The old man lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. He knew his days on Earth were ending, yet he wasn't frightened. He'd lived through a lot in his eight-eight years: held captive in a German prisoner-of-war camp following the Battle of the Bulge; led combat troops in the Battle of Pork Chop Hill in the Korean War; watched his young wife die from complications after childbirth; and the subsequent loss of his daughter's life following a bout of pneumonia.
Yes, he was now ready to take his place in the afterlife, something he strongly believed in. As his hospital room filled with friends and relatives coming to say their goodbyes, he closed his eyes and begged the good Lord to take him. He was tired of the pain, tired of the sorrowful looks from his second wife, (a woman he married late in life, but whom he adored,) tired of living. Period.
It was time. He could feel it. He opened his eyes one last time. She was standing there, staring down at him. She took his hand, although he could barely feel her touch. She leaned down to kiss his forehead. "I love you," she whispered in his ear.
He stared up at her. "I love you too," he mouthed. Then he closed his eyes and took his final breath.
"Goodbye Mac," she said. "You'll forever be in my heart."
The funeral was two days later in a light drizzle. Hundreds of people filled the church to say their final farewells. As they walked the three blocks to the gravesite, someone made the comment that he felt as if he were reliving the death march following the Battle of Bataan. Although the circumstances were much different, the reverence of the mourners brought back eerie memories for him.
Saul remembered his close friend as the only person he could talk to about that horrible war experience because he knew Mac had also been through his own hell. Tears fell from his eyes as he watched the coffin being lowered to the ground.
That night, he talked to his wife, Celeste, about those horrific days. It was the first time he'd been able to verbalize what he'd been through to anyone other than Mac. At four in the morning, all talked out, he closed his eyes and joined his friend.
As the town mourned another loss, they took solace in knowing the two brothers of war were together.