Goodbyes are never easy, never more so than when you’re in love. An email or text, in fact, any written goodbye, is probably the easiest. You have time to put your thoughts down without interruption and are able to rewrite until your composition is doused in enough love that the words are able to come off the page and give the recipient a hug.
Talking on the telephone is not the hardest but it does have its difficulties. When you finish baring your soul you have the most awkward part. Who hangs up first? ‘I love you’, ‘I love you too’, ‘You hang up first’, ‘No you hang up’, ‘okay we hang up together, ready 1, 2, 3’, ‘You didn’t hang up did you?’, ‘No, neither did you. You hang up first’ and so the merry dance goes on. By now it becomes a game of nerve. Who has the most stamina. The words still sound the same but they take on another meaning. Deciphered they become ‘I love you but please hang up’, ‘come on hang up I need a piss already’, ‘for fucks sake the footy’s on soon’, ‘he just wants me to feel bad for hanging up first. I’ve apologised enough for breaking his favourite mug’ and so on. My advice would be to say goodbye on mobile phones with a low charge. It will soon change into a game of Russian roulette and the winner will be the one who says ‘I love you’ last.
The worst way, by a country mile, is face to face. The anguish of seeing your beloved’s face when you say the word goodbye could easily persuade you to take your own life. It’s one of the reasons behind Karl’s apprehension. It’s not the first time he’s had to say goodbye to his wife, but sadly it will be the last.
He lights the candle one last time. It’s no more than a stub and will only provide a minute or two of light.
“This is it then?” said Sarah.
Karl looked across the table at her. He gazed at the flame’s reflection dancing in her eyes. He just wanted to capture her face one last time. She knew what he was thinking and smiled. God, how he loved her smile. It made it all the more painful.
“It looks like it. You know I’ll miss you,” said Karl.
Sarah raised her finger to his mouth. “Remember we promised not to do that. We’ve said our goodbyes. It’s time to enjoy each other’s company one last time.”
“I know, but I can’t help it. This is really the end.”
“I’ll always be with you, you know that. Just consider this a transition. Our love transcending to another level.”
“Really? You’re going with that?”
“Well it seemed like the appropriate time to be corny.”
“You nailed it.” Karl lets out an uneasy laugh.
“Are you going to be alright?”
“Of course.” He tried to put on a brave face, but his eyes told the truth. Sarah smiled again. It seemed to dry up his tears. “I’ll never stop loving you. You know that don’t you?” he said.
“I do and you know I won’t stop loving you either. I never have.”
The candle starts to flicker.
“It’s getting time,” said Karl. He offered his hand to Sarah. She placed her hand on his. He smiled at her. For the first time he was at peace. She could see it in his face. She tilted her head forward in acknowledgement. They spent the next few seconds smiling, lost in each other’s eyes.
The flame began to surrender to the submerging wick. Smoke wisped from the remaining flame. Sarah’s fingers began to fade, drifting away with the smoke. By the time the wick had become nothing more than a ember, Sarah had gone.
Karl licked his forefinger and thumb and then extinguished the remaining glow of their silver anniversary candle.
“Goodbye Sarah,” Karl said, trying to hold back the tears.