At the hospital entrance, Justin allowed Katelyn to enter first. Everyone seemed busy. Paramedics wheeled patients on trollies—one, a child in a neck brace, another, a toddler accompanied by a
panic-stricken woman… She lamented having been kept waiting for five hours.
He hurried to keep up with Katelyn. Moans and TV sounds wafted out of the adjacent wards long after he’d caught up with her in the Oncology wing.
A nurse guided them to Elizabeth’s room. “Here.”
Nurses surrounded her bed, attaching IVs, heart monitors, and oxygen tanks.
He went up to Ambrose and squeezed his shoulders. “Take heart.”
Katelyn bent over Elizabeth. “Sweetheart, hang in there. It’ll be okay.”
Elizabeth stared blankly at her. Katelyn broke into sobs and a nurse led her aside. She clasped the hem of her dress, twisted it in her fingers. “Oh my God!”
What the hell was happening? From a cancer free patient to now being bedridden, unable to even lift her head? Elizabeth looked like a corpse. Both arms over the bedsheet. Her bony fingers poked
loosely from the skeletal hands.
She coughed and her head fell sideways. Those hollow eyes! Parched lips glued together! Justin looked aside. Oh! A stab of guilt forced him to look back. Elizabeth’s stiff bosom rose and fell with
each labored breath.
Justin put an arm over his wife’s shoulder. “Heh, she’s changed so fast…”
She rested her head on his chest. “God! I knew something wasn’t right.”
“But she’d started changing for the better.”
“You should’ve seen how she struggled to breathe when we went for a walk. Why didn’t I insist she go to the hospital?”
Justin looked at Elizabeth’s thinning hair, wet with sweat on the temples and bony forehead. “Honey, you can’t blame yourself.”
They returned to the bedside.
Ambrose stepped back to give them room. “A few days ago she complained of headache. Um, we’d have gone to the hospital, but pastor Andrew prayed for her and she felt better.”
Elizabeth’s lips twitched.
Katelyn snuggled closer. “Honey, you wanna say something?”
The lips moved again, but nothing came out.
“It’s okay, honey. It’ll be fine.” Katelyn straightened. “I know God will not put her to shame. She put all her trust in him.”
Everyone would die, but why Elizabeth? A young woman with little kids looking up to her? Pure soul! Justin remembered his wickedness—sleeping with his daughter’s friend. Maybe he deserved to
be the one on that bed.
Elizabeth stirred and her lips twitched behind the oxygen mask. “I—I feel better. Ah, I—I’m recover…ing.”
“Wow.” Katelyn cuddled her hand. “Thank God!”
It must be the drugs taking effect.
Justin took a deep breath. How the hell could Elizabeth still think of recovering? He looked away. Poor woman!
“I—I—I’ll get to my feet again.”
Ambrose pecked her forehead. “Yes you will, sweetheart.”
I can’t be part of this pretence. False hope!
Justin tapped on Ambrose’s shoulder. “Excuse me. Where’s the lavatory?”
“Just outside the door. To your left.”
Inside the bathroom, his heart broke just recalling the look of worry on Elizabeth’s face. For God’s sake, why lie instead of telling her the truth? She’s dying!
Elizabeth’s wide eyes, bulging from bony sockets, flashed through his mind. Goosebumps rose along his arms. He imagined her ice-cold breath as she spoke of her recovery and shuddered. Why do
people not just let go of life when death beckons?
Upon his return, he ran into a grim-faced doctor leaving the room. With inaudible steps, Justin proceeded towards the bedside.
Katelyn met him half-way and whispered, “I’ve called the priest. She needs to receive absolution. Been given three days.”
“What!” He rubbed her shoulder. “Is she still talking?”
“No. She’s fallen asleep. The drugs…”
They moved to the bedside.
Justin looked at Ambrose. “What’s the doctor saying?”
“It’s a resurgence of cancer.” Ambrose’s voice shook. “She’s been given three days.”
He squeezed Ambrose’s shoulder.
Save for the ticking clock and beeping machines, a hush fell over the room.
Ambrose swallowed. “May I have some time alone with her?”
“Sure.” Justin led Katelyn from the room.
He slouched next to her in the waiting room. “Elizabeth must be very, very glad you came. You’ve really stood by her.”
“She’s my sister. I’ll do everything to make her lot better.”
He kissed her hand. “I thank God for you.”
“I hate to see her suffer like this. Why didn’t I insist she goes to the hospital?”
“Honey, it’s God’s plan. You’re not to blame.”
God’s plan! Could God plan for anyone’s ruin? But how could this be explained?
“Will God put her to shame, after she’s testified how He’s healed her?” She twisted her coil of hair on the nape of her neck and pinned it there. “No. God can’t allow her to die. The doctors
might have given her three days, but God has the final say.”
“Here comes the priest.”
She stood. “I don’t want to miss anything.”
As the man of God went through the rites, Elizabeth’s lips quivered. She managed a few words. “I-I-I… I’m starting to—to feel better.”
