Monday, March 30, 2015

Short Story: Mastering the Heart by M. J. Joachim

They never really told Elise she was dying. She simply woke up one morning and knew. As she made her way to the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth, she sensed something was different. When she took her shower, she saw it, the mark of death imprinted on her breast.

“Why hadn’t they told her?” she wondered out loud as she looked in the mirror. The medical staff always made a point to prepare their subjects for death. It was part of the experiment process, to see how they handled stress, finality and change. The preparation cycle was necessary for personal closure, saying final greetings to friends and loved ones and making final arrangements to distribute one’s possessions. It was a time to come to terms with spirituality, leaving all longing for physical belongings in the past.

The small heart on her breast burned deep into the tissue, a burn that reached far beneath the surface, touching her actual heart and singeing it; this was in effect a notification to begin shutting down the rest of her organs by depriving them of blood. As her heartbeat lessened, she felt weak throughout her body, desiring only to lie down and rest until her final departure.

“The experiment is a success,” Nurse Natalie said to Dr. Bales. Preparation cycles can be eliminated. Our test subjects confirm that knowing one is dying is not necessary for final peace at the time of one’s death.

As Elise released her soul, her spirit reached out and touched her mom, dad, siblings and nieces and nephews, despite her body’s inability to move. The medical staff entered her home to collect her body. Dr. Bales was the first to speak. “I don’t understand,” he said. “We didn’t tell her she was dying.”

“No,” said her mother. “You didn’t. We knew somehow just the same, as if she whispered quietly to our hearts. When we all realized we’d received the same message, we knew we couldn’t let her die alone.”

“The experiment is a failure, Nurse Natalie,” said Dr. Bales completely confounded by the presence of Elise’s family. “Tangible possessions aside, we simply haven’t figured out how to master the heart or how it communicates in love.”

I’m so glad you stopped by today. I hope you’ll take a moment to share some of your thoughts about this story or your feelings about death and dying in the comments.


Do you think it’s necessary and important to prepare for death? Does the thought of sudden death scare you, or do you think it’s an easier way to die, than to receive news of a terminal illness that could drag on for months? Are you afraid to die?

M. J.


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