Final Goodbye by Marie Shield

My husband died last night. I don't know when for sure.

He reached out in the night and touched me, sliding his hand over my waist and down my hip and leg, then I turned to sleep on my stomach and he put his hand on my arm.

We roll about, like puppies in the night, touching, laying our arms and legs around each other; last night was no different.

I woke up and he was cold as he so often is. I pulled the covers up and put my legs over his and my body on top of him to keep him warm, kissed his shoulder and said, "I love you".

I think I went back to sleep. I'm not sure. Usually when I cuddle him he wakes a bit, touches me, mumbles and holds me, but not always. I know that I awoke again and as I often do, touched his face, listened for his breathing, shook him.

This morning there was no response. I know he's dead. I don't know what to do. I don't want him to leave me. I don't know what to do with his body. His spirit remains.

It is strange the way he feels, like a log. Not like a man, not my husband, my lover, my friend.

Perhaps this is the way it's supposed to be. Perhaps this is how one says good bye. I'm not afraid and not yet ready to let him go. I get a pan of warm water. Wash his face, his hair, his body. He becomes mine again as I do this. My beloved.

I should call someone. I don't know who. Do you call 91 1 when someone dies? Do you call God?

I wrap my arms around his cold body and in those moments that often come just before I fall into a deep and dreamless void, I hope that I will sleep forever.

Marie Shield (GOODBYE first appeared in A Long Story Short - Jan. 2008)

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