Ben lay in a darkened room, motionless, staring at the ceiling fan above as it made involuntary, slow circles, pushed by the air register on the wall above his head. Apart from that, Ben was conscious of nothing else in his surroundings. He had no feeling, the pain driven away by the narcotics administered by the nurse minutes before.

She had come in, asked him how he felt and, although the only response she received were a blank stare and a slight grimace, she knew what he was telling her. She pulled a syringe and small vial out of her uniform pocket, filled the syringe, injected the needle and his grimace slowly eased away to stoic nothingness.

As she left the room, the overhead fan blades became like a shutter on a movie projector through which Ben watched snippets of his life, in no particular order.

He saw his mother leaning over him, tending to him as he lay in his crib and remembering her beautiful smile. Then he recalled the last time he saw her before she passed away, with the loving, pleased look in her eyes as she gazed at him as an adult standing over her bed.

In quick succession he saw scenes from his childhood, his years of discovery and growth through the spring of his teen years, then through the summer years of his young adult life with the activity of building a place for himself in the world.

He visualized the relative comfort and beauty of his maturity as if the events of that time had all been in fall colors, warm and relaxing. Then he watched his doctor’s face turn winter white pale as he read the test findings to him and pause briefly before he uttered the word “cancer”.

It had been a long winter at the end of the series of seasons in his life. Ben was a fighter, never giving up easily, but he always chose his battles carefully. This one chose him. Somehow he knew this was one he could not win. Winter had closed in, and this long, late winter’s night was to be his last.

As dawn finally broke, a thin sliver of bright, white light made its way past the window frame and into the still dark room, crossing Ben’s motionless face. He moved his eyes toward the light and looked directly into it. A slight smile appeared at the corners of his mouth. Staring fixedly into the brilliant, white light, Ben followed it to the eternal spring.

copyright 2011 Tom Hays