He came running out onto the street. Tears were streaming down his face. She’d been so positive he thought to himself, so strong. Sitting down on the curb, he laid his head in his hands. The streetlights shone down on him, shrouding him in a veil of light, making him look almost like a saint. It was late, maybe three in the morning.
He hadn’t expected to find her there. He hadn’t expected to see his wife lying in a pool of blood with her wrists slashed. At first he thought he was having a nightmare. But, no he was awake alright, but his wife was gone; she was dead, her ashen face blankly staring back at him. The beauty that she had known many years ago had all but washed out, drained out of her like the blood that pooled around her in the tub. Yet for a moment he had seen her as she was oh so many years ago, when they had first met. Before the pain that would draw them together and pull them further apart at the same time, before the treatments, the pills, the doctors and hospitals, before the cancer.
He had called emergency as soon as he had found her there. They took their time getting to the house. He had left the paramedics inside to do their job. He couldn’t stay inside; he couldn’t breathe and he needed some air. She’s really gone, he thought, as he watched the men carry his wife’s lifeless body from their home.
When they had left he got up and looked up and down the street. It was a beautiful summer night, and the moon was full, casting a warm glow on the tiny neighborhood. He’d lived in the house with his wife, Margie, for twenty-odd years. Why had she ended it without saying good-bye? One word would have helped – love, happy, joy – just one word. Had she felt any of these emotions? He would never know. He hadn’t had the time to ask her. He felt betrayed by that. Anger built up in him as he walked back up the path to the house. He could see in the living room window that the police had arrived and were looking for any signs of foul play. Making sure that the husband was not accountable. Maybe he was accountable, he thought to himself. He wondered if his desire to have his wife whole again killed something in her.
“Mr. Dayton, hello, I am Officer Slattery. First let me say I am deeply sorry for your loss. I am assuming you were here when your wife died?”
“Yes I was, unfortunately. I was asleep. I can’t believe this. I didn’t suspect that she would do something like that; she has had cancer for over four years. It was becoming, as she kept saying, ‘hopeless’. She felt that she had exhausted all the possibilities for a full recovery. I had no idea she was that desperate though.”
“Well sir, I just have a couple more questions and then I will go. I am sure you need some time to be alone.”
As the officer was speaking to him, his mind drifted off. I certainly will have a lot of time on my hands, he thought, time alone, time to kill, time waits for no one. Time to dance, time to live, but alone, without Margie. She was gone. The shock settled in.
“Yes, I would like to call my kids.”
“Oh, you have children? How many? Kids, they are the apple of our eyes aren’t they? I have two girls, ten and seventeen. How old are you children?”
“They are twenty-one and twenty-three. They are at the University of Toronto. Two boys.”
“Two boys, that’s wonderful. Were they close to their mom? Such a tragedy. Well, I better get moving along here, Sir. Won’t take any more of your time. I think we’re done; I will call you if I need any more information for the report. Sorry again for your loss; at least you have your boys to help you cope. Take care.”
Then he was alone. He couldn’t tell the boys their mother had committed suicide. That would just be too much for them to carry. He had to think of the boys. He didn’t want them to be shouldered with that kind of pain. They knew their mother was sick, so it would be much easier to tell them she passed away peacefully.
The family gathered for the funeral. Afterwards in the garden that he and Margie had so carefully tended he watched his boys among the crowd of relatives and friends. The boys were strong, he thought. He sensed, though, that they were not comfortable being at the house with him.
Margie had been the one to look after things.
He couldn’t let them leave without a word. He could not let his children go back to their lives without them knowing what had really happened to their mother. The truth would fall from his lips like the blood from his wife’s wrists. They would deal with it; they had to. There was no other choice. Sometimes it takes small things to make great things happen. This small thing – telling the truth – would lead to great things for all them.
He asked his boys Mark and Kevin to join him after everyone had left. He had something to tell them. His boys were startled by this request. Their father, they knew, was not one to talk. That was always mom’s job.
Later, when the house had emptied, Mark and Kevin made their way reluctantly to the living room. As they walked in they sensed their father’s grief.
“Boys,” said their dad, his heart feeling the heaviness of what would come next.
“I couldn’t let you leave here and go back to Toronto without telling you about your mother. As you know she and I have had our ups and downs over the years with her illness. It takes a toll. It robs you of any kind of spontaneity. It runs your life. Your mom had had all she could take; she’d had enough of the illness, the pain. She ended her life. I don’t know how she found the strength to do it. She felt, I suppose, that the finish line was taking too long to reach.
“I couldn’t tell you until now. I don’t know why. I guess I thought it would be better for you not to know but after watching you today at the funeral I knew I had to tell you. I feel so lost without her, so empty. Yet she left me you two boys. I love you both very much. I know I have never been the kind of father that you wanted me to be, but I would like to try and find a way to make our relationships work. To find the word to make it right. Did your mom know love and joy and happiness? Indeed, I think she did. I think she found all of those things in you two boys. In fact, I am sure that you are the word that she left for me to find.”
The willow trees danced in the summer breeze that night. It was almost as though she were there, listening to every word.
“Grief,” by dargie lynch. Creative Commons Flickr. Some rights reserved.