You were strong, once.
An important part of my life, of others’ lives.
Your image dissipated and dissolved into the monster that I came to regard you as.
I hated you, I hated you, I hated you I hated you I hated you.
I was wrong. I don’t know how wrong, I don’t know where you end and the illness begins, but I was wrong.
I’ll never get these images out of my head, and I won’t go back, but I’m glad I did.
I saw in your eyes more understanding than I would wish upon you, I saw the knowledge that you aren’t you, but somewhere in there you still fight for some power in your life. I saw the fear and the pain, the confusion and the clarity, the life and the death all struggling for some room in your fragile frame, your weakened eyes, your deteriorating mind.
You cried, and my heart shattered. You spoke, and my being shook. You laughed, and my mind staggered.
I was scared of you, starting out. Scared of all that ravaged your existence, the parts of you that couldn’t possibly be you. I was afraid to look at you, to smile at you, to comfort you.
We walked, and walked, and walked. We walked with my father, we walked just the two of us, and you continued in the same pattern. You’d stop at the same places, do the same things, and proceed in the same manner. My aim became a break in the monotony and habitualness of your time. I spoke. I complimented you. I directed your attention to things you had not before seen. I gave you a new perspective and found purpose in your few smiles, the times your eyes made contact with mine and I held it, the moment you pointed out that baby doll on the trashcan that I too showed you. Because then I knew you understood me, I knew I was getting through and in some way enriching your time by being there. I knew that it mattered.
And when we left, I felt I had betrayed you. I had betrayed those times you looked me in the eyes and saw something there that pulled your lips into a broken smile, I betrayed those times you spoke to me and shared with me the simplest elements of your life that you had come to treasure, the beloved aspects that took you away from the prison of your mind to happier times. I betrayed your trust, your comfort, your loyalty as you held the door open for me to follow behind you in your continual loop. You wanted out. You wanted to escape the monotony of death that you had been forcibly submitted to. You wanted to see more than the bird’s nest on the light and the statues of dogs that threatened no real bite. You wanted to be somewhere you felt safe, you wanted to be free, you wanted to be more than alone.
I walked out the door and did not look back. I heard the nurse try to persuade you back to your room. I felt your presence as you tried to force past her, retained by the very force that was meant to make your final time on earth more bearable. I saw in the mirror on the ceiling as the door closed, I felt the tears dropping from your eyes like daggers in my heart.
And I bid you adieu, for the final time.
And in that instant, I only wished I had held your hand.
You were strong, once.