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Caterina Daniels slowly walked into the hospital chapel. Church was a place she hadn’t gone to in a long time. She stopped at the entrance and glanced around. It seemed to her as if it looked like every other church around, but she didn’t have much to compare it to. She was only five years old at her last church visit. It had plenty of pews to sit in and there was a cross on the wall. At the front of the room was a table full of candles to light. She wasn’t entirely sure what the candles represented but knew it meant something.
The chapel was empty at the moment. Caterina walked to the front and sat down in the first pew. She took her coat off and laid it down beside her. It felt somewhat strange to her to be sitting there all alone but at the same time, a calm feeling fell over her. Caterina, knowing that her hair must be a mess after falling asleep in the chair earlier, pulled her light brown hair back into a pony tail. She wiped her nervous slightly sweaty palms on her jeans several times.
“Okay. I don’t really know what I’m doing here,” she said out loud to nobody in particular. “God. If you do exist.” She let out a big sigh. “I mean. God. If you are there, I’m sorry for whatever I have done to make you mad at me.”
“Oh, dear child.”
Caterina jumped at the voice. She turned around to face a gray haired woman wearing dress pants and a flowered blouse. “I’m sorry.” Caterina stood up. “I didn’t know anyone was here. I thought it was okay if I came in here.”
“Don’t leave on my account,” the woman said. “This is a wonderful place to be. I come in here often.”
Caterina slowly sat back down. “This is my first time in here.” She looked at the floor feeling a little embarrassed to say that.
The woman sat down beside her. “Don’t feel bad, Honey. Sometimes life just gets in the way.”
“I’m not a very religious person. To be honest, I haven’t been to church since I was about five years old. I’m not real sure why I came in here today.”
“Coming in here is always a good thing.” She smiled. “Don’t over think it child. As long as you keep John 3:16 in your heart, you’re doing fine.”
Caterina looked up at her. “John 3:16? I don’t know what that means. I guess it’s a Bible verse, but like I said, I haven’t been to church in a really long time. That’s why I think God is mad at me.”
The woman let out a small chuckle. “Child, don’t be silly. God is not mad at you. John 3:16 is indeed a Bible verse. It says ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ Basically if you believe in God then you are on the right path. And you’re here so you must believe.”
Caterina was a little unsure what to say. For some reason she felt at ease with the elderly woman. “My name is Caterina by the way.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Caterina. My name is Martha. Martha Kinglsy.”
“It’s nice to meet you too. You can call me Cat. This hospital is so big. Other than doctors and nurses, nobody even notices that I’m here and I’ve been here for a week already.”
“Yes it is a busy place. What has you here? I don’t mean to pry, dear. If you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to. My husband tells me that I can be a bit nosey at times.” She smiled over at Caterina.
Caterina laughed. “It’s okay. I’m here with my grandpa. He has cancer and they don’t expect him to make it too many more days. He’s a tough old man with a lot of fight in him but sadly this fight is one that he can’t win.” She wiped a tear from her eye. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, Honey. A good cry can help you more than you know.”
“I’ve been here all week and honestly I don’t think he knows when I’m in the room and when I’m not. He is on so much morphine that he pretty much sleeps the whole time. The doctors tell me I should go home and they will call me when he passes, but I can’t do that. I’m all he has and he’s all I have. I want to be here with him until the end.” The water works were coming down now and couldn’t be stopped.
Martha got a Kleenex from her purse. “Here you go.”
Caterina took it from her hand and started wiping the tears away. “Look at me all a mess here.” She looked away, took a hair tie out of her pocket, and pulled her long brown hair into a ponytail. “I’m fine now. What about you? Why are you here?”
Martha put the package of Kleenex back in her purse. “My husband has a bit of pneumonia. Started out as the flu but took a turn for the worse.”
“Oh I’m so sorry. I hope he will be okay,” Caterina said.
“Yes he will be fine. He’s on medication and they are taking real good care of him.”
“That’s good.” Caterina said. “It has been really nice talking to you, Martha, but I have to get going. I have to be at work in a little bit and I have to run home and shower real quick.”
“It was nice meeting you, Cat. I’ll probably see you around here tomorrow.”
Caterina grabbed her coat and headed for the door. She walked out of the hospital and waited for a cab. It was much easier getting around in a cab than fighting the New York City traffic. Finally making it to her apartment, she ran in, tossed her purse on the floor and dropped her coat onto the chair. She quickly glanced at the piled up mail from the week but didn’t see anything super important. She went to her room and picked out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt then went to get in the shower. Caterina stepped out of the shower and wiped away the steam and fog from the mirror. She had to hurry as to not be late for work. It wasn’t the greatest job in the world but it was needed.
She walked into the office where she worked in the filing room. She spent the entire day doing nothing but filing for an accounting firm. It could be boring work but it brought in a pay check so she couldn’t complain too much. She stopped off at the soda machine on her way to the filing room. It would take her a twenty ounce Dr. Pepper to get her day going. Some people like coffee. She liked soda. Caterina walked in, put her drink on the desk, and picked up the huge stack of files. She glanced around the plain room. File cabinets lined the walls and in the middle of the room were two long tables where the many accountants of the firm would drop off their stacks of files for the day. She let out a sigh and walked over to get started.
