The silence pounded against his ears and he found himself in to much pain to even form tears...or thoughts.
Gently, the doctor asked, "Do you know if she had any wishes for this situation?"
His father-in-law sighed brokenly, "She had a living will."
His head shot out of his hands to see her father pulling papers out of his jacket pocket and handing them to the doctor. "She wanted to be taken off life support within twelve hours and her-" he choked on his words, "…and her organs donated."
"What?" he struggled to ask. Never had he known that she had a living will. They had never discussed it and he felt himself fighting to breathe.
"I understand this is very difficult for you," the doctor told him gently, "however it was very considerate of your wife to plan such measures. It can be a heavy burden to carry if the choice is left up to you."
"Do I get to say goodbye?" his voice cracked.
Seeing his unshed tears and knowing they reflected her own, she nodded.
"We are able to give you the next few hours to say goodbye before we will take her into the operating room."
The next few hours passed by for him with numb sense of heartbreak. Her friends, cousins, aunts and uncles and his family that loved her as their own arrived to say goodbye to her, all leaving the room with tears streaming down their faces. Her parents and he would be the last ones in the room.
Their daughter had arrived with his family and he sat in the waiting room in the corner hugging her tightly against his chest, hanging onto her like a life line. The girl was usually unable to sit still and enjoyed squirming, but for an hour, she seemed to sense her father's pain and was content to be held without complaining, knowing she was needed.
His breathing got shaky when he saw her best friend return and her parents rise from their chairs and unsteadily walk in the direction of their only daughter's hospital room. Her brother stood from his seat, having already individually went in, and took his mother's hand, going with them once more.
He felt his breath get caught in his throat as he knew he was the next and last to go. He brushed his nose against their daughter's hair, squeezing his eyes shut tightly, only allowing one lone tear to slip onto her hair.
Sometime later the three of them arrived back in the waiting room. Her parents quickly found a couch in the corner as her mother was sobbing into her father's chest. Her brother walked over to where he was sitting. Wordlessly, her brother held his hand out to him and helped him out of the chair, knowing he would not be able to himself.
Clutching his daughter and trembling, he walked through the doors and down the hallway to his wife's room for the final time.
The tears flowed down his face the moment he saw her lying on the bed with a new ventilator attached with tubing to her mouth. He sat down on the bed next to her and was struck by a memory from their honeymoon.
They had gone to the Caribbean and stayed in a beach villa, frolicking in the surf and lying in the sun for nearly the entire week, content to be just with each other.
On the first day, she had been lying on a towel spread out on the sand, her eyes closed and a smile on her face.
"What are you doing?" he had asked.
"I'm tanning," she replied with a grin.
"Why?" he had wondered.
"Because skin usually looks better with some color," she laughed.
He had been confused. "You notice that kind of stuff?"
"You don't?" she had challenged with a giggle.
"No," he replied honestly, "Since the day I met you, I've never really been able to get past much other than your beautiful eyes."
He remembered that she had laughed and kissed him, though he noticed the blush that had been on her cheeks. It was killing him that he would never see her eyes again, except in the face of his daughter.
"I don't know what to say, sweetheart," he admitted, taking hold of her hand with the hand that was not holding their daughter. "I don't know how to thank you for the past three years of my life. I don't know how to thank you for bringing this beautiful little girl into our lives and helping me raise her and being such an incredible mother.
"I don't know how to thank you for making me feel like the most loved man in the world. And I can't even begin to find the words to thank you for giving me all of your love. You are the best thing that has ever happened in my life, and-"
His breath caught in his throat, and when he kept speaking, his voice was broken, "And I already miss you more than you know."
Their little girl looked up at her dad with the wide eyes of her mother's, crushing his already broken soul.
He watched as she leaned out of his grasp and crawled alongside the bed until she was near his wife's head. Without a word, he watched she leaned her weight forward and rested her forehead against her mother's…the way she gave hugs.
He had to put his hand over his mouth to hold back the sobs of a shattered soul.
The family stayed together for some time while he spoke about the time they met, their wedding and the young life of their daughter and the life they had planned to spend together.
"I could stay here, talking to you forever," he finally whispered. "But it's time for you to go and fly with the angels."
He leaned up to where her face was and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, his lips lingering. "We love you so very much, and forever will."
He let his lips press one last time against her warm forehead. "Thank you for being all I've ever wanted and needed….for being my everything."
He tucked a strand behind her ear, the way she always did. He picked up their daughter, kissing the top of her head as he gave his wife's hand one last squeeze.
As he walked through the door of the room, he knew he was leaving his heart behind with him. He was trying to be strong for their daughter, but he didn't know how he would be able to continue on with his life after it had been shattered.
Yesterday I died, tomorrow's bleeding, fall into your sunlight
The future's open wide beyond believing to know why hope dies
Losing what was found, a world so hollow
Suspended in a compromise the silence of this sound is soon to follow
And Ive lost who I am , and I can't understand
Why my heart is so broken, rejecting your love
Without love gone wrong lifeless words: carry on
Who I am from the start , take me home to my heart
Let me go and I will run, I will not be silenced
All this time spent in vain, wasted years
Wasted gain. All is lost. Hope remains.
Theres a light, theres a sun taking all the shattered ones
To the place we belong and His love will conquer
Shattered, Trading Yesterday
AN: This story is going to be emotional, and deal with sad, heavy stuff. But there's gonna be a lot of fun too. Some people are going to think things go too fast and some will think they go way too slow, but I kindly ask you to be patient and sit back and enjoy the ride that this story is going to take you on. I promise it will be worth it.
Chapters will be longer in length, and questions that I'm sure I've left you all with will be answered. Just stick with me and fall in love with these guys like I have.
You can follow me on Twitter at 2carm2carm2, (link on profile) I will be posting teasers, chapter song links, pictures, answering questions and more. Otherwise you are more than welcome to message me, or of course, review(: