The old photos made her conscious of her age, of how much time had passed – and of what an interesting life she’d led. The pictures, like her, had worn thin over the years. Many of the snapshots were marred with scratches and bent corners, and the colors had faded — but her mind supplied the brighter hues the photos failed to recall. With tired hands, she sifted through the years of her life.
Memories were strewn over the kitchen table, tumbled together in haphazard fashion. She picked up a photo of her first grandchild, Alicia. A chubby hand was curled tightly over her own extended finger, while she cradled the baby gently. They gazed at each other, grandmother and baby, meeting for the first time.
Another shot captured her as she crossed the stage to receive her high school diploma. Her face was serious, and she was appeared older than her seventeen years. She wished she could go back and tell that young girl how easily the years are spent and not to trade her youth so eagerly. She smiled at the thought, knowing that girl wouldn’t have listened. Headstrong, her mother had called her, and rightly so.
She had always been stubborn; it was a trait that served her well. She often succeeded where others failed, because she was constitutionally unable to admit defeat. It irked her now to realize she couldn’t win this last battle with the strength of her will.
The treatments weren’t working. The progression was slowing, but still the malignant cells still spread, seeping through her body like water dripping through a crack in a ceiling. The cancerous stain grew unabated, daily claiming new territory. For the first time, the force of her determination was failing her.
She continued to study the photos, lining up her favorite memories to form a pictorial timeline. Her wedding cameo found its place, just after the graduation photo, followed by a snap shot from her honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls. In the photo, she was leaning on Hank, his strong arm drawing her close, while they posed in front of the churning waters. Their faces glowed more from the wonder of their happiness than in response to the splendor of the scenery. More pictures followed — the kids and grand-kids, parties and holidays, family and dear friends — all reminders of the blessed life she had lived. Not a perfect life, for she had known regret and sorrow, but a good life, one that filled her with satisfaction now as she stared at the faces of those she had loved.
She made her decision then, and the rush of relief, paired with the calm of acceptance told her it was the right choice. Tomorrow she would call Dr. Altman and tell him she was done with chemotherapy. He would try to talk her out of her decision, but her will would prevail. Headstrong she entered this world, and headstrong she would leave it.
She looked again at the honeymoon photo, and the memories washed over her. She remembered how often Hank’s arms had comforted her, and how his love had carried her through rough days when she couldn’t bear her own troubles. She remembered the dual importance of her wedding day, how it signified a farewell to the freedom of single-hood, while also marking the beginning of a shared life with the man she loved. Perhaps, now, in similar fashion, she wasn’t only marking time to the end of her days, but also sending stepping out in faith, toward a new reality.
She scooped up the photos, giving thanks for every memory as she returned them all to the old shoe box she stored them in. She kept only one photo back, which she pinned to the refrigerator with a magnet.
She smiled at the young honeymoon couple and felt her courage grow. With Hank by her side, she was finally ready to begin the journey home.
Thank you for reading!
(Note: Today’s first line prompt was generated here — a great site for getting the creative juices flowing!)