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The Last Farewell

Author:

Passionately interested in life-long learning, writing, researching, and many other things. Spent many years as a management trainer.

BilyBuc's Challenge

William D Holland, well-known writer here on Hubpages, has issued his second writing challenge. I don't generally enter these but the pictures he provided called to me and a story formed almost unbidden.

I wrote 500 words and thought I would email it to him. Then when I looked at it, it seemed a little bare and I expanded it. Then it needed a bit more here and there to keep it flowing and before I knew where I was, it had reached 1,000 words, so I decided to publish it. You can see the challenge on Billy Bucs Photo Challenge Prompt Installment 2.

NOTE: All the pictures included here are from William D Holland's challenge Hub, apart from the very last one..

the-last-farewell

The Game

“I’m so tired,” she whispered, pushing away the untouched soup and leaning back once more as he adjusted the puffy pillows behind her. “It looks so cold out there, it makes me shiver.”

Dan lifted the unwanted meal away and gazed out at the deep snow, banked around the house and coating the mountains behind them, then back at his wife, her skin as pale as the feathery snow drifting silently from the trees in the fitful wind.

“Let’s play our game, Beth,” he said gently.

“Mmmmh,” she murmured faintly, snuggling under the bed covers as Dan slipped a fresh hot water bottle down near her feet.

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Over The Snow

“We’re dressed warmly, sliding gently on a toboggan, down over the snowy banks, to the river,” he said in a gentle low voice, purposely keeping his voice slow and low. Beth relaxed as his voice and the familiar words flowed smoothly over her in the game they had played ever since the doctor had given them the news they had feared.

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Moving Downriver

“We are getting near the river and the toboggan is changing slowly into a canoe and entering the water without even a splash. We’re gliding down the river, paddling gently past mountains where the snow is melting, and the green is showing through. It’s getting warmer, there are flowers on the riverbanks and a warm breeze is blowing. We don’t need our warm coats anymore and we take them off to sit on them.” Dan paused in his word painting of a relaxing scene, wondering whether Beth was asleep. He could see a faint pulse in her neck, but her eyes were closed, and he didn’t want to disturb her with his voice by continuing the story if she were sleeping.

“Remember the pond weed and the ducks,” she whispered faintly into the silence, her eyes remaining closed under the spell of the familiar story.

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Slowing Down

Dan continued describing their slow calm journey down the water from glacial mountain stream to broad warm river, dipping the paddles quietly in and out of the water. He added in animals and plants as part of the river’s life, the fish they could see through the clear water, ducks floating lazily along the smooth stretches, pulling at clumps of pond weed and diving for small fish and insects, then bobbing up again to join their noisy neighbours, swans gliding regally past and herons landing clumsily on the grassy banks. He talked about looking up at great fluffy clouds above and the warm sunshine heating their bodies, while an occasional breeze refreshed them and gently ruffled their hair as they navigated easily through shallows, past giant boulders and down tiny gentle waterfalls and fast runs, with tiny waves lapping the banks and mud flats where otters and small furry animals scarcely looked up as they floated past, and seeing the tiny ripples as fish sought small insects on the water’s surface.

He felt her relax beside him on the bed, her thin body covered by the warm duvet, which was hardly moved by her shallow breaths. He heard her breathing becoming slower.

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The Port

Dan kept his voice low and warm as he told of watching the great body of water gradually slowing as great tributaries joined from other mountains and the land itself became flatter with roads and bridges now visible some distance from their section of the river and the river then spreading out in a wide swathe over flat green countryside with picturesque towns and villages until it reached the port and the leisure marina, with yachts.

“And the boat,” Beth whispered, as he stopped speaking. Her breathing speeded up a little and he could feel her move slightly under the bed covers.

Dan continued, stumbling a little. He had never previously taken the story this far. She had always gone to sleep by this point. He didn’t remember any boat in the story before and he was now having to make up the story as he went along, trying to guess what might be in her head and weave it into the story he was carrying her along with.

“In the marina, the canoe becomes a small boat and the paddles become an engine and it weaves gently through the still waters, past landing stages and the commercial vessels tied up near cranes,” he faltered looking for a way to continue the story that would keep her relaxed and warm.

The Bird

“A bird,” Beth’s voice was even lower now and he strained to hear her. “the boat becomes a bird, a white, shining bird. Beth’s voice became firmer now, though still low: and excitement suddenly seemed to buoy her up, and she moved up slightly on her pillows. “The paddles become wings, the bird lifts me up.” Dan stayed silent, listening to the story as his wife took over the mantle of storyteller. “We fly up, up into the blue sky, almost to the clouds. I can see the river below and you standing there beside the yachts. You couldn’t come with me. I’m waving but you don’t see me.” Her voice saddened a little with regret, then brightened again, almost feverish in its intensity. “We fly back up the river to the snow and the mountains, back to this house and,” she faltered for a moment, “You’re here.” Her voice faded but only for a moment. “How are you here?” she whispered, “I left you at the docks, at the port, standing beside the yachts in the marina. I waved goodbye to you.” Dan squeezed her hand gently, as she sank back into the pillows exhausted. She returned the squeeze, though her chest laboured with the effort of breathing.