The priest raised his voice. Perhaps encouraged by the effect of the prayers on the sick. He anointed her with the oil. “If you only believe, nothing’s impossible with God. Lazarus was dead three
Elizabeth’s hollow eyes expressed hope. She looked at the image of the mother of God set out on the bed. How awful! Justin knew this hope would only be short-lived. Ugh! How painful to see
her cross her sweaty brow with her bony arm. Nothing in her resembled the life the priest was praying for.
She fell asleep. Everyone was happy. A miracle had happened. But in their faces, Justin saw their fear of being mistaken.
“Father, thank you. Please keep praying with us for healing.”
“If we only had a small faith like a mustard seed!”
Katelyn crossed herself. “I believe in the healing power of the sacrament.”
The priest packed the image of our lady and the anointing oil in his bag. “Many have recovered after this sacrament.”
“Will she get better?”
“Nothing’s impossible with God.”
An hour later, a nurse examined Elizabeth. Her temperature had shot. A sombre mood engulfed everyone. Their hopes dashed. Perhaps ashamed to speak of recovery, what she’d believed in an hour ago,
Katelyn followed the nurse to the door. “Apart from fever, has anything else improved?”
“Um, she’s not good. We can only manage her pain at the moment.”
Justin came over.
Lips quivering, Katelyn leaned on his chest. “She’s dying.”
“Um, ah, sorry--”
“Let’s go back.”
Katelyn whispered to her sister. “How do you feel?”
Elizabeth didn’t respond. Her forehead tightened, showing lines, as though she was in deep thought. The door opened, and to Justin’s surprise it was Dr. Parkinson.
“Sorry about your wife.” Parkinson offered his hand to Ambrose.
At the bedside, Parkinson crossed himself and remained silent for a few seconds, then turned to Justin. “I first saw your car. Then saw you guys at the waiting bay.”
Justin yawned. “Oh! We came at five in the morning.”
“It’s barely a week since I saw her hosting her wellness program on TV?”
Justin walked out with Parkinson. “Things happened so fast. It’s a resurgence of cancer.”
“Oh no… Well, I’ve got cesarean operation in an hour’s time. I’ll pass by after.” Parkinson adjusted his glasses. “It’s good I’ve seen you. Um, we’ll have to take another sample from the baby
Katelyn appeared. “You work here?”
“No, came to see a client. My hospital’s across the road--”
“He’s here to do an operation, about an hour from now,” said Justin.
“Oh sorry, carry on.”
Justin knew if it weren’t for the aid of the oxygen mask, Elizabeth would be long dead. Was it fair to prolong her sufferings? If God wouldn’t heal her, he’d better rid her of these torments.
Death! Death! Death.
He now looked forward to Elizabeth’s death—the only way to her happiness.
She could still follow conversations by the way her eyes followed people’s gazes. But towards evening, she completely shut her eyes. Scared, Katelyn rang the bell.
The nurse came.
“She’s not opened her eyes for quite a while now. Is she okay?”
The nurse adjusted the nasal cannula. “It’s okay, ma’am. She still has a pulse.”
Katelyn pulled out her phone after the nurse had departed. “I’m calling the priest again. She’s not moving.”
The priest arrived shortly after.
Everyone assembled at the bedside while the priest read the prayers. He put the image of Our Lady on Elizabeth’s chest. The cross to her forehead. Then sprinkled her with holy water. He rubbed the
anointing oil on her forehead, chest, and the feet.
He pressed Katelyn’s hand. “Let’s surrender everything to God. He alone knows what’s best.”
And with that, the priest left.
Elizabeth remained still except the occasional movement of her bosom up and down. The movement ceased, and her face paled. Then became static.
Ambrose sat in a corner with his head buried in his hands, dozing off. Justin pressed the call button and paced the room, then pressed it again. The nurse appeared, looking tired but still smiling.
She took one look at Elizabeth and paged the doctor.
“How is she?” Katelyn asked, heaving, and panting.
The nurse hesitated. Justin’s heart pounded harder. He tapped Ambrose’s shoulder. “Hey, we’ve called the doc.”
Ambrose rushed to the bedside. His wife’s breaths came in ragged, shallow gasps. “What happened?”
“Um, ah, it—it’s—” The nurse paged the doctor again. “The doctor is on the way.”
After five minutes that felt like a lifetime, the doctor entered the room, his face without his usual smile.
He turned to the nurse. “Get more morphine.” Then to Ambrose. “We need to up the dose though this might turn fatal, but it’s the minimum we can do in the circumstance to take her out of pain.
There’s a strong likelihood her heart will stop. Given your wife has a DNR order, if that happens, we must let her go. As her decision-maker, we need you to sign off on the treatment.”
Ambrose’s eyes swam with tears. ‘Whuh-What!”
“Sorry, sir. At this time... It’s the best we can do.”
Ambrose’s voice shook. “It’s okay, Doc, just give me the pen.’
Katelyn interjected. “No, when did she get a Do Not Resuscitate order?”
Ambrose signed the documents. “The first time she was admitted.”
He must’ve been prompted by the flat lull that echoed from the heart’s monitor. The doctor turned to the patient, whose eyes were wide. But not blinking. He pressed his stethescope to her chest for
a moment, then brushed Elizabeth’s eyes shut. She was gone.
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