(Page 2 of 2)
Finally, you say something, your throat aching with the pain of disuse. "I should've said something. I...I should've taken him to the hospital sooner. Should've..."
She interrupts you, and you're glad. Confession hurts. "Parker, look at me. I mean, really look at me." Unwillingly, you raise your tear-filled eyes, ashamed that she must see them lingering there. "It's not your fault," she whispers with all the kindness she possesses. Her other hand strokes your face, cradling your head as a tear darts around her slender fingers. "I know you. You're a good man, and you loved your father. You'd never let something like this happen, and you know it. These things...they can't be controlled." She shakes her head, and you stand and face the opposite side of the room, grinding your teeth together to keep from exploding. There's so much guilt, so much pain, and you don't know what to do. Keep it all inside, build up your walls, and hope no one sees - that was what you did before. Why doesn't it work now? You're unraveling at the seams, a heap of no-good nothing lying on the floor, disintegrating into shambles when they need you most.
"I know it's not my fault," you say at last. "But I can't help feeling this way. I just - I just need to make this right. And I don't know how. And now they're taking him off life support, and - " your voice breaks, and you turn to find her there before you with that firm resolve shimmering through the wetness in her gaze.
"You know how to make this right."
The quiet words startle you. You swallow. Breathe. "D-d'you think...letting him go...would he still love me?" You feel small and foolish, but the question is branded on your mind.
"He loves you, Parker. He always has, and he always will. And releasing him from...this, isn't going to change anything - but keeping him here...would he really want to stay a vegetable for the rest of his life?"
"No," you whisper, and you break. You shatter into a million shards, and just as you have given her comfort in the past, her svelte build shifts to encompass you in warmth and love - warmth you can finally feel. She's given you the truth, now you just have to take it.
Much later, with a clear visage, you call in the doctor. By now everyone has left, and it's just you and the man on the gurney.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I wanted to save you - but...but this is the best I can do. Tell Mom, when you see her...tell her Claire's so thankful for the dress, and...everything. I am too. Oh, and - and Dad? I love you. I don't think I ever said that enough. That wasn't right. But now, I hope everything's...right. You always told me to do what's best; to make things right. You always told me."
By now, the machines have gone silent. Your lips are pressed together in a line to prevent them from trembling as his chest goes still under the thin hospital garments. You silently stand, then do what you must, and walk away. On an impulse, you rotate by the door to see him smiling faintly, even in death.
Something in you flutters with hope at the sight, and you realize that, finally, you did the right thing. Finally, he's in Heaven, where he should be. He always deserved someplace like that. Though he would always remain in memory, his soul was...free. At last.
And on the day you come to terms with everything, maybe you too will liberate yourself from the guilt that keeps you in chains.
Maybe that day is today.