It wasn’t her fault; Ted knew that. After all, Lilly was the love of his life. In times past, Ted had grumped at her; smothered him with love, she did. But they’d been good times. Often it seemed like seventy years marriage had passed by in a flash.
Lilly; sweet innocent Lilly. She hadn’t always been sweet, or innocent. She’d been feisty, determined, and a great woman who any man would feel lucky to call his wife. She’d stuck with him through thick and thin, celebrating the highs and supportive during the lows. She’d raised their kids almost single-handedly, and a fine job she’d done too.
When Ted had finally retired, they’d discovered travel, gardening, and time together without the clock. But there were times when he’d felt claustrophobic from all her love; he’d had to retreat to his shed for some Ted time, away from her care.
But then the D-word struck. Dementia. He’d watched his Lilly mentally slip away from him, and yet becoming completely reliant on his care. She became sweet, fey; a vessel that words slipped right through. Worse than repeating herself, now she never spoke, moving through the day as an obedient happy doll. Ted longed to hear her voice again, or to feel one of her rib-busting hugs. She no longer recognized anyone, not even Ted. Yet she got terribly fretful if he wasn’t there.
Ted looked at his dearest Lilly, sleeping the sleep of the innocent, in the bed they’d shared for a lifetime. He thought again of the oncologists words; six weeks. He had just six weeks.
Lilly had no idea. What a future she faced without him. How could she cope with a new home, in a facility staffed by strangers who were paid to be there. She would have strange furniture in a strange home, with unfamiliar routines. Lilly hated change of any kind, and this change would be total; nothing in her life would be the same.
There was no way to prepare her for the loss of all that was familiar. Six weeks. It wasn’t her fault.
She deserved to end her days here, in her own home, surrounded by her life’s work. Six weeks. The very thought of looking at rest homes horrified Ted. How could he hand his dearest Lilly over to complete strangers, and trust them to look after her. She had trusted him to look after her. Six weeks.
The oncologist had been very clear. Cancer was eating him alive; growing, spreading. Six weeks. Poor, poor Lilly.
Tears flowed as Ted gazed down at his sleeping beauty. His eyes traced every line, every wrinkle on her dear face, whilst his fingers gently stroked her soft fine hair. They had said goodbye many times over the years, at airports, ferry terminals and train stations, but this would be the hardest goodbye of them all. Ted sighed, beaten by the cruelty of old age.
‘Goodbye, dear Lilly; please forgive me’ he wept.
Picking up his pillow in both hands, he leaned over his sleeping Lilly and smothered her with all his love.