“If only you had come in earlier Neena, we might have been able to help you”
Second and third opinions were taken from well-known names in the field, but they had all said the same thing….
“If only the cancer hadn’t been this advanced, we could have…”
The initial shock was too much to take and every day I woke up to wet pillows on both sides of the bed. Neil, even though heartbroken, was patient and understanding; but something inside me had snapped and I was behaving like some stranger who was angry at the world. I was taking out the anger I had on God onto Neil and punishing him for being so nice and loving even when I was at my worst. After what seemed like many hours, I somehow managed to calm myself and take stock of my situation.
That is when I decided that enough was enough and that I could not let a few if onlys dominate my life. I’d just found love and married the man of my dreams and I wanted to live my happily ever after with him. I was far from ready to die and wanted to live my life fully before Mother Earth took me back into her bosom.
From then on, it was like a rebirth in itself.
Neil was supportive and encouraged me to quit my job when I told him I did not want to work anymore. He warned me I could be at home and laze around all day, provided I didn’t turn into a grumpy housewife. Most days we were normal, like any other newly married couple, there were some days when both of almost forgot that I had been served a death sentence and would not be around for much longer. Every night Neil held me close and tight in his arms, as if trying to tell Death that he would not give me up, no matter what. There were days when there was too much love and we cried to sleep reassuring each other that there would be a tomorrow and that this was not the last, yet.
Neil quit his job to be with me all the time. That night, we met all our close friends for dinner and told them about our situation. Tears flowed and sympathies were offered; but that is not the reason we shared the news with them. They had been our friends in this strange country and had always been with us no matter what and we wanted them to know. We wanted them to know that we were going to be away from home and we would be doing all those silly and tiny things on our bucket-list. When they finally understood us, warm hugs were shared and tears were wiped. They came to see us off at the airport the next morning, all the while being brave and pretending like last night there was no bad news shared. Goodbyes were said with moist eyes and smiles on the face. I know, the moment we went inside the airport, they might have cried. Lisa especially, I knew that I was her favourite.
Over the course of the last three months, Neil has shown me the Swiss Alps, we have been snorkeling and have our selfie on the Eiffel Tower proudly posted on our social media walls for friends to know that we are safe and that we are happy doing what we are doing together. The latest reports showed no improvement in my condition, the cancer was still eating away my organs though the pain was less these days.
It feels almost magical, walking down these paths I had almost convinced myself I would never be able to see again. I had never mentioned to Neil that I wanted to be here, my paternal village. The air here was like elixir to me, potent enough to lift me out of the worst moods I was in. But that was before I moved abroad and found the true meaning of my life – loving Neil. I did not have the need to return here once I found him, until I knew that I was dying. The only destination not on my list was this. I did not have the courage to put it in writing, what if I never made it here? Neil would then be heartbroken, knowing that he was unable to fulfill that wish of mine.
But how did we arrive here? How in the world did Neil figure out where my heart truly was?
Maybe this is what happily ever afters are made of…