Sam thought back to the day that he stood by her door, holding a bouquet of mixed flowers in his hand. His face felt fiery hot, his hands clammy, because he was about to have his first date with the girl of his dreams, Helena.
Through three years of high school he admired Helena but never had the nerve to ask her out on a date. She was a beautiful cheerleader and he was just a shy science nerd without an ounce of athletic blood. However, what he didn’t realize in all those years was that Helena was attracted to him, also.
In their senior year, they were placed together as partners in the chemistry lab. Sam just assumed that a cheerleader hated math and science and she would depend on his abilities to get them both through the course. Sam was fine with that, because he was happy to spend any time with her. However, he was pleasantly surprised to find out that she was equally interested in science and a great math student.
They were very compatible in the lab working together as if they were one mind. When the semester ended, Sam realized that not only did he admire Helena’s beauty, but also her intellect. She told him she was accepted into a pre-med program and planned to go on to medical school following her undergraduate studies. She wanted to be neuro surgeon. He wasn’t surprised, his Helena could do anything she set her mind to do. Yes, that’s right, his Helena. She enthusiastically accepted a date with him the following Friday night. The awkward moments at her door, with bouquet in hand passed quickly when her smiling face responded to his timid knock .
He met her parents and they put him at ease. Her mom was sweet and as beautiful as Helena. Her dad who was a chemical engineer, was pleased his daughter didn’t bring home one of the jocks on the football team. He was even happier when Sam told him he planned to be a chemical engineer, also. It wasn’t just an ice-breaking statement, Sam really did apply to a college where the engineering course was tops. It was also an excellent pre-med college for Helena.
The college years passed quickly for the couple, especially since they had several classes that crossed-over. They married after graduation. Sam got a job in his field quickly, with the help of Helena’s father. Helena, went on to medical school and had the help and support of her beloved husband during those difficult years.
They planned on having children once she was well established in the medical field. However, they were never to be blessed with children. They took fertility tests, but when the results came in showing one of them was infertile, they both refused to know which one it was. It wouldn’t have made a difference, they were in love, they would always be in love. Their life would be fulfilling with the two of them and their careers. And so it was, for many years afterwards.
Being a neurosurgeon doesn’t make that person immune to disease of the brain. Those surgeons cure many problems with surgery, however, there is one thing they cannot heal as of yet.
Sam was just leaving the grounds of the neatly manicured, Georgian estate. He heard his name being called and looked back. It was Helena! She was calling and running toward him through the gate. The nervous attendants trailed quickly behind her, but Sam raised his hand up in a stop motion. He noticed a flicker of light in her eyes as she caught up to him. Helena wrapped her arms around him and told him she'd love him forever.
Sam couldn’t hold back the tears. He held her tightly against his chest and kept whispering over and over that he loved her, too. He hoped it would sink deeply into her mind and saturate her dream-like existence, with pretty pictures of their youthful love. Sam clung to the idea that even in her state, God’s love broke through and kept her in a safe place of beautiful memories. He couldn’t accept the idea that she was locked inside her head, helpless and frightened.
He knew in his heart this would be the last lucid moment she’d have with him. She had not had one since he’d placed her in the special care home over a year ago. He wished he could have kept her at home with him longer. However, along with her advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease, she developed problems swallowing food which caused respiratory issues due to aspiration. She also developed sleep apnea, which was frightening to both of them.
The decision to institutionalize her haunted him daily. He wondered if she would have been at peace had he not discovered the apnea. However, the doctors said breathing was an involuntary thing and she would have awakened on her own.
One night, he shook her briskly to get her to breathe, causing her to awaken screaming and startled. She clawed at his face in a defensive way, not recognizing it was her husband. The pain was not the physical gashes she placed upon his cheek and neck, it was realizing at that moment he had already lost his soul mate.
She was only fifty-six-years-old, and still so beautiful. Sam drank-in every second of her arms around him like a sponge dropped into its first bucket of water. He never wanted the moment to end.
He looked into her face and noticed a brief curve of her lips, as if she were trying to smile. He couldn’t help but smile back. For that brief instant there was a communication that needed no explanation. They both understood what it meant.
Helena’s arms flopped off Sam’s shoulders like a rag doll, while the light disappeared from her eyes once again. Sam waved to the attendants and they led Helena back to her room. He turned toward his car, but changed his mind and kept walking. He needed time to think about the rest of his lonely life without her. Yet, he found a flicker of hope to take with him. Helena was a brilliant woman. Even in her state of mind, she managed to reach deep within her heart to pull out the one piece of strength that gifted them this moment in time -- love! That’s what he would take away with him. Sam knew that it was their perfect love for one another, which was nurtured through the years that got unbridled. It gave Helena a few moments of clarity to say her final goodbye.