General Fiction posted August 11, 2021

This work has reached the exceptional level
A wife dying of cancer. Leaves one request for her husband

A Dying Wife's Last Wish

by Richard Frohm

Death of lover or spouse Contest Winner 

Sitting at my desk reviewing legal briefs for tomorrow's trial. I was startled by my judicial assistant. She raced in, waving a small package.

"Judge Twomey, a woman dropped this package at the front desk for you."

"Kathy, is everything alright?"

"Sure Judge Twomey, but you need to look at the package."

She handed it over to me. The mystery package was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. What caught my eye was they addressed it to me in blue crayon and in handwriting, like a six-year-old, and there was no return address. Kathy asked me if she should call security and have them open it. I told her no, but she might want to leave before I opened it.

I had never seen Kathy move so fast.

I knew I had work to do, but curiosity made me open the mystery package. I untied the blue ribbon and carefully tore apart the brown paper. Inside was a small white box about the size of two packs of cigarettes stacked on top of the other. Taking the top off, I saw tissue paper. Pulling the tissue out, I saw a folded piece of writing paper. Underneath it was a small black-and-white photo of a young girl and boy. The boy was me and the girl was my old neighbor. I looked on the back and written in ink was; "Brendan and Mary Beth--1960" I unfolded the paper and read the note. It was from Mary Beth. She was in Boston for work and wanted to get together for lunch. Looking at the note, she had written her cell phone number on it. I got up from my desk and walked to my office door. I told Kathleen to hold all my calls. I did not want to be bothered by anyone. I went back to my desk and sat back in my chair. I turned to look out the window. My mind drifted back to my childhood in Michigan.

There was Mary Beth and I playing catch. We were inseparable during those early years. She was my best friend. When we reached high school, our feelings for each grew. We were no longer just friends. Mary Beth and I started dating. Life was going great for us. We both planned on going to Michigan State University. Then, after graduation, my father changed everything for us. He took a job with a law firm in Boston. I ended up attending Boston University. Mary Beth and I kept in touch for a while, but slowly it became less and less. I thought of her occasionally, wondering how she was doing.

In 1976, I graduated from Boston University. Next was Harvard Law School. It was at Harvard. I met and fell in love with the woman I was meant to spend my life with, Kathleen Shannahan. She also was a law student. We married when we both finished law school. My father was able to get us into his law firm. Kathleen's career was cut short by the births of our three children; Hannah, Ciara, and Sean.

Our home was an old colonial just outside of Boston. I became a very successful attorney. The years seemed to fly by. The last I heard of Mary Beth was from friends back in Detroit. She had married an executive with Ford. They lived in West Bloomfield, and like us, had three children.

In the October 2015, I was selected to serve as a judge for the United States District in Boston. That joy quickly faded that January. Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer. She spent the next five months going through chemotherapy hell. The kids and I did everything we could to care for and make her happy.
Despite the unbearable pain. Kathleen would tease us about our sad faces. Her favorite saying to all of us was; "Look you, sourpusses, I am not going anywhere. Somebody has to keep an eye on you."

We watched as she slowly melted away. The woman that ran marathons had turned into a tiny little thing lying in a hospital bed. It was difficult watching Kathleen as she faded from our lives. How Kathleen kept her loving spirit alive despite the pain, could only be described as the love for life she had in her.

It was June ninth, my father's birthday. We planned to celebrate it with Kathleen in her hospital room. I was in my office when Kathy rushed in. "Judge, they need you at the hospital, it's Kathleen." I was out the door and on the way in seconds.
As I entered Kathleen's room, I knelt next to her bed, sobbing. Then I heard Kathleen's voice. "For God's sake Brendan, I am not dead." That was my Kathleen. I laughed and hugged her frail body. Our children arrived not long after me. We held her hands and told stories of our goofy family. Kathleen did her best to smile. Just before she left us, barely able to speak, she spoke into my ear. "Dear, there is a box in my closet for you and the kids." Moments later, with me holding her hand, my Kathleen slipped away from us.

With the funeral, all thoughts of the box were forgotten. It was not until October of that year that my daughter, Hannah, convinced me to donate Kathleen's clothes to charity. Letting go of her clothes was one of the hardest things for me to do. I would walk into her closet just to smell the perfumes she wore that were on her dresses.

That day, everyone was there to help. I was of no use to them. I just cried as the girls brought out her clothes. Every dress reminded me of how beautiful she was. I often told Kathleen she was too beautiful to be married to a guy like me.

