‘Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.’ – Oscar Wilde
It is a clear, bright day, the sky blue with the slightest smattering of cirrus. There is a nip in the air. A blackbird flirts its song between the sparse-limbed trees, which loom like skeletons. I ponder the coming of Spring; the freshness of the breeze tousling my hair as I meander through woodland paths, smattered with bluebells and ‘a host of golden daffodils’.
I cradle my steaming coffee as I dawdle away time, revelling in the past. There is an old pile of photographs on the table, a cornucopia of memories; fleeting glimpses of moments in my life when I felt something more than I feel now. I let my fingers brush
across a face beaming out of the photograph I now hold. It was the last one I ever took of my husband, John. Tears well in my eyes. I am drowning in a memory so powerful that I feel I will choke on my heart.
I remember clearly. He was sitting on his bed in the hospital in Newcastle, awaiting a heart transplant. A handsome man with sparkling topaz eyes and an endearing smile. He was the bravest person I had ever known, and the pain he had physically endured was lesser than the pain of losing his son. But that day, I think he knew. Tears slipped down his cheeks, as his body shook from fear. I slipped my hand beneath his cold, wizened fingers, and gathered up my strength. Being given a new heart was both a promise and a question.
‘It’s a new start, darling,’ I said.
‘I know, but I am so scared,’ he stuttered.
One week later, people loitered, mingling, and eating stale vol au vents. We were reflecting on what a great guy my grandfather was. He had died, aged 92, a lonely man by choice. He hadn’t wanted a fancy funeral, but you cannot say goodbye with a full stop at the end of an empty sentence. I had always been the dependable one. A bit eccentric, but reliable. Everything had been organised down to a tee, with the voice of his beloved Vera Lynne waving him off into the cremation fires. I heard the shrill tone of my mobile phone.
‘Mrs Drury? It’s the ward sister from the Freeman hospital. I’m afraid you need to come quickly. John had a haemorrhage and is really very poorly.’
I was in Hull, a four-hour train journey from my husband’s hospital in Newcastle. I had to hastily make my apologies, leave the funeral, and rush to the station. I was praying it wasn’t too late. We needed a miracle. John had cheated death so many times.
The train journey seemed infinite. Each clackety-clack of the wheels on the endless track marked off the seconds of his existence. The nearer I got to Newcastle, the further away it seemed.
When I walked into the ICU, a cacophony of bleeping machines was keeping my husband alive. He looked like a sleeping cadaver, white, motionless, and punctured with needles and tubes. His flesh was a canvas of blue, green, and purple. I knew he was a ghost, no longer here. A lone nurse gazed at me, with sorrow. I felt his empathy.
‘Are you ready, Mrs Drury?’ he whispered, gently.
‘Yes,’ I choked. I sat beside John, cherishing this last moment together. Love was infused in memories playing in my mind. The nurse flicked the switch, and my husband’s heart stopped. The silence was the loudest sound I had ever heard.