To Have Loved...

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He's Gone

Over the next two weeks, there was little change in Ian’s status. There was little healing, but the skin was so burned it was a slow process. His lungs continued to get worse and he would go on to have coughing fits that would take all his energy from him. I took FMLA from my job, even though I spent every day in the same place that I work. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but Ian.

Emily or Mom would come by for a few hours to allow me to go home and get showered and changed and take care of things at the house, but then I’d come back. I was feeling more and more fatigued as the days rolled on and I’m sure it’s because I wasn’t sleeping well.

Then the morning nausea hit me towards the end of the second week. Sitting in the bathroom after a wave hit me, I realized that I didn’t get my period when it was due. I remember having it the beginning of June, but nothing since. Could I be…?

Today was the 4th of July, but I ran to the store and grabbed a pregnancy test before the stores close early for the annual celebrations. I went back home and took the test and sure enough there were two pink lines. I was elated, yet I was terrified at the same moment.

I returned to the hospital after attempting to each lunch, but instead of going to Ian’s room, I stopped by the clinic to confirm that I was indeed pregnant before saying anything. I was able to get in, since it was a slow day and after peeing in a cup and waiting a few minutes, the doctor that was there told me the good news. I would have to set up an appointment with Dr. Reynolds to start my monthly check-ups, but he believes I’m around four weeks.

I head over to the burn unit and make my way to Ian’s room. I no longer need to wear all the get-up that I did in the beginning, but I do sanitize my hands before heading into his room.

“Hi Emily,” I say. “How is he doing today?”

“Ask him yourself,” she says and I look over and see that he is awake and staring at me with his beautiful smile that I love.

“Hey babe, how are you?” I ask him walking over to his side.

“I feel like shit, but better now that you are here,” he says before coughing.

“Breathe in, and out,” I encourage as the doctors have instructed me during previous fits. I sit at the edge of the bed and take his hand in mine.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Emily tells us and gives Ian a kiss and hug.

“Bye Mom,” Ian whispers. “Where have you been?” Ian asks slowly once Emily leaves the room.

“I went home to shower this morning and wasn’t feeling well. I grabbed something to eat and I hope it stays down,” I reply.

“You haven’t been feeling…” cough, cough, “well for a few days. Are you OK baby?”

“Yeah, I’m fine Ian. In fact, I’m better than fine,” I respond with a smile.

“Really? Being sick doesn’t sound fine to me,” he sputters out.

“It’s only temporary, but I’ll be fine in a few weeks or so according to the doctor.”

“Doctor?” he looks at me curiously.

“I went into the clinic before coming here and he confirmed my suspicion on what I think was wrong and he says I’ll be fine.”

“And what do you think is wrong?”

“Oh, just that I’m…pregnant, about four weeks along.”

“Pregnant?!” he screeches out before coughing again.

“Settle down baby, I hate seeing you like this,” I try calming him down again. “Yes, I’m pregnant. Real good timing, huh?”

“You have just made me a happy man,” Ian says squeezing my hand. “But I want you to start taking time for yourself and not just me, can you promise me that?”

I nod, “Yes, I will try.”

“Good,” he says. “You are going to make the best mom in the world,” he continues with a smile. “If only I could be there…”

“You will be Ian, don’t talk like that,” I interrupt him before he can finish his thought. I heard him sigh, but he didn’t say anything more.

Ian fell asleep again and I stayed there holding his hand. I played some music and even sang along from time to time. I could feel him relaxing as I did, so I continued as the day went on. Occasionally he would wake up and we’d talk for awhile until he used his energy up and fell back to sleep. I wish there was something else I could do.

The next morning Dr. Edwards came back in to see Ian. He checked him all over, but still cannot move him much because of his burns. “Mrs. Grant, can I speak with you for a moment?” he asks me.

“I’ll be right back Ian,” I tell him and he begins to doze off again.

