I still held her hand

I wished for days long gone with every hour that passed. All I could do was hold her hand.

Her raspy breathing quickened as she awoke again, interrupted by an uncomfortable tightness in her chest. “Is that – you – sugarplum?” Each word exhaled separately. My chest burned with the memory that I had always been embarrassed when she called me that. A name I would now gladly go by.

My eyes stung as they quickly welled with tears. “Yes mom.” I answered stroking her matted hair. I was surprised that my voice didn’t quiver.

“I love you.” I told her meaning it with every drop of life in my heart, and squeezed her small hand in mine. I smiled a fake, smile not knowing if she heard or even understood, but I needed to appear strong to help ease our pain.

She smiled that smile at me, her eyes knowing, then faded away. For an eternal minute, she gasped for every breath, shuddering painfully. A calmness now washed over her; the fight was finally over. A battle lost.

I still held her hand. She was all that I had left.

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