Diane dangled the half heart in the sunlight. It was actually a keychain pendant, made of silver. The morning light through the sterile hospital window gently washed over its surface, and Diane could see how faded and worn it was. Ma must have had this for years.
The question is, how long?
Diane glanced over at Ma, still a little bruised and battered. Oxygen tubes and IV lines hissed and slithered. Ma was lucky to be alive, the doctors said. They had to use the jaws of life to pull her out of the wreckage. Luckily, the other driver was unhurt. Ma’s car was totalled. The noon-hour sun had apparently blinded the driver when he turned.
One of the nurse’s comments, when she handed over Ma’s valuables, still echoed in Diane’s mind. The heart was hooked to Ma’s brassiere strap, the young nurse said. So romantic to keep your sweetheart close to your heart.
Diane held up the heart again and peered at it as it pirouetted softly on the chain. On one side, a letter “J” was engraved in an elegant cursive, and on the other “Unfor.” Diane’s heart started drumming against her chest. Her palms grew sweaty.
Unfor…Unforgettable. Who is unforgettable? Dad didn’t have a “J” initial.
“Has Ma awoken?” Diane’s older brother, Ryan, walked in. The CT, confirming the bleed in her brain had resolved, raised their hopes she would wake up soon. According to the nurses, Ma stirred a bit overnight.
Diane sighed and shook her head, “Not yet.” It had been 10 days. Diane reached for Ma’s hand. She could feel warmth and strength there. Just like in her childhood, when she and Ma skipped along hand-in-hand. Just like in recent years, when Ma held her up after Diane’s multiple heartbreaks.
The silence was unbearable. Diane turned to Ryan, “What do you think of this?”
Ryan examined the pendant, then handed it back.
“What’s there to think of? She has a few close girlfriends.” When Diane didn’t respond, Ryan cleared his throat and continued, “Mom and Dad celebrated their 35th anniversary just before Dad’s passing. They were happy.”
Who is Ma really, and who is this other half?
Just the thought that somewhere out there was Ma’s other half made Diane’s heart flutter. Somewhere out there someone was holding the other half of Ma’s heart, with an elegantly engraved “T” for Tess and the inscription to complete something that was Unforgettable for Ma.
Does “J” still cherish the heart?
Ma’s lashes flickered. Diane’s heart leapt with joy. Ma was waking. Diane held her breath and slid the silver heart back into her pocket.
Nhung is an author, physician and an advocate for social justice in education. Her books have been shortlisted for the Alberta Literary Award and Red Maple Award
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This article appears in the May 2021 issue of Edify.