Dancing With Orange Blossoms, Chapter XX

Death came gently. The glow of life dimmed gradually until the candle that was Susanna snuffed out. The painful, wracking cough subsided and her breath became less labored. As death gathered her into his jealous arms, a calm repose relaxed her features and the lines in her face smoothed away. Her body seemed to sigh with relief. Susanna died peacefully in her sleep as her breathing became shallower, and shallower, and shallower, and stopped.

She looked like an angel as her life slipped away. Her pale, silky skin seemed to glow. I ran my fingers along her arm and felt her warmth. For a brief moment, I thought she would open her eyes and smile and squeeze my hand. Instead, I smiled, squeezed her hand, and whispered that I loved her. And then she was gone. Her skin took on the cold, blue-gray hue of death; her soul had flown. I wondered if she had dreamt as she died and what her dreams might have been. I wondered if she had dreamt of me. Maybe when you’re dying, you dream of what comes next, heaven, hell, purgatory. Maybe you dream of parents, family, those closest to you the longest. Maybe you dream of yourself and your life and all the things you did as a child, and as a teenager, and as a grownup. Maybe when you’re dying your life passes by for review. Saint Peter opening the book of you as you look on in silent terror. Yet, her life’s spark had blazed hot and bright, and Susanna had nothing to regret. I wondered if she’d be waiting for me when I died.

In the hours before she died that morning, Susanna didn’t move. The only sign of life the faint rise and fall of her chest. I sat next to her on the bed for those last few hours, holding her hand, caressing her cheeks, running my fingers through her hair, kissing her forehead. I wiped away the tears that fell on her as I cried. I cried because she was going to die. I cried because I was going to be alone. I cried because I was going to miss her. I cried because I was selfish. It isn’t selfish to die. It’s selfish to wish someone wouldn’t die. I wanted Susanna to live for me, not for her.

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