“There is no easy way to say this, but unfortunately, Ian is no longer progressing the way we want him to. His lungs are getting weaker and weaker and I can hear all the infiltrates that are inside them. His recent scans we ran do not show any improvement and the skin is starting to deteriorate.”

“How long does he have?” I asked straight to the point. I know what he getting at and I need to hear it from him.

“A few days, maybe a week at most,” he answers me honestly.

“OK, thank you. What can I do to keep him comfortable until then?”

“Just be with him and give him permission to go when it’s time.” I nod my head.

“I can do that…I think. I just told him we are going to have a baby and now…”

“And now he will watch over the both of you. I wish I could be standing here saying something different Mrs. Grant…Sarah, but I can’t. There is just too much trauma to his body and it’s shutting down.”

“I understand Dr. Edwards, I do,” I tell him and he begins to walk away. “Dr. Edwards…” I call out.

“What is it Sarah?”

“I know we are limited to only a couple family members at a time, but since it won’t be long, can we have…” I begin to ask.

“I tell you what, we are going to move Ian to a regular room and anyone that would like to see him will be welcome to do so. I won’t limit who can and who can’t.”

“Thank you Dr.” I say and give him a hug. “This will mean a lot to his friends and family. I will talk to him to make sure he is OK with this and let the nurses know.”

“I will give the order to have him moved and when you are ready, the nurses can make it happen.” I nod and he leaves.

I head back into the room and give Ian a smile as he reaches out to me with his one good hand. I take it and lean in for a kiss.

“So, what did he have to say…that he couldn’t say in front of me?” he struggles to ask.

I look down and he lifts up my chin to make me look at him. “It…I don’t know…it doesn’t look good Ian,” I stutter.

“I know it doesn’t baby. I know I only have a short time left with you,” he squeezes my hand and I look at him.

“I don’t know what I’ll do without you,” I start to say. “You are my everything and we are supposed to be together and start this family and…”

“Shhh Sarah, it will be OK…you will be OK,” he reassures me. I shake my head. “Yes you will; you are strong baby and I know you will move forward. I don’t want you sitting around crying over me.”

“But…it’s always been you Ian, I don’t know if I can move forward and I don’t think I’d ever want to,” I say.

“You are still young Princess and there will be someone else out there for you and you will be happy again. Do not give up on love, please,” he begs as he starts another coughing fit.

“Ian, don’t…”I start, but he interrupts me changing the subject.

“What else did you two talk about?” he coughs.

“I asked him if others can come to see you, if you are up for it. He said he will ask for you to be moved to a regular room so anyone can come up, even if just for a few minutes. That is, if you want to move and want to see them. You don’t have too baby, but I know that so many people care about you and want to see you,” I ramble on.

“Who would want to see me like this?” he whispers.

“Everyone…they don’t care what you look like right now, but they want to be able to see you…to say…goodbye.”

“What do you want?” he asks and I furrow my brows in question. “What do you want Sarah,” he asks again.

“I just want you to be comfortable. I don’t want to see all these tubes and wires hanging around. I want to be able to be near you and not have it hurt when I touch you. I want to be able to hang on to you forever,” I start crying.

Ian pulls me closer to him so that my head is resting on his chest. I can his heart beating rapidly, but it is comforting to me. I feel him kiss the top of my head. I know that these small movements are killing him, but he still as strong as ever.

“I want that too baby. I will move into another room, but I will ask for all this,” he says looking around, “to be removed. I’ll maybe keep the oxygen in, but the rest isn’t doing anything but driving me crazy. I will wear something that covers my skin regardless of the pain, if it means I can hold you in my arms a few more days. I want to say goodbye to everyone as well,” he says before closing his eyes.

I can tell that took a lot out of him as he coughed throughout talking to me. “Just rest right now Ian, I’ll go let the nurses know what we talked about and maybe we can move before the end of the day.” He slightly nodded before falling asleep.

After watching him for several minutes, I finally walked out to the nurses’ station and told him everything we talked about. Dr. Edwards had already talked to them and gave the order to have him moved to a regular room. They said they would have to him again about removing all the monitors, but they understand where Ian and I were coming from.

