by Belinda Brady
The names were all so boring and incredibly common. First, there was Robert, followed by Alice, Fred, and Sarah, with the latest one being Emma. Sure, she was nice and very thorough, but she was not what I was waiting for and I was growing more impatient and tired.
When would I see him?
The day wore on like the others before it. From the noise coming from the TV in my room, I concluded that the day was Wednesday, and it was Christmas Eve. The news was on, and there was a story on last-minute gift shopping, meal ideas and how to make the most of this one day of the year that, in my humble opinion, was not worth the stress we gave ourselves over it. It was always a lot of fuss over presents that would be forgotten in a week’s time and food that would go to waste. In another life, my Christmas Day was a simple one. A hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, just enough to keep you full until dinner time, where the day would be seen out with a traditional dinner with all the trimmings, washed down with lots of brandy, of course. I so looked forward to our simple take on this day, where we would just enjoy each other’s company, exchange meaningful gifts, and fall asleep by the fire, full and content. I simply adored this day.
Until he left it.
Now, I don’t bother with it at all. Just your regular Christmas Scrooge, that’s me, and with no family to keep me company, ignoring it is easy, and most welcome, but to my disgust, I couldn’t ignore it here. It was everywhere. There were enough lights, baubles, and tinsel to put any major department store to shame, and every single person who entered my room chirped ‘Merry Christmas’ before they even bothered to say my name. My deadpan stare back got most of them off guard, but not the one from last night. Not Emma. She just got even merrier as she bored me with stories of what she is doing on this most annoying of days, my lack of response not stopping the mindless chatter. I was happy to see the back of her when it was time for her to leave.
My eyes were closed when I heard my door open, a male voice greeting me as he walked in the room. Not moving, I keep my eyes closed, as he tells me that he will be looking after me for the night, my mind not really taking any of his words in as a heavy sleep nips at my heels. I feel the familiar pangs of pain, quickly followed by relief as pain medication is administered. I fall into a fitful sleep as machines beep around me. This night was my worst yet, and when I weakly open my eyes the following morning, I'm greeted by a smiling face.
“Good morning, Ivy,” he smiles warmly.
I try to smile back.
“You’ve had quite a night, sweetheart, but you’re a fighter, I’ll give you that. I can tell you really wanted to see this Christmas, and you guess what? You did, it’s now Christmas Day - Merry Christmas, Ivy,” he says gently, as he moves closer. It’s then I see it, just behind him. I feel my heart quicken and my breath come quicker as I sparsely believe what I’m seeing.
“Ivy, don’t get upset, sweetheart, I promise you it is all going to be okay. My shift is over now, but I’m going to hand you over to another nurse who is going to take wonderful care of you. Please don’t be upset,” he assures me, a look of concern on his face.
“Atticus...”, I murmur, looking at his name tag, my breathing slowing down.
“Yes,” he laughs, “Unusual isn’t it? As a kid, I hated this name ‘Why couldn’t you give me a normal name?’ I’d cry to my parents, but now I love it. It’s unique. There are not many of us around.”
“It’s perfect," I manage, as tears form, spilling onto my cheeks.
The in-charge sticks his head in the room, asking Atticus to join them for handover at the desk, but my attention is elsewhere.
I am looking over his shoulder at the man behind him. The man only I can see - my Atticus. This man was my beloved husband for thirty-five years, who left me on Christmas Day twenty years ago, with the promise of a sign when it was my turn to follow. I had been waiting for so long to see him again, and every year without him was a miserable chore, but I had to wait for a sign. His sign. And as he looked at me with his beaming smile, nodding his head ever so slightly, I knew this was the sign that I had been waiting for. I could finally follow.
Nurse Atticus gently places his hand over mine, as he bids me farewell, oblivious to the man behind him. “It’s been a pleasure looking after you, sweetheart, it truly has. Goodbye, Ivy.”
I look past him, and with one final surge of strength, and one final smile on my face, I utter the words I have been waiting a lifetime to say before I close my eyes for the last time.
“It’s not goodbye, never goodbye. For us, my dear Atticus, it’s finally hello again.”