They weren’t going to put themselves away.
Hours went by of the same thing over and over. Grab a file, put it away, turn and grab another file. There was nothing exciting about the job and never much of a conversation other than somebody possibly walking in to get something out of one of the cabinets. It was probably one of the most uninteresting jobs in the world.
After her eight hour shift was over, Caterina walked
to the time clock and clocked out. It was time to flag a cab down and go home to a quiet lonely apartment.
She walked through the door, dropped her keys on the table in the entry. Dropping her purse in the floor by the sofa, she made her way into the kitchen. As she opened up the freezer door she said, “Okay. What will be the gourmet meal for tonight?” Chuckling she grabbed a T.V. dinner. “This will work.” She waited the couple of minutes and then had her dinner alone in the quiet house, but at least there weren’t any dishes to wash up afterwards. She could always find a silver lining in the dark clouds.
She went up to soak in a long bath before going to bed. As the hot water filled the tub, she poured in her favorite vanilla bubble bath. She stepped into the steamy water and sank down as far as she could. The water washing over her felt somewhat comforting but her heart was heavy and her mind had a lot on it. Tears started to form as she wondered what she was going to do when her grandfather died. Caterina picked up a cup she used to get her hair wet. She filled it up and then poured it over her head washing away the tears in the process. When the water turned cold, she knew it was time to get out. It would be a long day at the hospital and a good night’s rest would be helpful.
She ran a brush through her hair and then went to bed.
Caterina had to be at the hospital earlier than usual the next day because she had to be at work sooner. She had a huge stack of papers to file from a big audit that just finished. She quickly dressed and pulled her hair back in a ponytail. Grabbing a bagel and a soda on her way out was going to have to be the gourmet breakfast of the day. Time was getting away from her.
When she got to the hospital, Martha was sitting on a bench out front. “Hi. How are you this morning?”
“Well hello there. I’m good. How are you, Dear?”
“Running late today. I just couldn’t get going this morning.”
“Have a seat.” Martha patted beside her.
Caterina sat down. “It’s a nice day out today.”
“Yes it is. I thought I would step out for a bit and get some fresh air before going back into that stuffy old room.” She grinned. “How’s your grandpa doing?”
The smile faded from Caterina’s face. “The same. No good news to share.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that.”
“I honestly don’t think he knows I’m even in the room with him.” She wiped a tear away from the corner of her eye. “This is so hard. I knew it would be but now that the time is here, I guess I really didn’t know what to expect.”
“If you need any help with anything, you let me know. You shouldn’t have to do this all by yourself.”
“The hospital got me in touch with some help. It’s all going to go really fast. I hate to say it like that, but my grandpa didn’t really have any friends. We don’t have any family. So there isn’t anyone to have a funeral service for. It’s just me. I’m going to have him cremated and then I will scatter his ashes.” She couldn’t stop the tears now. They were flooding down.
“I’m so sorry, Honey. I know how hard this is for you, but you will get through this in time. If you need anyone to talk to you come find me. I will be around this hospital for days.
“Thanks so much. It does help to have somebody to talk to. I better go in and see my grandpa.
She walked into the hospital room and sat there for hours until falling asleep in the chair. She woke up to the nurse coming in to check on things. Caterina slowly got up and walked out of the room.
Caterina got up the next day and fixed breakfast. She knew she would be at the hospital for most of the day and wanted to start off with a full stomach.
She scrambled some eggs, made toast, and poured some orange juice. When she was finished eating, she cleaned up her mess and began gathering her stuff for the day. She always took a few magazines and books to keep her busy throughout the day.
Caterina walked into the hospital, down the long crowded hall to her grandfather’s room. He lay there quiet with all the machines hooked to him as usual. There didn’t appear to be any changes. The nurses walked in and out, giving her that pitiful smile they always gave her.
Caterina stood up and stretched her arms out. Sitting in that chair all day got tiring after a while. Needing to walk around a bit, she said, “Grandpa. I think I’ll go have some lunch in the cafeteria. I won’t be gone long.” She walked over and gave him a kiss on the forehead.
When she walked in the cafeteria, she saw Martha sitting at a table all alone.
Martha looked up and waved. “Caterina. Come sit with me, dear.”
Caterina walked over to her. “Hi. It’s nice to see you. Let me grab something to eat. I’ll be right back.” She walked over to the lunch counter and got a grilled chicken salad with ranch dressing and a cold soda and then walked back over to her new friend.
“How’s your husband today?”
“He’s doing much better. He may be released tomorrow and then we’ll head back home to Texas to our ranch.”
“Oh you’re from Texas?” Caterina said.
“Yes. We came here on vacation and then he got sick. My son, Jackson, is not real happy with us. He didn’t think it was a good idea for us to travel to begin with. He worries too much. He wanted to drop everything and come out here. I said why? That’s silly. There’s nothing you can do here other than sit in the hospital. There is work to be done on the ranch. He wasn’t happy but he listened.”