As I sat in the chair holding a framed picture of the two of us taken at our wedding. Ciara came up to me, holding a small box in her hands. "Dad, I found this in mom's closet on the top shelf. What do you think it is?"

I looked at the box wrapped in brown paper. Then I remembered what Kathleen told me the night she passed away. I told the kids it was from mom. I took the package to our living room and sat in my chair. Kathleen had written on top. "For my family, love mom." The kids all stood around me as I pulled the paper off and opened the box. Inside, held together with a pink ribbon, were four white business-size envelopes. I pulled the ribbon off and looked at each envelope. The first addressed to me, the next three to our children.

I gave each one theirs and said; "I think we should open these by ourselves." As I stood up, my legs felt weak, and I felt myself shuddering. I walked into our bedroom and sat in Kathleen's chair. Looking at her picture on the nightstand. I spoke softly to her.

"Kathleen, I should have known that you would do something like this. You were always the thinker and planner of this family. I am so sorry dear, it has taken this long to find your box. The night of your passing, I was not thinking right."
As I spoke, a ray of warm sunlight shone through the window, lighting me up in its glow. It was as if Kathleen was telling me it was okay. I gently tore the envelope open and unfolded the paper inside.

My Sweetheart,
I would not be me if I did not leave something for you. Before, I told you about my breast cancer. I had already seen an oncologist. Please forgive me, but I kept the seriousness of her diagnosis from you and the kids. The last thing I wanted was all of you worrying. Even though my odds of surviving were extremely low. I would not give up without a fight. I would do whatever it takes to survive.

As I read her words, tears fell on the paper.

Since we do not know when our time will come. I decided to say my goodbyes in these letters. I wrote yours last, because of all the letters, yours will be the hardest for me to write.

How do I say goodbye to the only man I ever loved?

The man I hoped to grow old with.

The man who would hold my hand as we completed life's journey.

You are my only love, and leaving you alone does not seem fair.
So, I am asking you to live your life.

Please don't hold on to me, my time will have come.

When the time is right, I want you to find someone to share your life with. I know you would want the same for me. That is why we made such a loving couple.

I could barely read her words anymore the tears were flowing down my cheeks like two rivers. I moved the letter away as the ink ran on the paper.

When you find that person, you will know, because I will ask God to shine his brightest light on the both of you.

Your love,

I sat there sobbing in my chair, clenching her letter. I held it to my face, hoping to get a smell of her from the letter. As I stood up, our kids, all with red eyes from crying, came into the room and knelt around me. Kathleen's letters to them were filled with love and hope.

All three letters had the same thing written at the bottom.

"Please take good care of your father. You know he cannot cook, wash clothes, clean. Pretty much he is helpless. Lol Mom,"

We all started laughing. They all knew their mother was right.
The last lines were hard for them to read.

"I want each of you to get your father out of the house and see that he starts living his new life. If he meets someone and they fall in love, please promise me you will accept her into our family. That is what I want from each of you."

Tears were flowing amongst all of us when Kathleen's picture on the nightstand fell over. In that instant, I felt as if Kathleen was trying to tell us she was there. I stood up and told the kids. "It's time we do what your mother told us to do.
Since I cannot cook, let's go out for dinner as a family." I went into my closet and got my clothes to wear. As soon as I dressed, I went back and sat in Kathleen's chair. I lifted her picture up and spoke to her.

"There will never be another you in this world, and, I will never love another as I do you. I know what you want me from me. I will because I love you. Just remember my heart will never belong to another."

I kissed her picture and sat it down. I joined our kids, and we left to go out and eat. Dinner that night was the first since Kathleen's passing free of sadness, all thanks to the most loving wife, mother, and grandmother in the world.

My office phone rang, bringing me out of my thoughts. When I answered, it was Mary Beth. We spoke for over an hour about our days back in Michigan. I told her about Kathleen and she told me her husband had died ten years before, leaving her to raise their children on her own. We decided to meet for dinner that night.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I saw her sitting at a corner booth. It looked like she had not aged. When I walked up to her, she smiled. "Brendan, you look the same as the last time we were together." Dinner lasted until the restaurant closed. Mary Beth and I, two lonely people. Had found each other again.
A year later, we married in a castle in Ireland. Surrounded by all of our families. As Mary Beth and I stood in front of the priest. A bright ray of sunlight shone through the castle's stained glass window. Surrounding us in light. I knew Kathleen was smiling and happy for both of us.

Death of lover or spouse
Contest Winner

I hope my words carry over the feelings I had while I wrote this story.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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