Let me go ahead and preface this by saying do not read the text below if you haven’t read My Last Days. The text below will spoil the ending, even though it’s drastically different in the final book. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
The text is unedited, so forgive grammar and spelling. This is exaclty how both chapters were written in the first draft, on November 25th, 2014.
The second to last chapter is titled “Death”. I don’t expose my chapter titles in the final work, so you didn’t know that until just now. I use them more to help me outline what I’m going to write. I add a bunch of blank chapters and name them all of the points I want to make during the story. Then, I go back and write each chapter, one at a time, hoping it all makes sense. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the extent of my plotting. A skill I recognize is important to some writers, but not one that I am able to follow myself.
“Death” changes perspectives from Andy’s first person perspective to Kate’s third-person. The last chapters are told from her point of view. On account of, you know, Andy being dead and not able to finish the story himself.
Originally, as you’ll read below, Andy finishes the story himself. We see him die through his eyes and then he goes to his own funeral. It didn’t test well with early readers or my editor. But I wanted to share it with you, as a little view into what can happen sometimes. You write something you believe in and love, and it turns out that you’re wrong.
Without further adieu, here’s the final two chapters of “My Last Days”, from Andy’s point of view.
“I’m glad we’ve ended up back here,” Kate said jarring me from my near sleep. She had rearranged herself and snuggled in close to me.
Joey still laid across the end of the bed at our feet, long since asleep and having ignored Kate and I crying our eyes out.
We’d fallen asleep like that almost every night for the last few weeks. Our little family, together, dreaming of better times, of less turbulent times.
Kate had finally dozed off, nestled into what she sometimes referred to as “the nook” – that perfect spot between my upper arm and my chest, that she insisted was designed and tailor suited specifically for her head. She’d fallen asleep there more times than I could remember or count.
The truth is, knowing she was right there always helped me fall asleep a little bit faster and stay asleep longer. Even once she’d realized I’d fallen asleep and she’d roll over, or pull away from me.
I slept a strong sleep that night. I dreamed of a life where I wasn’t sick. Of a life where I had more time and could do the things I needed and wanted to do, without fear of running out of time. I dreamed of happiness and love.
I dreamed of Kate and Joey.
When I woke up the next morning, I was somehow on the floor, sitting upright in the corner of the room. I could feel the walls on both sides of me, propping me up, holding me in a sitting position. My head lay to the left against the far wall, throbbing. It felt like the beginning of an episode.
I could see Kate on the bed, sitting up, her back to me.
Wait. I could see? My vision was back! I could see again!
“Kate,” I yelled. “Kate, I can see you.”
Joey stirred from the foot of the bed and sat up, looking towards Kate.
“You guys,” I yelled. “I see you both.”
But Joey didn’t hear me. Kate didn’t turn to look at me behind her, calling out to her.
I pushed myself up from the sitting position I was in and stood. My legs felt wobbly, but I used the wall on both sides of me to steady myself. I locked my legs and took a step forward.
I inched closer to the bed.
“Guys?” I called out.
On the third step I saw it.
I saw myself.
I gasped and jumped back.
“What the fuck is happening?” I yelled louder than I’d ever yelled before. “Kate, answer me!” I demanded.
But no one turned to look at me. No one heard me.
I got closer and could hear Kate crying. She was holding me in her arms, but I was standing five feet away. She rocked me back and forth in her arms and pulled Joey in close to her.
She hugged us both like the family that we were.
I could see her tears rolling down her face, dripping onto mine. I felt them. I felt the warmth of her tears as they rolled down my face, as I saw them roll from my forehead to my lips.
Then I could taste them. The salty bitterness. The taste that I’d tasted a hundred times before when she cried over something I’d done or said to upset her.
“I love you so much,” she whispered in my ear. I heard the words, five feet away, as clear as if she was standing next to me.
I was still connected to myself, yet I was no longer there. I was, as cliche as it sounds, watching the whole thing from across the room.
I watched and listened as Kate begged for more time. I listened as she told me she loved me over and over again, as Joey said he needed me and wanted me to stay.
I felt her body as she pressed herself in closer to me and kissed me one last time. Her lips trying to bring life back into mine, trying to restore the beating of my heart, as if she had some sort of magic spell stored up in her lips.
“I love you Iron Man,” Joey said. “I love you.”
I knew better than to yell anymore. I knew better than to try to signal them, to say a final goodbye, to try to take the reins and change the direction the ship I was on was heading. I knew it was over. I knew it was final.
They stayed there with me for a little bit before they called the police. Joey hugged Kate and she hugged him back, all while holding my hand. Grasping onto one last glimmer of hope that I’d wake up and be okay, just for one more day.
That she would, somehow, get one more opportunity to see me smile and tell me how much I meant to her, to them.
Joey was the one that called 911. Kate couldn’t bring herself to let go of my hand until well after the police and EMTs showed up. She couldn’t let go of it even when they told her she had to. It almost took them prying her hand from mine to get her to let go.
The EMTs asked Joey and Kate to leave the room while they packed my body up to bring me wherever they were going to bring me. they stood in the hallway right outside the bedroom door and watched as they lifted me into a bag, having already pronounced me dead shortly before.
I could see Kate out of the corner of my eye, holding onto Joey. His head buried in her stomach, tears coming out from both sides of his face. Her gentle, caring hand caressing the back of his head, while she herself cried uncontrollably.
Kate barely spoke that morning. She’d said her goodbye to me without saying a word. I could still feel her hand holding mine, well after they’d taken me out of the room.
