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Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Night of the Day that Would Never End

I was 14 years old when Dad came home with some bad news.  Bud’s son had been shot in an accident.  “I don’t think they expect him to live.” said Dad.  Bud, his wife Ruby, and Bud’s son were at Duke Hospital, about an hour’s ride from Rocky Mount. 

Dad asked me to ride with him and we left around 6:00 pm.  As we rode, Dad told me about Bud and stories of their growing up together.  I never knew they were such good friends.  I could not remember their family visiting us much or us visiting them.  They never went on trips with us.  What I do remember is that Bud bought a rifle from Dad, and I wondered if that weapon was involved in this.

Arriving at Duke, we parked in the emergency room parking lot, found the waiting room, and walked in.  There in the corner of the room sat Bud and Ruby by themselves.  Bud stood up when he saw Dad and they embraced.  Bud’s wife began to cry.

“This is the day that will never end for us,” she said.  “Our circle has been broken.”  She repeated these words in a never ending stream.  “This is the day that will never end.  Our circle has been broken.” 
The doctors were letting Bud and Ruby see their son for fifteen minutes each hour.  It seems strange today that any parent would ever be denied access to their dying child, but no one present that night questioned the wisdom of this.

So, we sat in the waiting room, waiting for those fifteen minutes while Ruby chanted, “This is the day that will never end.”  Bud asked Dad if he would go with him to see his son.  He and Dad went back behind the closed door while Ruby and I sat in the waiting room.  Ruby quietly spoke to herself as I sat staring at the closed emergency room doors, scarcely comprehending what was happening.

I looked over at Ruby who was suddenly quiet and staring at me.  “You look like him, you know.”  Their son was a red-head with a heavy build and I had blond hair and was slight of build.  “You look so much like him,” she said as she put her arm around me.  She pulled me close to her and began speaking to herself again, “Our circle is broken.  Our circle is broken.  This is the day that will never end.”

Dad came out of the closed doors and walked over to Ruby.  “Ruby, you need to go back and be with Bud.”  Somehow Ruby understood the meaning of Dad’s words and tried to rise but could not find the strength.  Dad helped her to the doors and she went through them, walking slowly, as if this would slow down the inevitable.

Dad and I waited alone for what seemed an eternity before a dazed Bud and Ruby came out.  Both were crying.  I am not sure exactly what happened next.  My memory of the event skips from the waiting room to the parking lot.  I found myself walking beside Ruby.  She was telling Bud how much I looked like their son. 

The ride home was quiet; neither Dad nor I felt like talking.  We let the road roll before us in the headlights while the night of the day that would never end turned to dawn.

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