The early morning sunlight filters through the ward windows. I got the phone call even before finishing morning rounds. Mr X, our long-suffering elderly patient, had finally gone to the end of his pain.
The nurse at the counter hands me the file. "The night duty doctor called the family. The sons are on their way."
I look over at Mr X's bed. Sitting next to him, still holding his hand, was an elderly lady.
"That's his wife?" I asked the nurse.
"His ex-wife. She hasn't left his side all night."
I walk over to the bed. The old lady was still staring at his face. Trying to approach as quietly as possible, I noticed that through streaks of dried tears on her face, she was smiling.
"Madam, I'm very sorry for your loss. He was a fighter, but he was in a lot of pain."
She turned to me, the smile still on her face. "No. Don't apologise. I'm happy he's free of all his troubles." She pulled out a tissue and wiped her eyes. "Without an end, there can be no peace."
"Without an end, there can be no peace." She looked up at me, eyes now dry. "It was one of his favourite sayings. He used to tell me that all the time, even when we were married." She put his hand down gently on the bed, patting it as she did so. "In fact, it's what he told me when we finally got divorced as well."
"I see." I shifted uncomfortably in my shoes. What do you say to something like that? "It's nice of you to still come visit him."
This made her laugh softly. "No, we didn't hate each other. He was still the love of my life, and I was his. We just decided it wouldn't work. And after years of quiet suffering, we decided to go our separate ways." A single tear rolled down her cheek again. "He just always believed that sometimes things needed to end, finally and properly, before people could be at peace again."
She looked at his face. His eyes were closed. His expression was almost peaceful. Almost as if he was relieved.
I started to move away. "I'll be back once your sons are here, to settle the paperwork."
"Remember that, doctor." She looked up at me again. "It's good advice."
I found myself nodding as I walked away, leaving her to her final goodbye.