Caterina gave her a smile. “I guess no matter how old you get, your mother is still the boss.”
“That’s right.” Martha patted her on the hand. “You should pack up and come out to Texas. It’s too cold out here and the big city life is too fast paced. Slow down and smell the flowers.”
“What in the world would I do in Texas?” Caterina asked.
“What do you do here?”
Caterina thought about it for a minute. “You know not much. I work and I come here. I don’t do much else other than that.”
“Well I want you to promise to stay in touch at least. Here is my phone number.” Martha gave her a number that she wrote on a piece of paper. “And you call me any time you need to talk. I mean that. I know you just met me. But we women have to stick together in life.”
Caterina took the phone number and entered it right into her phone. She didn’t fully know why but there was something about Martha that made her feel as if she had known her for her entire life. “Thanks Martha. I’m going to take you up on this. You will get tired of hearing from me.” She laughed. “I really don’t have many friends. I spend most of my free time here at the hospital.” A sadness fell over her for a moment.
“Well now you have a friend in me forever. I’m serious about you coming out there to Texas too. You schedule you a vacation some time and come visit.”
“I might do that. I don’t know how things are going to go around here right now. But I might do that one day.” She took a few more bites of her salad.
“Honey, do you have anyone at all to help you through all this? I mean when the time comes. Is there anyone to simply hold your hand through all of this?”
Tears started to form in the edge of her eyes. “No. I don’t have anyone and my grandfather doesn’t have anyone. It will all go really quickly. It’s all planned out like I said before.”
“I know you have a plan but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a friend to help you get through the plan. You call me when the time comes. I’m flying here to be with you.”
Caterina took a sip of her tea. She sat the cup down. “Oh you don’t have to do that.
“I mean it. You call me. I’m going to check on you every day anyway.” She pointed her finger at her as a mother would instruct a child. “And when the time comes, I don’t want you to be alone to deal with this.”
“Thanks Martha. You’re so kind.”
“Do you have to work tonight, Cat?”
“No. I’m off tonight. Why?”
“We should go out to dinner somewhere. Anywhere but this cafeteria.” She said with a chuckle. “I leave tomorrow and it would be nice to visit with you before I leave.”
“That sounds like fun. Are you sure you want to leave your husband?”
Martha nodded. “Oh yes. He’s fine. We will go have us one of those ladies nights. Just the two of us. My treat.”
“Oh I can’t let you do that.”
“I insist.” Martha said. “I won’t take no for an answer.”
“Thanks, Martha, for everything you have done for me these past few days. I know it’s just been a few conversations at a hospital but for me it’s been so much more than that. I’m going to miss you.” She got up and gave her a hug. “I better go. I’ll see you later though.”
“Okay, Dear. I’ll see you later.”
Caterina showed up at the hospital to meet Martha for their night out. She started toward the door but saw her walking out. “Martha, I would have come in to walk out with you.”
“Well that’s silly. You’re in here all the time. I am capable of walking out by myself.”
“Where do you want to go eat?” Caterina asked.
“You live here. You tell me.” She insisted.
“Okay. I can do that. But give me a little help. What kind of food are you in the mood for? Steak, pasta, seafood?”
“I’m from Texas. How about a good ole steak and potato?”
Caterina laughed. “Sounds good to me. There is a really good steak house just down the road. I hear it has good food anyway.”
“You have never been?”
“No. I don’t really like to eat alone. I feel like everyone in the restaurant is looking at me. I know that’s crazy.” She laughed.
“Not at all.” Martha said. “I don’t really like to eat alone either.
They walked down the side walk to the restaurant and waited to be seated.
The waitress came over to take their order. “Hi, ladies. What can I get you this evening?”
Martha said, “We are going all out. “We want one of those onion blossoms for an appetizer. Then we both want a Caesar salad. We want steaks and baked potatoes loaded with everything on them.”
The waitress looked down at them. “Well okay, ladies. How do you want your steaks cooked?”
Caterina said. “I like mine well done.”
“I’ll take mine medium well.” Martha said. “And we would both like tea to drink.”
The waitress left to put in their order.
“That’s a lot of food, Martha. There’s no way I will eat all that.”
“That’s why they invented leftover boxes.” She laughed. “Now you have lunch tomorrow.” Martha took a drink of her tea. “I just hate leaving you tomorrow.”
“Don’t. I’m glad your husband is better. That’s a good thing.”
Martha nodded. “Yes. I’m glad John is better too, but I will worry about you and don’t you be stubborn. You call me the minute you need me.”
“I will. I promise.”
They ate their wonderful meal together and talked for a couple of hours before walking back to the hospital.
“Now you remember to call me all the time. I mean it. And you call me the minute it happens with your grandpa. You don’t need to go through this alone. I will hop on the first flight here and be here for you.”
Caterina started to cry. “Thanks, Martha. You have been a true friend to me. You have made this all a little bit easier for me to handle.” She gave her another big hug and then turned and walked away.