Every Saturday morning we watched the sunrise. Gloria was fascinated by the vibrant orange sky that would shine across the mountain. Her fascination with this was the reason why I fell more in love with her each day. Saturday mornings were for us, a blanket, and a spot on the moist grass. Gloria would gaze at the sky while I gazed at her. It was a routine. A routine that I wanted to last forever.
Thirty-five years into our marriage we still made Saturday mornings for the sunrise. Gloria’s excitement never dulled. She would set her alarm for 5:00 AM and would patiently wait in the car for me to drag myself out the door. Gloria would never drive to our spot because she “can’t drive that early in the morning”, she liked to make excuses, but I still loved her.
We spent everyday together, cheering each other on, and living the life we always pictured. We had a two story farmhouse, big farmhouse windows, barn doors, and her favorite, a rustic, country kitchen. We were twenty years old when we found this house and the look on Gloria’s face when she saw it was a look that I never want to unsee. I didn’t even have to look inside to know this house was the house we would grow old in. This was the house we created, raised, and loved our children in. The house we held birthday parties, barbeques, and sleepovers in. Our children loved this house because Gloria always made it feel like home. She never failed to keep up with the cleaning and the decorating.
Gloria and I spent most Sundays going to church then going to the antique stores around our small town. Again, this was a routine that I wanted nothing less of, it was time well spent with my beautiful wife. After our children moved out of the house, we decided life was too short and we needed to spend more quality time together, so that is exactly what we did. Saturday morning sunrise, Sunday morning church service and afternoon antique shopping. Monday through Friday I went to work and Gloria stayed home cleaning, baking, doing puzzles, and occasionally visiting with our three children.
Our life may seem the ordinary life of an old couple, and maybe it was, but what most people were unaware of was, the nights we stayed up all night because Gloria couldn’t sleep, the mornings we slept in because all Gloria could do was sleep, the days I had to force food down her throat, or the days she was dehydrated because she forgot to drink.
Gloria was dying. Slowly, she was slipping away from me, but we acted as if she weren’t. We acted as if everything were fine, until acting could not happen anymore and the darkness of this sickness was making a scene. Suddenly, we could not keep Gloria’s cancer a secret. For a long time, the doctors told Gloria that her cancer would subside and chemo and radiation would not be in the picture. But Gloria woke up one morning, and disaster struck. She passed out in the shower, I heard a thud and a scream. My heart dropped. I called 911, and in the meantime I tried waking her up. Yelling, screaming, crying, I couldn’t feel her breathe.
The ambulance arrived and took my precious angel with them. I followed behind. When we got to the hospital, I was told that I needed to sit in the waiting room until they stabilized her. An hour later I saw a nurse nonchalantly walk towards me. My heart was pounding.
“Sir, are you Gloria’s husband?”
“Yes ma’am. Is everything okay? Can I see my wife?”
“We stabilized her, but she is not conscious. You may see her, but visiting hours are over at eight.”
I looked at my watch. 7:36.
“So you’re telling me I can only see my unconscious wife for twenty-four minutes?”
“We will allow you back at six-thirty in the morning.”
“This is ridiculous.”
As angry as I was, I still went in to see Gloria. She looked peaceful. I held her hand and talked to her in a calm voice. I knew she could not hear me, but I had not gone this long without speaking to her in years. It hit eight, so I walked out with a tear shedding from my eye. How do I sleep without her? How do I leave her here alone? Thoughts that pondered my mind the whole way home.
The next morning was Saturday. A Saturday I did not have my best friend with me to watch the sunrise, so I went alone. I barely slept that night, so I was awake at five, grabbed coffee and made my way to our spot. As I sat there alone, I heard a voice in my head telling me everything would be okay. A voice that seemed oddly familiar. It felt as if it were a sign to head to the hospital.
I got to the hospital and the nurses had smiles on their faces. I knew there was about to be good news.
“Good morning Mr. Reece. Gloria is ready to see you.”
She guided me towards her room and as I walked in I saw her big bright smile gazing at me. Gloria was awake and my worries had washed away. The doctor came in and stated that Gloria would need to start chemo and radiation as soon as possible, but that this cancer is beatable and they have extremely high hopes. Of course it was scary, but it could have been a lot worse. I hugged my beautiful wife and she whispered in my ear, “I am sorry I missed the sunrise.”