He held it clenched tightly in his hand. So tightly, he could feel the cool metal imprinting into his skin. He was terrified, horrified, and filled with a sorrow than ran so deeply, he thought he might drown in it. She was gone, and there had been nothing he could do to stop it.
Everything had happened so fast. One day she had been fine, and the next day the doctor had shattered their entire world. Cancer. Spreading too quickly for them to contain it, there were treatments to try, but no guarantees.
He had begged her, pleaded with her, to try them. Any and every treatment that she could try. When she had gripped his hand tightly and said no, he had been furious. The rage had poured off him like a firestorm dancing through a forest igniting everything in its path. When he had calmed, she had looked at him with saddened eyes, the color of brandy, and explained. It had spread too far. It would only delay the inevitable, not stop it.
And so, they had fulfilled everything on her bucket list. Gone to baseball games, seen the Grand Canyon, and eaten cotton candy on rainy day. They had barely checked the last box when she had passed away in her sleep. One moment she had been there, his entire world. The next moment, she had been gone.
Somehow, dealing with her memories was harder for him than dealing with her death had been, and remembering she was gone once again he shook himself out of those memories. Forced himself to come back to the present time. Back to the key he clenched tightly in his hand, the metal now warmed from his grip.
It was a small lock box; one you could buy in almost any store. The key was barely a protective barrier to keep anyone determined out. Moving slowly, he slid the key into the lock, listened to it click, and then stared at it.
His arms had turned to lead at the thought of what he might find. The lock box had been a surprise. He hadn’t even known she had put it together.
Somehow the lid was heavier than it had appeared, and opening it felt like a five-hundred-pound weight. Inside, were tens of letters. As he pulled them out, each envelope had her careful cursive handwriting on it.
When you are happy.
When you are sad.
When you miss me.
And then he pulled out the last letter. “When I’ve passed away.” He read aloud to the emptiness around him. His fingers shook as he opened the envelope. Tears began to fall as he read what she had written.
To my dearest love,
I am sorry I had to go,
The rest was a blur as he sobbed. She had thought of everything, even how to comfort him once she was gone.