We stand at the edge of the cliff, Ling and I. I look down into the gaping abyss below.
“I can’t see the bottom.” I hear the quaver in my voice.
“There is no bottom. There is nothing down there. You know that.” Her voice is small and gentle.
“That’s where you’re going? Into nothing?”
“That’s where we’re all going.”
I look again. The deep darkness seems to rush up at us both. I take a staggering step away from the edge.
“Don’t go. Please stay here. I know we have to go eventually, but not now. Stay with me a while.”
“Okay.” She puts a small hand in mine. “Soon, though. You must know that I have to go. I can only stay with you a short time.”
A sob escapes me. “Why? I love you so much. Why do you have to go? Why can’t you stay longer?”
“My time was always shorter than yours.” Her green eyes are full of compassion. “You always knew that.”
“I didn’t think about that when I met you. I just wanted you with me.”
“I wanted to be with you.” She turns around. “Look behind you. Look at where we’ve been.”
I do as she says. Behind us, stretching for miles, are the years of joy. I see every time she made me laugh. I see every time she comforted me when I was upset. I see nights curled in bed together and days spent quietly enjoying each other’s presence. I see her fear every time I left and relief and joy every time I returned. I see more than a decade of love.
“All that is what you gave me. Do not grieve that I go. Be glad that I was with you.”
“I must grieve.” Tears roll down my cheeks. “You have to go, but I don’t have to like it. I can’t let you go without feeling the pain that your absence will leave.”
She tucks her head under my chin. “You will grieve. And you will heal. And you will love again. Don’t let the loss stop you from having all those years of happiness.”
I stroke her sweet, beautiful head as we walk back to the edge. “I will always love you. I will never forget you,” I whisper.
“Then I will never be truly gone.” She gives me a last, sweet kiss and lets go of my hand.
I watch with an aching heart as she disappears over the edge of the cliff.