Entering the waiting room, I become increasingly aware that the doctors are running behind. Most patients in the room are either asleep or focused on their cellphones, looking like a row of parked cars.
I find a spot to sit on a small loveseat near a glass water wall fountain. Within minutes, my eyes closed. I’m unsure how much time passes before I have the awareness that someone is sitting very close to me.
I notice plenty of available chairs, even another loveseat. Yet, he is right beside me. The cold from the outside lingers on his clothes, and I shivered.
“Don’t mean to sit so close. I just figure I’ll be waiting a while, so I want to be by the waterfall.”
His Carhartt brown jacket brushes against my arm as we sit shoulder-to-shoulder. Before I have the chance to consider changing seats, he speaks again.
“My wife loves waterfalls. We went to Estes Park in Colorado every year. She has a knack for getting me to hear and see things I’ve never heard or seen before. She still does.”
His light blue eyes partially hide behind the glare of his bifocals, but I can tell he is looking for his next words.
“The last time we were up there she pointed out the tops of the rocks poking out like turtle shells near the falls. The water moved fast and glided around anything in its way… including us as she dared me to take my shoes off and wade with her in the water. That was some cold water!”
“That sounds like a great memory,” I say.
He taps his hands against the dark denim of his jeans. I can’t help but notice sun spots covering his wrinkled skin like splattered mud, and he catches me staring.
“Yeah, I’m waiting to get some of these removed. Too much time outside.”
I feel funny that he answered a question I was thinking but didn’t ask. So, I figure I will go ahead and ask the next question on my mind. “I guess that explains why you like waterfalls so much… your time in Estes Park?”
He chuckles. “No, that’s not why I like them so much. I like waterfalls not because of the park, but because of my time with my wife.”
The chill of the air leaves; his love for his wife warms me to my soul and feels almost tangible.
“I spent thirty-three years working for the phone company. I retired back in 2006 when my wife came down with bone cancer.”
“I am so sorry.”
“That was the last year we were up at Estes. She made me stand barefoot in that cold river just to listen to the water move. As much as I complained, it was the most peaceful moment I’ve had since.”
“She sounds like a wonderful lady.”
“Oh, she is. Best I’ve known. In 2011 she had a stem cell transplant. She had some awful strong chemotherapy. The treatment left her like a dead battery. I just prayed to God He could charge her back up.”
“That sounds exhausting for you both… physically and mentally.”
“Yeah, you could put it that way. The stems cells came from a twenty-three-year-old man. She joked that she would be stronger and healthier than me once she recovered. I never could figure out how she kept her smile while in so much pain.”
He reaches his hand under his glasses to wipe his eyes. I notice his fingers are now wet.
“She lasted a lot longer than the doctor said she would, but that didn’t surprise me. She passed in 2016. By the time she died, her skin was so thin that it looked like a map. She told me that her body knows the way, and to let her go.”
I reach over and touch his hand. He taps against his jeans once more, this time squeezing my hand.
“The only problem is I can’t seem to figure out my way most days. She is still with me, you know. She tugs on me to do crazy things like sit next to this waterfall just to hear the water.”
“Jacob?” the nurse calls out into the waiting room.
“That’s me,” he says.
He lets go of my hand and stands. Nodding to the nurse, he turns to me once more. “Since you’re going to be waiting a little longer, you should listen to that waterfall. It really is a peaceful sound.”
I close my eyes and listen. I hear the water for the first time since I’ve been going to this doctor. Really hear it… soft, strong… peaceful.
I can’t help but think his lovely wife is still here in many ways… mostly through Jacob. Because of his love for her, my experiences are enriched. Jacob’s wife is a woman I never had the privilege of meeting but had the joy of experiencing through someone who loved her dearly… and still does.
“Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:8, ESV).
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian Author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier, Instagram:@tiffanysgly, and Twitter: @tiffanychartier.