Eunice Hogan had planned for the secret to be buried with her. But when one is given a death sentence, reality begins to take on a different look. No, that wasn’t entirely the case. Somehow this had nothing to do with reality. Yet she was sitting in the doctor’s office next to Henry and hearing the reality that a time limit had been placed on her life.
A numbness swept over her and apparently over Henry, too. They listened to the doctor, who said Eunice was fortunate to have been free of cancer for over a decade. He was sorry, but there’d been a recurrence of the cancer. It had metastasized and was now in the liver and pelvic area. This accounted for her digestive symptoms, her feeling bloated and having nausea. He presented options like chemotherapy, radiation, exploratory surgery.
Maybe she missed something. Maybe he or Henry said healing was possible; maybe Henry said they believed in miracles. But Eunice didn’t hear anything like that. All she could hear was her mind asking, What am I supposed to do?
Go home and fix supper? Do the laundry? Mop a floor? She had to check herself to keep that hysterical tickle from escaping her throat. If she laughed, she’d never stop. She didn’t know how to feel, how to think, what to say or do. How did one handle such a thing?
Oh, the doctor didn’t set a date, a day, or an hour, but. . .six months, more or less—as if a day were a thousand years. That timelessness vanished when she and Henry left the doctor’s office. The day was going all too quickly. Her life was on the highway to death. On the other side of the median strip, vehicles were going in the opposite direction toward Asheville.
She sat in the passenger seat while Henry drove. They were heading to. . .his home in Laurel Ridge. She was heading to. . .her home in eternity.
She heard him say, “We believe in miracles, you know.”
How could she leave Henry? He couldn’t pick out the right color tie to wear with his suit on Sunday morning. How could he take care of her? She’d taken care of him for half a century.
How flippantly she’d said and heard others say that we begin to die the day we’re born; there’s nothing certain but taxes and death; and we never know if we will draw another breath. Death could be any moment. . .except this moment. Now, her moments were numbered.
“It’s a nice day,” Henry said when they reached home. “Why don’t you sit on the porch, and I’ll make us some lunch?”
Isn’t that what she normally said to him? Had the roles reversed so quickly?
She sat in a rocking chair, feeling the warmth of the sunny afternoon—a time when new life was beginning. Henry’s jonquils were already popping out of the ground. Her gaze lifted to the mountains. How could she climb this one?
She took in a deep breath. She’d heard that life flashes before one’s eyes at the moment of death.What did it do when you’d just been told that you have six months to live?
Would it slowly unravel like the threads in a knitted sweater you’ve thoroughly messed up? You pull the yarn. It zigzags across the pattern, unraveling until it lies in a pile on the floor. You knitted it for Christmas, but Christmas Eve has come, and there’s not enough time to start over. You look at the mess on the floor that is indefinable, not a sweater at all.
It’s just yarn. . .
signifying. . .
The thought reminded her of a passage of Shakespeare’s Macbeth she’d read, memorized, and taught:
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Is that how her life would end? What was her responsibility? Her life was not going to end in some sudden automobile accident, no plane crash, no elephantine foot on her chest, no quick going.
Six months. Too little time to plan anything in the future.
Too much time to reflect on the yarn.
Just enough time to reflect on the secret hidden inside the back cover of her Bible.