Laying in the hospital bed with the beeping of the monitors which were hooked up to me I began to feel my body starting to fade. Being quasi-religious I was not too worried about what would come next, but still, there was that nagging feeling of what if I was wrong. I turned my head and looked out the window. There were clouds darkening outside as a major storm system came into the area. The nurses and doctors were trying to stay calm, but the nervousness was all to palatable within the hospital. But within my room, there was a strange calm. I knew I would not make it through this storm and so I watched the wind pick up and the clouds move in the sky. Allowing my mind to wander back through the years.
Growing up I had an interesting life. My family lived in the circus, with my father teaching bears to perform. I had always had such a fascination with what he did and when I was old enough he taught me how to make the bears accept me and teach them how to do the tricks which so many people came to see. One of these people being the man I would marry.
He and I did a few shows together as we got to know each other and after we married and decided to let that part of our lives go, I knew I would always have a soft spot for those animals. Thankfully my husband was willing to indulge in my little adventure and helped me open up a place to allow animals who were retired from the circus to come and reside out the remainder of their years. Some of the animals had not been cared for as well as they should have been and because of that we were always a topic for PETA to attack, but I loved those animals and tried to care for them as well as I could. I brought in trainers, veterinarians, and anyone else who could help them. I want to say that I made a difference in their lives.
The circus life seemed to be dying out with the political correctness movement picking up steam. Animal rights activists picketed circuses which had elephants and other animals they thought were being mistreated. It was hard to watch something I grew up with start to wither and die.
As the years went on and my life with my husband quieted I wondered from time to time if we had made the right decision on not having children, in the end, I always concluded that we did. Now, as I lay in my bed, and having 20/20 vision, I believe we made the right decision.
While children are a wonder to have, neither I nor my husband had the disposition to handle little ones as they grew. My husband probably would have left it all to me anyway and while we would have been able to afford a nanny, that was just not how I wished the cards to fall.
The years continued on, our health began to fail; his quicker than mine. The years seemed to stretch into endless days of the same routine. Sure an event would change things up every so often, but it was typically the same day in and day out. Especially as his getting around became harder and harder.
We finally admitted we needed to have help in the house for him as I was beginning to not be able to help him out of bed. It was a much-needed break from the stress of shouldering his health all by myself. But there was something off with this nurse. I wish I had seen it earlier, but I didn’t and before I knew it… well… let’s say there were happier times.
Laying in bed in this hospital and having family come and visit it has dawned on me, most of the family I cared about was his family. They were not my blood relatives, they were his. Being divorced, they did not actually have to come and visit me, but they did and it brought tears to my eyes, which I tried to hide until they were no longer in the room. It was moments like those which made me wonder if having children would have been helpful or not. But, the last few years would have been hard on them just as they were hard on me.
The anger which had burned inside of me the past few years seemed silly now. The truth had been exposed and the lies and hate had been laid out on the table. But now, as the end approached, it all seemed so silly. The wind blew and something rattled outside my window as if to say, “I will take all of those troubles from you soon,” and I silently stared out the window accepting such an arrangement.
And as the storm grew and the clouds darkened I felt a heaviness come over me. Sleep sounded wonderful, though I knew I would not wake from it. A jolt of fear coursed through my body as I closed my eyes but the wind softened for a moment and the peacefulness came over me. I knew my time was up and so I held on to the happiness which was my life; from the time in the circus to the many years with my loving husband and family. And I said silently, goodbye, and taking a final breath and I smiled and released it, leaving the world and the storm to carry on without me.
(This story is a fictional narrative from the perspective of my Great Aunt who passed away on 9/11/17. It is in no way of anything she told me or which I went through with her. I was unable to be there with her in her final days, but this is how I wish to remember those last days could have gone by as.)