They, as all young couples, thought there was no greater love than theirs. It felt truly magical. But the love had never faced a challenge. It was fresh and urgent. So they married at an early age while still in college. The first ten years flew as they continued their studies and jobs were started. Their love was not stale but a little of the fervor waned. They were at a new point in their relationship of settling into love instead of discovering love.
They had had no conflict or difficulties; the road remained smooth. But they had used all the goodness of fate and now for the first time fate was cruel. It was a car crash. They had been t-boned by a truck; their small environmentally friendly car was turned into a pretzel. The driver of the truck was drunk, speeding and unaware of their car and so he never slowed down until the impact. They were fortunate in that they both survived. But the wife’s arm was mangled and caught between the door and the engine that had been rearranged and was placed in her lap during the crash. Her arm was three quarters severed and to save her life the doctors saw no way but to remove the rest.
The husband found himself strangely effected by this. He could not shake the loss of a hand to hold or an arm to complete an embrace. He knew this was wrong and he knew that if he loved her this should, in the big picture, make no difference. He felt guilty and covered his feelings of the lost of the arm.
The good news was the doctors were going to replace the lost arm with a bionic one. They said they would connect the nerve endings to the computer chips so that she would have total control of the arm. It was the cutting edge of technology and would ensure that she would be able to carry on with life just as she had before. She was pleased with this news. He was again happy for her but the fact that it was not a real arm repulsed him. He was not sure what this meant. He felt small and was disappointed in himself. But still the feelings would not leave.
All of this he would try to hide from his wife. The arm worked brilliantly; you could not tell any difference in her body. And the flesh-like covering did not reveal the difference. The arm had totally became one with her body. It was her body. Yet he would, on long walks on the beach, position himself on the original arm’s side so that when they held hands it would not be the bionic hand. He was constantly placing himself on the original arm’s side to keep from having to touch or deal with the artificial arm. They lived like this for another fifteen years. Their love was strong and even with all the foibles they saw in each other they were in it for the long haul.
It was then that the cancer came to visit her. It would eventually take her body and ravage it. She would lose her hair and in the end she would be left a physical shell of her former self. Yet her spirit never failed her. Surprisingly he found resources inside himself to be her caretaker that he never knew were there. They were a team as when they first met and as then more in love than any other couple in the world.
They had been together over twenty-five years. When she died he was devastated. The memorial service was attended by family and many friends who had loved her along the way. His eulogy spoke of the lost the world would experience, ‘A great loving soul had been taken from us, ‘he proclaimed. He could barely stand but he did the eulogy because that is what she would want. The usual condolences were offered and the service was the beautiful one they had planned.
The next day he went to the funeral home to pick-up her ashes. She was cremated. When he arrived he was met with the unexpected. Her ashes were in the nice funerary vase they had chosen and he would spread them on the beach they had once walked. This was as planned but the bionic arm was not something he had planned for. He did not know they gave arms such as these back to the family member who usually would donate them to a hospital. The funeral director said some people kept them as they did often with the ashes. He reluctantly took home the arm. He would decide later what to do with it.
He was exhausted after the funeral home and when he at last came back to his house, he opened the door with vase and arm in tow. He threw the arm on his bed as he changed into his pajamas. He wanted to sleep even though it was early afternoon. He went into his private den and placed the vase on the shelf he had so diligently made for it until he could spread them on the beach. He fell asleep in his favorite chair, looking at the vase. He did not know how long he had been there when he awoke and slowly trudged to the bedroom to sleep for the night. He walked in the dark in a trance, climbed into the bed, pulled the covers up, and started a deep lonesome cry.
It was sometime in the night that he felt her gentle almost reluctant touch on his shoulder. This was always followed by the hand resting on his shoulder and then a gentle kneading of the back. It had been her way for years. Whenever he was stressed or depressed it was always there, her gentle hand reaching out to comfort him.
Sometime in the night he realized it was the arm he had rejected that was applying the touch. But it felt so soothing and comforting and was so much her signature way of gentle touch that he could not be repulsed by it. He reasoned that the arm had for so many years been at her command that its circuits had memorized neural paths she had created. It was in fact her touching him now. The part of her he had rejected was now the part that comforted him.
The next day when he awoke the arm laid on the bed inert. Probably the last surge of electric energy had left and now it was only a motionless arm. He would take the arm to donate to the hospital today. It was no longer repugnant and he realized how much a part of her it had become. But he knew she would want to give someone else the chance she had. He returned it.