Ultimately, and not surprisingly to either of us, reality burst our bubble once again. While our bond was stronger than most people ever feel, we both knew the weak link that caused us to break up the first time was still there, and I needed to concentrate on my marriage, which meant discontinuing our visits. Instead of cutting all ties — which, frankly, would have been the wise thing to do — we decided to occasionally keep in touch by phone.
One day Fred called, his usual upbeat, adoring voice sounding flat, and I knew something was wrong. He was calling to tell me he had lung cancer.
Lung cancer? I had to repeat it to try to process what he had just told me. "No way," I replied in shock. "Way," he said, and we cried together.
Throughout Fred's chemo, I'd visit him in the hospital. I'd lay in his hospital bed with him, and he'd hold me, stroking my face as if to comfort me. One rainy day we were scheduled to meet for lunch. I arrived at the restaurant and waited and waited, but he didn’t show up. I panicked. I called him, and much to my relief, discovered he had fallen asleep. He insisted that he wanted to see me regardless of the weather, and asked me to please wait. As sick as he felt, he drove through the rain to meet me.
I hadn't seen him in a few weeks, and the difference was devastating. He was thin, gaunt and pasty gray. My heart was breaking.
I brought old pictures of us to show him, thinking it would lift his spirits. He shook his head as he reviewed them, asking, "Who is this person? What happened to me?" He looked at me, and his once-sparkling eyes were now rife with angst and frustration, as if he were stuck inside his own body, trying to escape. I kissed him, and then we hugged and sat for a long time holding each other tightly.
Not long after that visit, I got the call from his mom to come say goodbye to Fred. I gently caressed his face with my hand, and he opened his beautiful eyes, which were now at peace, filled with love and tears. Thank you for being such an important part of my life, I said. I told him that I loved him, and I always would. I asked him to give me a sign once he crossed over to let me know he was okay, and then I kissed his clammy forehead and said goodbye.
For whatever reason, we were not meant to be a couple in this lifetime.
Fred has since given me many signs from beyond letting me know he is with me, and continues to do so, which is very comforting. As we sang together all those years ago, Ya gotta have heart, all you really need is heart.
He will always be in mine, and we will always be together. I miss you, Fred.