Even though they were at the hospital, I could see she had taken the time to make sure she wore her bindi today, a deep red against her frail and pale skin. The dim sunlight coming through the windows caught her slim gold bangles, periodically shining. They sat at the cafeteria table, eating sandwiches and shared a bottle of water. In complete silence, each lost in their own thoughts. He occasionally looked up, to brush off a crumb that had fallen on her shirt, she smiled in acknowledgement – but they didn’t actually say a word to each other. He had finished his food, but waited until she was done to get up and collect their things into a bag. I noticed a slight tremble in her hands as she put the empty sandwich wrapper on the tray, it made her bangles tinkle lightly. He smoothed her hair, and her hospital gown, went around her and started pushing the wheelchair towards the hallway leading to the OR.
I had seen many people come through this hospital, in different states, different relationships, different emotions. There was something about the way in which these two people, a husband and wife, had spent an hour in comfortable silence. Connected, yet silent. There was nothing hurried about them, no rush to fill each moment with words and sounds. Just two people, sitting with each other, letting the world go by.
Many hours later I saw him sitting in the hallway. I could hear the sounds of footsteps echoing away. He sat alone, there were many empty chairs around him. There was a medical certificate of death on the seat next to him. He was, however, holding a picture of them.
I sat down across from him.
This is what losing a lifetime together looks like.