I stood there in the same spot I’d been, not knowing what else to do. Not knowing where to go or what happened next, waiting for a sign, waiting for something to happen.
“He’s no longer in pain,” I heard Joey say, faintly from the hallway.
For the first time, I heard myself in what Joey said. I saw myself in him and knew, in that moment, that everything else would fall into place.
“I love you Kate,” I said as strongly as I could. “I’ll always love you. Never forget that.”
“Thanks and Closure”:
The afterlife – I guess that’s what you’d call it – was as normal as every day life. Except that no one could see me or talk to me and there were no other people around that could, contrary to popular belief. I was just on my own, floating through time, going about things, watching over Kate and Joey.
I don’t know what made me do it, but I followed them from the apartment to the church, where they’d say their farewells to me. Where those that loved me or knew me or heard about me would show up and say goodbye.
I could tell everyone tried their best to smile and Joey thanked everyone for coming. Joey and Kate put on brave faces and tried not to cry. My Mom and Dad cried quite a bit the entire afternoon.
It rained most of the day. Rainclouds filled the entire sky, thunder booming down almost every minute, as if some sort of sign, some sort of omen. As soon as Kate arrived, it was as if something triggered the weather to change, and a hole opened in the cloud right above the church, causing rays of sunlight to shine down and filter through the stained glass. Multi colored beams of light illuminated the alter as she sat down right in front of where they had wheeled me in.
If it weren’t a funeral, it would have been quite beautiful.
It had been three days since I had passed. Three of the longest days of my life, full of some of the saddest times, but happiest memories. Three days of seeing Kate and Joey upset and not being able to fix it or console them. Three long days of wondering what would happen or where I’d end up, or what I should do.
Kate had already said goodbye to me the night before. After everyone left the wake, she stayed with me. Just the two of us surrounded by the beautiful flowers people had sent and the few remaining candles that were still lit. She said her goodbye to me then, a goodbye I’ll keep to myself and never forget. She had evidently prepared some words to say in front of the crowd of people that had come to the funeral.
“Andy would have appreciated you all coming out here today,” she said. “I don’t know all of you, but I know that Andy would have appreciated you being here.
“Andy and I have known each other since middle school, and spent most of our adult lives in a relationship. I loved him like I loved no one else, and will never forget him or anything that he’d done for me.
“He was a kind and caring man, one that showed love for those that didn’t always understand why he loved them or appreciate why he loved them. He showed no hate or malice towards anyone for as long as I’ve known him.
“Andy began a bucket list as soon as he found out he was sick, and has been accomplishing items off that list for the past eight or so months. He didn’t get to complete the list, but asked Joey, Anna and I to finish the remaining items for him. We plan on doing that starting today, as soon as we leave here.
“I can spend hours telling you great stories about him, about how much I loved him, about how much he meant to me. But you already know that. You loved him in your own way, and he you, and that’s why you’re here. That’s why you’ve come to say your goodbyes.
“He wasn’t in pain. His headaches were gone and that’s not what took him. I like to think that his body just gave up when his mind simply wasn’t ready to yet.
“I love you, Andy. I hope you find peace where you are now.”
Once she’d finished speaking and sat back down, Joey whispered in her ear and she nodded, sliding out of the way, so he could get out of the pew.
She followed him up to the pulpit and helped him up to the microphone, adjusting it to his height.
“Hi, I’m Joey,” he said, “Andy was my Big Brother. He showed up months ago to do something nice for someone because of his bucket list. He wanted to do good things once he knew he was sick. What he ended up doing was saving my life.
“My dad was a bad man. Not like Andy or Marcus. He was mean to me and would hurt me all the time when he was drinking his beer in the backyard. He would punch me and kick me and spit on me. He was a really bad man.
“When Andy came into my life, I saw how people were supposed to treat each other. How an adult was supposed to treat a little boy. He showed me how important it was to tell the truth and to be yourself.
“I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Andy over the past few months and his last days. I really got to know him. I found myself looking up to him and the things he did and won’t ever forget how he saved me.
“He told me more than one time that I’d saved him as much as he saved me, but that’s not true. He came into my life and took me away from a lifetime of terrible times, of being beaten up by someone who was supposed to take care of me, and brought me to a new life. He brought me into his home, let me meet Kate and Annabel, and know what love is.
“He taught me that sometimes love can be painful, but it should never hurt. Love should leave a smile afterwards, not a bruise.
“I’ll miss you, Iron Man. I hope you’re better now where you are.”
He came down the stairs and sat down next to Kate, taking her hand.
It was the start of their new journey, together. Just Joey and Kate, without me.
I stopped for a moment, looking at the faces in the crowd, all of them staring back at where I lay. All of them sobbing an appropriate amount to cope with their sadness.
I saw Veronica and a man I assumed was her husband, Brian and Jen were there, too. Meghan and Carri were unknowingly sitting in the same row.
Anna sat on one side of my Dad, my Mom on the other, all three holding hands.
The faces of those people were burned into my memory. They stared back at me, not knowing that I was there, that I saw them, or that I loved them.
The church darkened as the clouds overhead closed in on the one pocket of sunshine in the whole sky. The beautiful lights that had shone around the church through the stained glass were suddenly gone, replaced by nothingness.
The door at the far end of the church opened and a slight light peeked in through it before it quickly closed. I looked, trying to make out who it was that had come in, wondering who’d shown up so late.
A loud clasp of thunder struck at that moment, my eyes flashed and everything was suddenly gone.
“Hello Andrew,” a voice said. It was loud enough that it sounded like it was right next to me. It sounded like James Spader.