On my way to the cafeteria I sneak a peek into room 422. Inside, a husband holds his wife's hand as she lays on the bed, grasping for breath, for oxygen. His look is unforgiving, defeated. He is fatigued, his will for eternity broken long ago. The lines on his forehead bend down imitating its host.
He met her in college. After the tragedy that befell his father he had to drop out and work to support the family. She stood by him and along the way would pitch in with whatever little money she could from her part time job. Eventually, after their golden years of falling in love they got married. He was able to sell off his car and barely raised enough money to afford the ceremony and a humble party. The white in her dress reminded him of snow, of innocent times and he remembers that now. How innocent she is and how unfortunate that it should end this way. How much he loves her knuckles and her fingers and the way they caress and indulge his. How beautiful her fingers were before they engorged to the size they fill now, with fluid.
Together they raised three beautiful children, enduring all the heartache and the pain, and the tribulations. Some years were good others were horrible. Nonetheless, they continued to each other, unrelenting.
Now, thirty five years later she is diagnosed with cancer. She fought, honorably at first, with force. She was confident, sure, she would overcome. Four chemotherapy cycles later there is no alternative to the dark. As she lays there, her days numbered, he holds her hand, her fingers. Although his face lacking emotion his fear tears through this superficial calm, wasting away his energy, he is surely exhausted.
Sometimes Room 422 shatters courage.