The next installment in the Music’s Box project is a tear jerker. Then again, if there is one writer I know that can evoke emotion better than any, it’s Beau Barnett. I’ve known Beau for a few years, he’s contributed stories to many a blog project, including my previous one. His ability to capture a moment – what’s felt within it, the sounds, the sights, how everything changes – is his strongest suit. He can write a damn good love story that puts Nicholas Sparks to shame and he does it every time. This particular story is a dual narrative from the main characters, Mark and Rachel’s, perspectives. Their story began a couple of years ago with “Make a Wish”. Among friends, this is the story that gave birth to the phrase “skyward at the sky.”
The song Beau chose is “Memories” by Eisley, a beautiful testament to marriage and what gets us through when your spouse is gone. True to form, Beau even names the daughters of Mark and Rachel “with musical names.” If any members of the band are reading this, he’s done your song justice ten times over.
Grab some tissues, folks. Prepare yourself for a damn great story.
By Beau Barnett
We were supposed to grow old together, Mark and I. Spoil our grandchildren. Sip lemonade on the porch swing together passing the time. I wasn’t supposed to be sitting in a hospital holding my husband’s hand. He wasn’t supposed to be laying in a coma while machines kept him alive. We’re still in our forties, for goodness’ sake. Our daughters just graduated from college. At this point I just hope Mark hangs on long enough for Harmony and Melody to see him.
The doctor had told me he wouldn’t make it through the night. “It’s up to him now,” she had said, though the weary look in her eyes told the truth. “Mark has virtually no hope,” her eyes said. “He is going to die, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Isn’t just waiting for the end the worst of it? The man I’ve spent nearly thirty years loving is now a shell of his former self. If only he would squeeze my hand, cough…something…so I’d know he’s still in there somewhere. He lay statue-like in bed, the hint of a smile on his face, blissfully unaware of his condition while I sat next to him trying not to let him hear me sob, just in case.
Rachel? Honey? Can you hear me? Where are we? Did something happen? Are you ok? Why are you crying? Please stop crying, it breaks my heart. I’m here, baby, I’m here. I love you. Will you smile for me?
I don’t really know what’s happening, but I know that you’re here. I can feel you…I think. It feels like you have a hold of my hand. I can hear your sobs. I wish I could make you stop crying and hear your beautiful laugh. What is going on? Did something happen? I remember a really sharp pain in my chest while I was mowing the yard. I heard you scream…and now this. Baby, it’s so beautiful here. Almost ethereal. It’s like a field, or something. Beautiful and lush and green. The sky is so blue, there are tulips everywhere. Those orange and gold ones you love so much. You always call them your ‘little suns.’ You have such silly names for every little thing you love.
Something new is happening. I see us. We’re kids. At the park, playing on the swings. I think it’s when we met. What were we, six? You had your hair in pig tails. I thought you were cute even way back then. Do you remember, Honey? I never would’ve guessed how important that day would end up being.
Now it’s night. We’re at the park again. The meteor shower. Where ‘we’ really began. You looked so beautiful in the moonlight. That was the night I fell in love with you. The night of our first kiss. I didn’t want to let you go off to college the next day. Hard to believe that was thirty years ago. It feels like only yesterday…
I open my eyes. “Harmony, you made it!” I smile though I don’t really feel like it.
“Of course. How’s Dad?” She must have seen the color drain from my face. She said, “Mom. He’s going to be fine.”
She walked over and put her hand on top of mine, trying her best to lift my spirits. She’s a lot like her dad, in that. Never sparing a kind word, putting others ahead of herself. Mark and I are so proud of her. Her younger sister, too. Melody’s a lot more like me–you can take one look at her and know exactly how she feels.
“Melody should be here soon. She got caught in traffic,” Harmony said. I nod. I hope she gets here in time.
We sit in silence for a while, the machines keeping Mark alive the only sound. Finally, the door opens and Melody tiptoes in, her eyes red and puffy. We exchange hugs all around, the only sound an occasional sniffle from Melody, and some murmured platitudes from Harmony to try and soothe her. My mind starts drifting a little bit, remembering happier times. Like when Mark dropped to one knee at ‘our’ park and asked me the one question every little girl dreams of hearing.
“Will you marry me?”
I’ve never seen a smile bigger than the one on his face when I said yes. The wedding, of course. When Harmony and Melody were born…he cried each time, awe in his face as he held our little bundles of joy.
Are those my angels I hear? I can see them right now. They’re babies and I’m holding them. I love them so much. I’m so proud of them. A father couldn’t have asked for two better girls. I’m so glad I could watch them grow up. I remember every recital, every softball game. Every time we watched sports together. Heh, even every boyfriend.
All the memories are so clear, Rachel. So detailed. There’s no way I could remember this so perfectly. Is this the end of the road? This is my life passing before my eyes, isn’t it? ‘They’ say–whoever the heck ‘they’ are–that’s what happens when you die. I guess it’s fitting that everything I’m seeing has the three of you in it. Y’all are–well, were, I guess–my life. My everything. I hope y’all know that. Baby, I’m really not ready to leave you…
“I only remember seeing him cry the one time. When I graduated from UF.”
Melody smiles. “He cried when I graduated from SC, too,” she said. “He is such a great father.” A wistful smile.
“Couldn’t have asked for a better one.”
“Your father loves you so very much. He is so proud of you both.” By now, I was smiling. I swear, Mark, there’s a smile on your lips, too. Will you please just open your eyes?
I guess my own welled up again, because Melody, brow furrowed, said, “He’s going to be fine, Mom. You’ll see.”
“The doctors don’t think so.”
“The doctors don’t know how strong Dad is,” Harmony said. Melody nodded.
“I hope you’re right.”
“We are,” Melody agreed.
The doctors are right, honey. I see a man in the distance, clothed in white.
He’s calling me.
He says it’s time.
I’m not coming back, Rachel.
But I’m at home.
I love you…
Nothing prepares you for this. The sound of the monitor when the heart of the person you love the most beats its last. The finality of it.
I am on the floor without remembering how I got there, Melody trying to get me back on my feet, tears streaming down her face. The room erupts with people rushing in to try and save Mark, but I know.
My husband isn’t here anymore. I’ve just become a widow. We had each promised to be together until we parted at death. I never expected that day to come so soon. Now all I’d have were the memories.
“I love you, Mark,” I say through tears, though he is gone and can no longer hear me.