I called Emily and told her the plan and she agreed, but I could hear her crying in the background. Like me, she wasn’t ready to goodbye to her son, but knew that it was only a matter of time. I then called my mom and cried to her for a long time.

Later that afternoon, the nurse came in and told me they were ready to move Ian. They removed the wires that monitored his pulse, blood pressure, heart rate, etc and only left an oxygen cannula in his nose. Ian was given a special ‘suit’ that was put on to cover his entire body, leaving a hole for him to go to the bathroom and for the catheter that was also remaining. It stopped at his neck and his hands and feet were left open.

I watched him wince over and over as they put it on, but once it was secure, I saw him relax. Apparently, the inside could be cooled and brought comfort to his body. “Why didn’t they do something like this sooner?” I thought to myself.

They wheeled him out of the room on his bed and I followed them as they took us to another wing of the hospital. I saw a few stares from other visitors and even nursing staff as we went through the halls. We came to a private room and several nurses transferred Ian from the bed he was in into the one in the new room.

After making sure the oxygen and catheter were in the right places, the nurses were ready to leave. Ian and I both thanked them for all they have done over the last couple of weeks and asked them to pass it on to the others. They nodded and left.

Ian already looked more comfortable and the room much less stuffy that the last one. There was a window to look out of and the walls were colored, not just all white. I sat in a much more comfortable chair next to the bed while he settled in. I gave him a small sip of water and asked if he wanted anything to eat. He shook his head.

He could only eat a liquid diet like soup, Jell-o, ice cream and shakes. It was too hard to chew solid foods and was also hard to expel it. He didn’t have much of an appetite and some days only drank water.

I called Emily again and told her the new room number, but asked them to wait until the next day before anyone came up to visit. She agreed and offered to call the stations to let them know they could come up, but we agreed that we wanted to limit their time as to not overwhelm Ian.

I sent a group message to all of our friends in Bismarck and back in New Salem and let them know as well. I called my sister and gave her the update and she said she would call Vickie. They might try to fly out, but they couldn’t be sure of the when.

Over the last two weeks, I had created a Facebook page that was for updates on how Ian was that was for family and friends only. I left a comment on there to alert his friends from around the country of the room move and recent decision that we made. I have been reading comments to Ian as they come in, but he doesn’t say much in return.

Ian insisted that I order a supper tray since I missed the cafeteria, again. After eating, we decided to watch a movie together. He asked me to lie next to him in bed and after I kept telling him I would hurt him if I did, I finally agreed when he told me he didn’t care. He needed me next to him and he told me that it actually helped reduce the pain.

I must have fallen asleep, because I woke up to fireworks going off outside as dusk was closing in. The movie was long over and the TV was just a blue screen. I went to sit up and crawl out of the bed, but Ian wrapped his arm around me tighter and I cuddled back into his chest. I felt him wince a little, but he calmed back down a few minutes later.

We laid in each others’ arms all evening as the fireworks lit up the sky outside. I didn’t know how many times I would be able to do this, so I cherished every minute I had. We would talk for a short time, and then just listen to each other breathing. I ended up sleeping with him all night. I know the nurses checked in on us, but no one said anything.

I got up the next morning to use the bathroom. I washed up a little in the sink, reapplied some deodorant and brushed my teeth with things I brought from home. I changed my clothes and came back into the room.

“Good morning,” Ian whispers as I walk back to the bed.

“Morning,” I say with a small smile. “How did you sleep?”

“It was the best sleep I’ve had for a couple of weeks,” he answered. “How did you sleep?”

“The same,” I replied. “I hate sleeping alone and those chairs…they are not comfortable at all.” Ian chuckled a little.

“Why don’t you go get something to eat? I’m going to call the nurse for a little help,” he says turning red. I nod and grab my purse to go to the cafeteria.

