I love the ocean. It's so pretty after the sun has set. When there's nothing but an endless expanse of sky above you and the cooling sand beneath your toes, you can just catch a glimpse of the water glimmering prettily, a dark navy blue color under the pale light of the moon beaming down like a symbol of serenity, of hope and calm. The saltwater breeze gently brushes the hair from my face and I smell the ocean and stare out at the seemingly infinite waves crashing in the distance, beautiful but potentially deadly given the chance. But they're tame. Today they are content to simply collide in the distance. Today they are content. It's refreshingly cool, not cold, and I'm still warm from the sun's rays, only just left. I'm comfortable and I can hardly feel the pain. I always feel the pain, but today it's bearable. Almost gone, for a while. That's all I really need right now. I have a feeling the memory of today will last me until fate catches my last breath.
I've got tears glistening in my eyes and warm fingers laced through my own. I blink once and feel the tears flowing steadily down my face. Sudden and unexpected. I used to hate crying. I felt like I had to be strong and not let this affect me so. But now I know it's okay. It's okay to cry, and somehow it feels good, it feels lovely, to stand on the shoreline with the ocean before me and him standing next to me, content to hold my hand like he'll never let go. It feels lovely to cry and not feel like I have to stop, to wipe my face and hide my eyes. Crying is healing and I want to be healed before I've left.
"I love the ocean." My words are spoken soft but sure. You wouldn't be able to tell that I'm crying, my voice hasn't broken, but when he looks over I see the alarm in his eyes. I simply smile and lock eyes with him. "It's okay," I squeeze his hand and smile reassuringly through my silent tears. "I promise, I'm fine."
There's pain in his eyes. "Don't cry," He whispers, and looks disconsolately down at the sand, like he's escaping what he's afraid might lie in my gaze. My emotions, I've always wore on my sleeve. He's scared to see if I'll break down. He doesn't want me to, he'll do it too. "Please, don't cry, Eviliee."
I want to tell him that they're tears of fulfillment. I want to say that after so long of trying to escape the inevitable, of the chemo and the needles and the being sick and losing my hair, after all those angry and resentful tears, these are new. They're tears of letting go. They're tears of being at peace with myself and whatever is to come. But all I do is turn, grab his other hand, hold it tightly in my own and smile.
"I'm not afraid anymore," I say, as I give him my smile, the one that I save for him, the one I only use when I'm truly happy, when there's nothing else I'd wish for in the world but for the moment I'm in. "I'm not afraid to die."
Instead of smiling back at me, I can practically see a piece of his heart chip off and break as he looks into my eyes. "Ev, I'm—" He swallows, convulsively squeezes my hand. He's holding back the tears and I know they aren't happy tears. My stomach convulses like someone just punched me in the gut, hard. I'm okay, but he's hurt. I love him. I don't want to put him through this, to hurt him anymore. I want to let him go but it would kill me to do it and he's still holding on so tightly, afraid to break away. "I'm not ready—" His voice breaks, "--to let you go."
I think of my mother refusing to plan the funeral, of daddy punching the wall when the options ran out, of Brit without an older sister. She'll miss me, I wish she wouldn't cry. I think of Em without a best friend and of my room and my baby books; of memories and of this book left unfinished, half written with the rest of the pages painfully blank. I flash back to the time I met Rhylie, the moment I knew I was in love.
This hurts, that I'm leaving them with a gap in their lives they may never replace. It's like knives in my body, twisting and stabbing and leaving nothing but a revolting mess of bleeding pain. This is worse for them than it is for me, because once I'm gone, I'm gone. It's over. But for them the nightmare goes on. I want Rhylie to fall in love again and think back on me with a reminiscent smile, and know that this was always so raw, so brilliant, so real. I want everyone to move on and not dwell.
I'm not ready to let you go. The words echo endlessly in my mind. I'm not ready…
"I'm not ready to let you," I whisper, and break my hands away simply to wrap my arms tightly around him, close my eyes breathe in his familiar smell like it's a drug to make me relax. I need to feel his arms around me now. I know it's selfish, but I can't push him away. I should but I can't.
"I love you."
I smile. A tear falls onto our intertwined hands. "I love you, too."
I want so many more things, like marriage and children and to grow old and wrinkly with Rhylie by my side. But I'm so extremely, unbelievably lucky. I've had time to say goodbye. I'm prepared, I'm allright to let go. I have a family, I've got a love story like I didn't know existed, I have so many things that people can go eighty years and die without having ever known. I'm lucky. I'm not dying without experiencing what I've always wanted most.
Granted, I lost my hair and got sick and I'm dosed up on so many pain medications that the sight of the pills makes me sick. I've got a wig but my beautiful Autumn hair, which I used to treasure like a bible to a heavily devoted Christian, like my favorite season; it's gone and I won't live to see it again. I won't live to see the bright fall leaves and the pure white snow drifting down lazily from the sky, white like Christmas and purity.
Death has claimed these rights, stripped them away, but I don't shiver and hide, I embrace this.
Death is ugly, I think, as I consider of all it has put me through in the process of slowly claiming my life. But I'm not bitter. I've learned so much more than I would have otherwise, I've grown so much as a person. Knowing that I'm to be taken this early has taught me the beauty of living in the moment, of just breathing in life.
Yes, I think, Death is ugly, but it's beautiful too.