She couldn’t remember getting home but found herself stood at the door to his room in the annexe. Staring at his bed, now lying empty, never to be filled again. She walked over to it and picked up a cup that lay on the side table. She pressed her lips against the rim, where his lips had been. She closed her eyes, she could still feel his presence. He was all around her.
A noise startled her, she turned around, it was Becky.
“Mum? Michael called your mobile. I told him about dad.”
“It’s my fault love.”
Becky walked to her mum and hugged her, she pulled her close.
“What is your fault?”
“Your dad. If I hadn’t gone away. He’d still be here.”
Becky rocked her mum in her arms as she cried.
“Don’t do this mum. It’s not your fault. Dad was fine with you and Michael. He was more than fine, trust me.”
Sarah shook her head.
“No. No. It’s my fault, the stress was too much.”
Becky lifted her mum’s face to hers.
“Mum. Listen to me. It is not your fault. Dad got an infection, it happens. And as for you and Michael, he was more than okay about it, He and I talked. He was very happy for you.”
Her voice trailed away.
“I think that he only left us because he knew that you had found someone who could make you happy. He knew that you wouldn’t be alone.”
Sarah didn’t respond, she couldn’t accept what her daughter was saying, not yet.
As with most deaths, procedures kicked in, funeral arrangements needed to be sorted, a coroner had to release the body. Sarah was numb. People came to see her, she met them, she talked with them, but she couldn’t remember anything that they’d talked about. Everyone was so nice, so kind. But no-one could see what she saw, she had killed her husband.
Michael called her every day, and every time, she sent it to answer-phone. It was Thursday when he next called and Becky picked it up, she looked at her mum.
“Mum. Talk to him.”
She sighed and took her phone from her daughter and walked away as she spoke to Michael. When she returned, she handed the phone back.
“I told him that I can’t see him.”
Becky looked shocked.
“Why did you say that mum?”
Sarah stared at her daughter.
“Why? Isn’t it obvious?”
Becky raised her voice.
“Mum! Dad died from an infection. It had nothing to do with you. Michael is a good man. He is someone that you could talk to about this. He’s got experience of losing people suddenly. Don’t shut him out.”
Sarah walked away, Becky shook her head.
The day of the funeral arrived, and everything was in place. The family gathered at her house and whilst Sarah was on autopilot, her children took control of proceedings. There had been a debate about whether to let her grandson come to the funeral and Peter, his dad had won. And it turned out to be a great decision. As everyone hurried about making sure everything was just right, and everyone was there. David sat on his grandmother’s lap and played with her. He kept her occupied and calm as he giggled and chatted away to her.
When it was time, Sarah and her three children got into the lead car and everyone else filed in behind. It was a beautiful service, quite uplifting, something that David had planned, and was news to Sarah, but not her daughters who had helped their dad plan it all.
At the church, which was packed, she didn’t notice the figure sat at the back, wearing his medals in honours of David. Michael had been invited by Becky and the kids and he was only too glad to accept. He understood Sarah’s reaction and again, unknown to Sarah, he and Becky had been in contact throughout.
“Don’t give up on mum,” Becky had pleaded with him.
“I have no intention of giving up on her Becky. But I’m not the one who needs to figure this out,” he replied.
The service was beautiful, the children both spoke, and the music was uplifting and not sad at all. And his unusual choice of music that played as the coffin was taken out of church brought everyone to tears. ‘Don’t want to miss a thing’ by Aerosmith, was one of his favourite songs and he used to quote lines from it all the time to her, she’d recall how he’d often merge the lyrics and sing them to her.
“I would stay awake, just to hear you breathing. Watch you smile while you are sleeping. And I’m wondering what you’re dreaming. Wondering if it’s me you’re seeing.”
She sobbed as she held onto Becky as they followed the coffin out of the church. She couldn’t look at the other mourners, she was having enough trouble staying on her feet herself.
In the car, Becky hugged her mother as Sarah sighed.
“He did that on purpose. He knew that it would make me cry.”
“Yeah, mum. But you know that every word of that song is true. It was as if it had been written about you two.”
It was a clear day as they gathered around the grave, and after a brief ceremony they filed up to throw a little soil into the grave and say their last goodbyes.
The wake was held at their house. Most people turned up to stay a while and talk about David. Sarah mingled and thanked everyone for coming. Becky or Amy was always by her side, and she held herself together remarkably well. Richard didn’t turn up, he had thought better of it, and Sarah never mentioned his name to either of her daughters the whole time.
When most of the guests had gone there was only family left. And they all began to tidy up. Sarah was found, standing at the door leading to her husband’s room. Staring at the bed. Most of the monitoring equipment had been returned, the rest, including the bed, would be going back in the next few days.
Her mother slipped behind her and hugged her.
“There you are. It was a lovely service, honey.”
Sarah leaned back against her mum.
“Thanks, mum. But it was all down to David. He organised everything.”
Her mum hugged her.
“Yeah. He was a great man. He knew that this day would be difficult for you. He took all that hassle and worry away from you.”
Sarah turned and fell into her mother’s arms.
“Oh, mum. He’s gone. What am I going to do?”
Her mum cuddled her daughter.
“You’re going to grieve. And then you’re going to live. David would not want you to sit and mope all day. You’re still young. You have a lot of life left in you.”
They stood as Sarah cried gently. They returned to the others and helped with the clean-up. Then everyone sat around chatting before they began to slowly drift off. Eventually, only Sarah and her mother remained. Her mother, who was also a widow, was staying over with Sarah for a couple of days. Her husband, and Sarah’s father, died three years ago of a heart attack.
That night Sarah struggled to sleep, and her mother ended up sleeping with her in her bed. And by the time that it was time for her to go home, Sarah felt a little more confident that she was going to be okay.
Finally, her mother left, and she was left on her own, in the house. She closed the kitchen door behind her and stood with her back against it. She listened, silence. Not beeping of his monitors. No TV playing, or music playing, just silence. She walked towards the table, her footsteps seemed to echo around the room. She sat down and looked around.
“So, this is it? Me, all alone in this big house.”
She didn’t know how long she’d been sat there when she was startled into life by the sound of the doorbell. It was the removal people, they’d come to collect his bed and the rest of the equipment. She let them in and remained in the lounge whilst they did what they had to do.
When they’d gone, she wandered back into the room and looked around. It was all but bare. A couple of chairs, a small table, and a set of drawers was all that remained. All trace of him had been removed. She looked around and began to cry softly. ‘What do I do now?’