Streams of pure scattered rays of light poured through the cracks in my blinds awakening me. Shades of pinks, blues and deep greens were reflected on the bedside table beside me like a disco ball, reminding me of our happiest memories. Each shade caused me to ruminate on the times when sunlight beamed through our curtains. The distinctive aroma of the cologne we bought in Venezia took power over any smell in the room. All I could hear were his gentle breaths, and feel the warm, soft, air make its way down my neck. He held me. It seemed like he’d never let me go, but he did.

.  .  .

The house was a painting, cold in its rendered realism. Here I was, lost and confused. My heart sank as I realised the day had come. 10thJanuary 2008, another day circled dreadfully in thick red marker. My body started to feel pain deep within my bones, a kind of pain that seemed to travel through to my chest eating me alive. I knew there was  no other way. I disturbed the radiant colours and clasped the Anello Opale in the palm of my trembling wrinkled hand. I slid it down my finger, the band slowly clutching it tighter as it reached my knuckle. With a bit of pressure, it forcefully grabbed hold of the base of my finger, refusing to let go. It didn’t fit the way it used to.

The rain was unrelenting, exhibiting no signs of ceasing. I sat in the car, switched on the ignition and slowly reversed out the driveway. Thick droplets splashed onto the car and accumulated on the windscreen, blurring my already fizzy vision. As I got closer, the roads seemed longer, almost endless and the lights of oncoming cars multiplied. Reality hit me. I switched the radio off and hesitantly stepped out of the car. I would usually be on my way to the farm with him but instead I was here. Alone.

I went inside and noticed the atmosphere was different to before and the slate grey floor complimented the dark, monotonous walls that enclosed me. Above every door there was a blue plastic sign with simple letters, no fancy fonts, just bold white. My footsteps echoed as I made my way to the end of the hallway, “What room is Clemente in?” I was taken to his room. As I entered a flood of emotions hit me like a tidal wave. I felt anxious, scared and yet supported. They were all perched around his bed, comforting him. The sight reminded me of the times when everything was tolerable. When everyone was happily helping themselves to the antipasto platter in the middle of the table. Here I was, surrounded by family, my three sons hand in hand, deep in prayer beside their Padre. They didn’t let go of the tears that filled their eyes but I could see they were trying to act strong, in the hopes that it would ease my pain. I took a seat beside him on the hard, plastic chair, and in an instant everyone in the room made their way out the door.

His dinner lay in front of him. Untouched. The plate was decorated with sloppily cut up carrots and a slab of chicken that appeared to be slightly undercooked. I chuckled and shook my head in disapproval, knowing that he could produce a far more appetising meal with his eyes closed. Hopefully he would be back in the kitchen soon, but for now it was my duty to feed him. I reached for the shiny silver fork and carefully dropped small pieces of food through the opening of his mouth. I witnessed the sight reddening his pale cheeks as ounces of life returned to him with each bite. His hands met mine. The Anello Opale reflected its bright colours as he gently stroked the smooth surface of the perfectly rounded gemstone. His soft lips stretched into a tender grin that didn’t quite reach his tired hazel eyes. The contrast between his sorrowful eyes and forced smile would have been comical if it were not for the way it made my heart sink to the bottom of my ribcage.

For a few moments I stared at him whilst stroking his bald head to make sure he remained awake. I wished I could yank out all the tubes strapped to his frail body and draw him into a tight, rejuvenating hug. The chemo was not working, but perhaps I could heal him, maybe I could give him some of my strength. I was not ready for him to leave me. The steady heart rhythm suddenly became more rapid. In an instant, an ear splitting noise began emanating from the monitor. Beep. Beep. Beep. I saw a red line flash before my eyes. It flatlined.

My mind went completely silent. Thick air invaded my body, causing my lungs to tighten. My vision blurred, everything was in slow motion. Family and doctors came in and surrounded me, offering hugs that I could not feel. I sat there, frozen. Unresponsive. I took off the Anello Opale and held it tightly. It was all that I had left of him. I glared at all the vibrant colours as if they were the remnants of his soul. The blue speckles represented his calm demeanour, and the gold his priceless laughter. I stroked the well-crafted ring with my thumb, and it was as smooth as the fingers he intertwined with mine. In a way, he was still with me.