His lips were slightly parted,
and his body had sighed its last full stop.
The punctuation that marked the end.
He had strong, beautiful hands, which I had held before;
just minutes before.
Open the window, he asked.
My soul needs to be able to leave this place.
This forsaken body.
And forsaken, it was. His oxygen mask
had become his suffocating companion.
Tom? I spoke softly.
My wife is here, he said. He smiled,
and he shook my hand, as though we
had just concluded a business deal.
Hello Mrs. Hampstead, I said.
Tom left the room. His body stayed.
The nurses waiting anxiously at the door
watched me with morbid curiosity as I straightened
the tie that Tom had insisted on wearing.
I want my Helen to dance with me when I die. He had asked.
Safe travels Tom, I neatened his wild grey hair as best I could.
Waltz, my friend. Waltz.
Time slows down when people die. I have learned
to embrace the long minutes and be grateful for the gift,
of the chance to speak my mind in whispers, with no rush.