Forever and Always


Photo by Jackie Busche

“And in that moment, my world went dark.”

I sat staring out of the fogged glass window of our shared house waiting for him to come home. I had been there for hours; I was desperately trying to think of various reasons for why he could have been so late. Words swirled in my mind, mimicking the leaf tornados that the wind created on the front lawn.

Maybe he got held up at work,” my mind attempted to rationalize, but if that had been true, he would have called. I was sure of it.

Maybe there was traffic. Or maybe he ran out of gas…” My mind feebly tried to keep me from thinking that something awful had happened, but its attempts didn’t work. I had already gone there, and there was no bringing me back.

What if he’s cheating on you?” one part of me thought.

Don’t be stupid, he loves you and you love him, remember?” the rational side of my brain reminded me. But then, despite my attempts to stop the thoughts, they came bursting through my brain like water breaking down a dam.

“What if he was in an accident? What if someone mugged and shot him? What if he drove off a bridge coming home?” I shook my head to clear myself of those awful thoughts, but the fear had already set in.

I casted one more glance towards our short, white driveway, and I willed the headlights of his Jeep Wrangler to illuminate the yard, but no headlights appeared, so I turned my back on the window and rushed through the house.

The normally comforting off-white walls of my living room brought me nothing but sorrow. This room reminded me of him. We had spent so much time in here, laughing, making plans, watching movies, and now all I could think of was that he was gone and I couldn’t find him. I sat on the cream colored couch under the framed pictures of us from Paris, and I picked up the house phone from its cradle on the stained, square end table next to the couch.

I was shaking so badly that I could barely hold onto the phone as I typed in Gary’s number.

“Hello?” I heard the deep voice of my friend life-long friend say.

“Hey, Gary, it’s Emma. Have you seen or talked to Christian?” I asked, my voice quivering.

“Not since last night. Why? Is something wrong?” he asked. His voice was full of sincere concern, and it loosened the heavy knot in my heart slightly.

“He hasn’t come home yet, and he hasn’t called or anything… I don’t know. I think I’m just worrying too much,” I said, feeling like an idiot.

“He’s probably working on some big project and hasn’t realized what time it is yet. He’ll come home feeling awful for having worrying you and he’ll make it up to you,” Gary reassured me with confidence in his voice, and the knot eased again slightly.

“Thanks, Gary. I’ll call you when I talk to him. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Emmy. It’ll be okay,” he said before hanging up the phone.

I saw lights coming up the street and rushed to the window, expecting to see Christian pull in the driveway, I expected my heavy heart to dissipate, but all I got was disappointment as the headlights were revealed to belong to the suburban of the teenage kid that lived three doors down.

I was back to square one as I willed Christian to walk through that front door, but suddenly the phone rang. I jumped as the shrill sound of the phone pierced the otherwise silent room. I rushed to the couch, and I picked up the phone, almost dropping it because my hands were slick from sweat.

“Hello?” I said quickly.

“May I speak to Emmy Wolf?” My heart sank even further, partly because it was a woman on the phone, not Christian, and partly because Wolf was Christian’s last name, not mine. It was obvious she didn’t know either of us.

“This is she,” I said, dreading her response. Her voice was too clinical, too formal, for anyone bringing good news.

“You are listed as Christian Wolf’s emergency contact. He has been in an accident. He is at Saint Christopher’s Hospital. Do you know where that is?” she asked, still in the robot voice. How could she be so formal? Christian was in an accident. What kind of accident? Did he wreck his Jeep? Did he get sick? My brain was running a mile a minute creating all kinds of scenarios that could have happened.

“Ma’am?” robot lady asked.

“Yes, yes. I know where Saint Christopher’s is. I’ll be there as soon as possible. Can you tell me what’s wrong?” I inquired. The sinking feeling I had was only becoming more apparent. I felt as though it was soon going to physically weigh me down.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I can’t disclose any information about a patient until you come to the hospital. When you arrive at the hospital, go to the Intensive Care Unit and then tell them the last name of the patient,” she informed me with no emotion in her voice at all.

“Okay, thank you,” I whispered and hung up the phone. I sat there for a moment and thought about last December when Christian got down on his knee at my parents’ Christmas party and asked me to marry him in front of my family and his. I’ll never forget him sliding his grandmother’s ring onto my left hand as tears fell down my face, and I shook my head yes over and over. It was literally a perfect moment. But that memory was being intruded on by the two ton feeling of dread.

I grabbed my car keys and my purse, and I walked out the front door. Getting in the car and driving to the hospital was a blur. I don’t remember the half hour drive over there or walking to the entrance of the hospital. But I ended up on the front steps of the looking hospital, blocking the automatic doors that kept opening and closing for the people whose lives, like mine, had stopped because someone they loved was in this awful place.

