She stood crying by the hospital bed where her husband lay immobile, sadly destined not to survive.
“If you’re there,” she whispered. “If you can hear me…” She looked for sign of consciousness in his face, and though finding none, nevertheless continued. “Jump into me, darling. Jump out of that poor damaged body and into mine – we can share this one. Let your soul make the leap – over here!” She hit her breast with a clenched hand. “Here, jump here into my heart, then you can always be with me. I’ll look after you, I’ll hold onto your soul for you.” She wept and wept, rocking to and fro, hardly daring to look at him.
And John’s soul heard her, and jumped.
He hid in the depths of her heart, burrowing down into its deepest recess, like a scared rabbit – uncertain, quivering.
He hoped he was saved and felt comforted to be with his dear wife, but fear overcame all, and he cowered – like a tiny baby marsupial which has just climbed into the pouch, a fragile embryo, clinging blindly onto a new source of life and nurture – not ready to acknowledge or explore his new state of existence.
So he stayed, during the worst of her grief, unaware of his funeral, barely aware of passing time. All around him was grief, and he himself was almost pure semblance of grief.
But then after a while, when sometimes his poor widow called on him, saying, “Oh John, why did you have to leave me,” or “Dear John, you would so have loved this sunny day, this beautiful view” – he raised his head, as it were, and listened.
Now he grew comforted, as was she, and he gained strength. And he looked around his new home – his wife’s heart – and though he found some things that troubled him and of which he had not been aware, mostly he found love and sadness and loss and regret and grief – and more love, encompassing all.
He wept for her and with her, but also began to notice the world again – through her eyes and through her heart.
Until one day, when she was sitting in a beautiful calm place where they had once been, he stirred so much within her, that she suddenly remembered the moment when she’d asked him to jump into her heart, and realised that he was indeed there.
“Oh John,” she said, with tears in her eyes, but slightly more happy ones than of late. “I forget that of course you’re here in my heart with me! I said I’d carry you with me through life and I will. Look at how beautiful the sea is! Look at those amazing birds! Isn’t the world wonderful!”
And John’s soul, nestled comfortably in her breast, like a babe in arms, was able to enjoy the beauty of the world again.
Now she, the widow, suddenly began to think in terms of ‘we’ again, and not ’I’. ‘We’ had become a sore point, because she had felt so alone, and so conscious of all she had lost. But now, with the awareness of John living in her heart, she began to feel less alone, and as if she had an inner, secret companion. (Some people feel like this about God or Jesus, but in her case it was definitely not Jesus, but her own dear husband, who she had known and loved for so long.)
She would say, “Oh, we must go out and buy some more milk,” or “I suppose we’d better tidy up the garden soon.”
She began to comment out loud about things on the News, or jokes in a comedy. She would reply to herself, as almost certainly he would have replied. She became adept at having both sides of a conversation.
Her name was Anne, and one day it occurred to her to change her name to Joanne, in order to combine it with his. She started using this name with new people and it made her feel comfortable. She was preserving his memory. She was keeping him alive.
Gradually, as time passed, she began to think of herself not as one individual, but two. She was both herself, and her late husband. Not just the memory of him, but actually him. His feelings, his thoughts, his memories. She dwelt on those as much as possible, feeling that in that way she was keeping him – almost alive.
And then another day came, when ‘almost’ changed to ‘literally’. She truly believed he was literally alive in her heart, and that she was two people.
Alternative ending number 1 :
Now John had not been – was not – a weak character, and now that he was so completely cherished and nurtured, he grew and grew in strength. He liked it when her new friends called her Jo, instead of Joanne. It was almost as if he was back.
There were times when Anne – the old Anne – wouldn’t really have fancied going to a modern art exhibition, or a wine tasting afternoon. But now that she was Joanne, she went because she knew her still present ‘other half’ would enjoy it.
Joanne never painted her nails or wore jewellery. She began to feel more masculine. She always wore trousers now, and sometimes, at home, put on one of John’s ties, of which she had many in a huge box. She always chose those which had been his favourites.
One evening Joanne caught herself watching football on TV, and caring about the result.
Now, where John and Anne had had differing opinions, she felt too guilty to retain her own – she gave way to his. She became more politically radical. She became more confrontational. She went out of her way to be as intellectual as possible.
She put his favourite pictures on the walls, not hers. She played his favourite music. Frank Zappa became accessible. The Pogues became her background music of choice.
She went to Le Mans and watched motor racing. She read obscure restaurant reviews. She did so many things in his memory, that she forgot her own. She indulged so many of his interests, that there was no time for – what had used to be her own.
In this way, her own – her old – identity was subsumed.
And yet she was happy, for dear John was now more alive than he’d been since – since he’d been alive.
Alternative ending number 2 :
When the day came that Joanne watched football on TV and cared who won, her own self re-awoke and she realised things had gone too far.
I loved you, John, she thought to herself, but I’m not you, I’m me.
You were a part of my life – the biggest and most important part – but you weren’t all of it.
So she went back to being Anne, and she still carried the love for her late husband in her heart, but now she painted her nails again and wore pretty skirts, and began to find a new sense of self, and to enjoy her independence.
Dear John would never be forgotten, but it was time to move on without him.
Alternative ending number 3 :
And so, together again, Anne and John lived happily ever after.