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The Promise

I strolled about our flower beds, climbed our little terraces, came down again, my dazed thoughts drifting from one thing to another.  One insistent notion kept coming back around, stopping me at the top of the footpath that led down to our small stone house. I should rush down, burst through the door and stop Anna from ending her life.  Instead, I stood motionless and watched a small gray dove swaying at the top of our ancient fig tree, it’s head cocked, regarding me with a tiny round eye.

Months before, I had promised my wife that I would leave her alone when she decided to take the two injections that would stop her pain forever. Her life no longer held any pleasure and neither the doctors nor I could help her. The liquid morphine sipped from an old flask was no longer enough to mask her pain. Anna’s oncologist in Milano, Doctor Giovanni Mucci supplied me, at great personal and professional risk, with the fatal doses of sedative. Driving home that day through heavy fog near Ravenna with the package on the seat next to me, I nearly threw it out the window twice. Was I about to become a murderer? Could I keep the awful promise to my wife of forty years? The gear box in the old Maserati crunched as I shifted down for the final climb to our hillside home. I parked and sat listening to the engine ticking as it cooled, not wanting to touch the deadly package or even look at it.


But I had kept my part of the agreement and now waited, my eyes searching the tiny, round face of a mourning dove and prayed for Anna’s pain to melt away even though it meant losing her forever.  How much time had passed?  How much longer should I wait?  How would I know?  The fig leaves rustled, a branch dipped, wings flapped, the dove taking flight with a soft cooing, arcing down the path to circle our house once and disappear into the lower valley. As good an answer as any I thought. I began carefully descending the rough stone steps to bid my wife a last goodbye. 

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