I walked up to the front desk and told the lady sitting behind it my soon-to-be-husband’s name, and the woman, Brenda, personally took me to Christian’s room. She must have led me down a million halls; it seemed like a never ending maze. Brenda explained the accident to me. I vaguely heard that he ended up getting run off the road into a ditch on his way home from work, but I wasn’t really listening I was trying to keep my composure as we got closer to his room.

I walked into the white room determined to keep a straight face, but as soon as I saw him, the façade I put up immediately fell. He looked awful. His eyes were closed and swollen, and his face was a rainbow of purple, black, and blue. His body was covered with a thick blanket, but I could tell he had a cast of some sort on his right leg and his left wrist. I gasped when the severity of the situation clicked, and his eyes flew open, and he tried to smile at me when he saw the look on my face, but I couldn’t smile back. My beautiful fiancée, who I loved more than life itself, was lying broken in a hospital bed.

There was a chair pulled up next to his right side, and I sat down and threw my purse and car keys on the floor. I grabbed his right hand with both of mine, and I squeezed tight. He winced, and I loosened my grip and apologized, but he just sighed.

“Emmy…You know I love you right?” Christian croaked and tears welled up in my eyes.

“I love you too,” I replied, and my voice broke at the end of my sentence.

“Don’t, I’m okay. Just a little beat up. I’ve been through worse,” he lied, meekly. “But tell me a story; get my mind off all of this.”

I thought for a moment and then dove into the story of where I want our life to go after we get married. I told him about the big house we were going to buy on a hillside in the country, and how we were going to stay there forever. We were going to raise our children there and help raise our grandchildren there, and then that house will be left to our children when we’re in our nineties and have lived a full life.

That story gave me an idea. I let go of his hand and softly touched the one spot on his face, just below his eye, that wasn’t bruised, and I told him that I loved him and I’d be right back. I left his room and went to the nurses’ station and explained my idea. They thought it was fantastic, and they made a few calls. A few minutes after I went back to Christian’s room, the hospital chaplain arrived.

“Christian, I know we weren’t supposed to get married for a while, but this whole ordeal has made me realize that I don’t want to wait. I love you, and I want for you to be mine and for me to be yours right now and forever,” I told him all of this in one breath, and when I finished I took a deep breath and waited for his response.

“Of course I want you now and forever. Let’s do this. I’m fresh out of rings though,” he said, seemingly okay, but I knew he was trying to compensate for how terrible he felt and how much pain he was in. But I was selfish and wanted to be married then, so I went next door and borrowed some rings from a woman and her husband who was about to be transferred out of ICU. They actually gathered in Christian’s room along with the nurses and chaplain.

I sat in the chair next to my almost-husband’s bedside, and he sat up slightly with the help of some of the nursing staff. I took hold of his hand and smiled at him, then looked to the chaplain, indicating that we were ready to continue. He started the vows, but I cut him off.

“Can I say them myself?” I asked, looking at him with wide eyes.

“Of course,” he said and nodded at me. I looked at him, then at the nurses and the couple from next door who let us borrow their rings, and then to the battered and broken love of my life. I sighed deeply as I thought about what I was going to say.

“I want you forever, Christian, forever and always. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but it’s the only way I can phrase it. I want you to be there through the good and the bad, through happy or sad, through whatever is happening. I love you now and forever,” I finished as the tears in my eyes spilled over and fell on the floor, and I looked back to the nurses. The harsh hospital lights reflected off of the tears in their eyes that were threatening to fall. Even the chaplain was looking at us through bleary eyes. Christian squeezed my hand weakly, and I looked over at him.

“I love you now and forever. Even if I’m not there, please just remember I’ll always love you,” he said in a voice that was low, almost too low. Suddenly, machines started beeping rapidly, and everything turned into slow motion.

I stood up quickly and knocked the chair I was sitting in over, I yelled my husband’s name, but his eyes just fluttered and then stopped moving completely. He just went limp. I screamed and fought as someone pulled me away from his bed. Nurses and doctors rushed to his aid, holding stethoscopes to his chest, pushing buttons on machines, and then I was being shoved out of the room, I head someone yell something about getting the paddles.

They closed the curtains to his room, and I didn’t know what to do, so I just slid my back down the wall and sat on the floor with my head in my hands. The door slid open, and my head snapped up quickly, but it was just an intern getting out of the way. As he closed the sliding glass door, I heard someone, a man I’d never heard before, say, “Time of death 3:23 A.M.” And in that moment, my world went dark.