He hates the fact the he needs someone to help him ‘use the bathroom’ and he doesn’t want me to help him with it. I respect his decision and allow him to keep what dignity he still has.

When I returned to the room, I see that Emily and Joe have arrived along with Aiden and they were all talking. I went to leave, but was stopped and told to come join them. Ian was telling them his decision to remain on comfort measures and no longer wishes for any extreme treatment if he should decline. While I was gone, he signed DNR papers to make sure that the doctors let him go when the time comes.

I have a copy of his will and advance directives at home, but it is still hard to comprehend all of this. I guess that is one good thing the department does when a new hire is brought on board. All officers and firefighters are asked to have their affairs in order in case of something like this happening. It did make things easier and it will help after he does pass, but it doesn’t mean I’m ready for it to actually happen.

As the days progressed, several members of both the fire and police departments came to visit Ian. They would stay a few minutes and let the next person come in. Friends would call me and I’d put them on speaker phone to talk to Ian or on video chat so they could see him one more time.

Craig, Marci, Ricky and Angie came up one afternoon and were joined by Sean and Shelby. We all sat and reminisced about our high school days and the last few years that we have all been back together again. I could see Ian getting tired, but he was enjoying this so much, so I let them stay as long as they wished.

Aiden would stop up most evenings and they would talk or just watch TV together. Sometimes I would stay, and others I would take that time to go home, shower and take care of things around the house. I had been on leave for nearly three weeks, but rarely spent time there.

Some days I would stop down in the office just to talk to my co-workers or just to be alone. Kim would always tease me when she’d find me, but this was my safe place and it brought me peace when I turned on my music or strummed my guitar.

I knew Ian’s time was running out. Each day, he became weaker and weaker and he no longer wanted to eat anything. He may have a sip of water here and there, but it wasn’t enough to sustain him for much longer. His coughing fits came more often and he was now coughing up blood, which is not a good sign.

Stacy, Jake and Vicky came to the hospital after arriving in Bismarck and dropping the kids off with my parents who were going to stay at my house while they were in town. I left Jake with Ian, while I went to lunch with the girls and broke down, yet again.

No matter how many times he tells me that he is ready to go, no matter how many times he reminds me how strong I am, no matter how many times he tells me to let go, I can’t let him go. I know I have to give him permission like the doctor says, but it is really hard to.

When I get back to the hospital, Jake, Stacy and Vicky leave. Ian pulls me into his arms and kisses me on the forehead. I can feel his shallow breaths and his heart rate has slowed down.

“Ian?” I say leaning up on my elbow.

“What is it Princess?” he asks weakly.

“I’m sorry that I have been so selfish this week. I know I need to let you go and give you permission to find your peace, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to say those words to you,” I begin. “But I’ve realized today that I cannot let you suffer anymore Ian and I give you permission to go,” I finish.

He gives me a sad smile and wipes a tear that has escaped my eyes. “I love you baby,” he whispers.

“I love you, always,” I reply.

No more words were said that night. Ian wrapped his arm around me and pulled me into his chest and brushed his hand over my arm until I fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning in Ian’s arms. His breathing was ragged and getting slower and slower. I should have called the nurses, but I didn’t. I went to the bathroom and did my new morning routine and then sat down in the chair next to the bed.

I held Ian’s hand in mine and whispered, “I love you Ian and always will. Go find your peace and suffer no longer.”

After one final squeeze from Ian, I felt his hand relax as he took his last breath. I laid my head on our hands and prayed silently. After I few moments, I finally called the nurses into the room, where they officially announced him deceased at 8:24 am on July 10, 2028.

Emily and Joe arrived just minutes later and were informed of his passing. I heard Emily sobbing as they approached the bed to say their final goodbyes. I went to leave, but Emily put her hand on my shoulder and we prayed together.

“He is finally at peace and no longer feels any pain,” she whispers. I nod and we just hold each other until we are told we need to leave. Joe helps me gather up my things and what I have of Ian’s and leads us out of the hospital.

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