“I’m here, right beside you,” He squeezed her hand gently again but now there was no answering pressure, her hand was limp in his. Her breathing slowed.

At the window, a sudden flurry of wings rattled the glass, and Dan turned to see a shining white bird taking off from the windowsill, climbing high into the blue sky until it was lost to sight. He waved goodbye, hoping she could see him this time.

Comments

Robert Sacchi on November 06, 2020:

You're welcome.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on November 06, 2020:

Thank you for visiting and commenting Robert Sacchi

Robert Sacchi on November 05, 2020:

A novel concept of a story within a story. Nicely done.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on April 29, 2020:

Thank you so much Beth, very kind.

Beth Perry from Tennesee on April 28, 2020:

What a beautiful story, Meg. You have me in tears with this one!

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on April 27, 2020:

Thank you so much for such a lovely comment Ann Carr.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 27, 2020:

That is an amazing story, so well told and so emotional. It's gentle and powerful at the same time. Your descriptions are vivid.

You've crafted this so that it turns around, goes away and comes back, and the touch of the bird at the end is exquisite.

Well done!

Keep safe and well.

Ann

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on March 21, 2020:

Thank you very much M G Singh. There is no such thing as being late when reading a story (unless it's purely about today's news). Good ones always have something to say. I am thinking here of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Mask of the Red Death", which is pretty relevant to today, even though it was written back in the 1840s.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 20, 2020:

Read it pretty late. It's a wonderful tale and so well depicted.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on March 07, 2020:

Diolch yn fawr Eiddwen, thank you very much.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 07, 2020:

Very sad but beautifully told. Brilliant story telling Meg.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on March 06, 2020:

Thank you very much for your kind words Venkatachari.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on March 05, 2020:

A wonderful story, Meg.

You narrated it very artistically and so soothing to her years during her slowing down breathing. The white bird is a good choice. I enjoyed it very much, though a tragic ending.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 14, 2020:

Thank you very much MG Singh

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 13, 2020:

A gripping story that captivated me. Thank you

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 06, 2020:

Ah, thank you for explaining, Mel. I thought perhaps you referred to the bird but now I understand what you meant.

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on February 06, 2020:

Specifically, when you alluded to her condition early that created a sense of gripping tension that made you know something was coming. Well done.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 06, 2020:

Thank you very much Nikki, very kind.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 06, 2020:

Thank you Mel, I appreciate that, even if I didn't know what foreshadowing was! I must remember that.

Nikki Khan from London on February 06, 2020:

Wow! Such a fabulous story-telling. I could feel flying with the white bird to the clouds and beyond. Your imaginary works so very well, Meg.

You met the challenge in an interesting way.

Brilliant!

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on February 05, 2020:

You made me gasp at the ending, and a little tear came to my eye. Amazing how you could create such empathy for characters in just 1000 words. I also admire how you plugged in a bit of foreshadowing to create suspense. Fantastic work.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 04, 2020:

Thank you Pamela, yes it was sad, yet he had the chance to say goodbye.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 04, 2020:

Thank you John, that's very kind

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 04, 2020:

Thank you very much Tori. I enjoyed writing it.

Tori Leumas on February 03, 2020:

This is very beautifully written. I really enjoyed reading it. I could picture your descriptions very easily. It was quite emotionally stirring.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 03, 2020:

What a beautiful and touching story you wove, Meg. Such a wonderful response to Bill’s photo challenge. Well done.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 03, 2020:

This is such a wonderful story for the photo challenge. You truly did a wonderful job with it and it was sad as Dan said goodbye.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 03, 2020:

Thank you very much Bill, I am honored! It was your series of photographs that instigated the story, with their passage down time and season.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 03, 2020:

Stunningly beautiful story, Meg! This one touched me deeply. Thank you so much for taking the challenge and for moving us all with your words.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 02, 2020:

Thank you very much, Linda that's very kind.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 02, 2020:

This is a beautiful story. It's sad, but it's so full of meaning and love. It's a wonderful response to Bill's challenge.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 02, 2020:

Thank you so much Shauna. I wasn't sure whether it would work but your comment shows you heard what I wanted to say. Thank you.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 02, 2020:

OMG, this is so sad, but so beautiful. Beth drifted off and was taken gently by the white bird to a place where she no longer suffered.

At least Dan got to say goodbye.

Great response to Bill's challenge, Meg! I'm still trying to kick my muse into gear, but yours is obviously shining.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 02, 2020:

Thank you Bushra Iqbal

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 02, 2020:

Thank you very much Umesh Chandra Bhatt

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on February 02, 2020:

That was really very well-written!

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 01, 2020:

Intetesting reading. Well conceived and well presented. Keep up the good work. All the best.