The call she knew would come came. He’s gone, they said. Died in his sleep.

 

Tears fell, some for joy that he was free. She could let him go at last. In a sense, he’d been gone for six long years since they first heard why his speech was mixed and strange. The words of the nurse stung. “There’s no known cause, no cure. He’ll lose his speech, then all else from that part of the brain will go and sad to say, so will he.”

 

They set out on a long trek of tests. He saw things that were not there. He left the house at night “to kill snakes in the grass or greet a friend he saw there.” He had to give up his job. He had to give up his car keys. He spoke less and then not at all.

 

She did what she could to care for him. Her mom and dad moved close to stay and keep him safe while she worked full time. Friends helped too. When his needs were so great none of them could care for him, she moved him to a care home. The guilt of it pierced her heart each day.

 

She went when she could, took him snacks, trimmed his hair and nails, shaved him, then they’d watch sports or old shows. Each time she told him she loved him. Each time she cried her way home. His last clear words were, “I’ll be fine.”

 

Yes, now he was fine. Free of pain or dread or thoughts trapped in his mind—ones his tied tongue could not share.

 

She hung up the phone. On the desk lay the list—things to do and names to call to tell he was gone. He was fine. Would she be?

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