This story is by rossriter and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“ABHOR WHAT IS EVIL, HOLD FAST TO WHAT IS GOOD”—Romans 12:9
I looked down at my good buddy for more than forty years and he looked peaceful, at last. At the open casket, he was dapper in his finest go to court-suit, with his matching tie. He had a somber, but contented look on his face. The sanctuary was filling up rapidly, with more than two hundred of his family, friends, acquaintances, fellow lawyers, and judges, from all walks of life.
I tiptoed up to see him, the only person present, to do so, and spoke to him quietly, with but with solemn reverence, before the service began. We said goodbye, and I praised his courage and devotion and blew him a kiss.
Many of his friends, lawyer associates, family members, and members of the community were present. All had come to pay homage, not only to wish him and his family well, but to recognize a person who always stood large in his life, and in ours. He would not be partying, nor playing tennis with us, anymore. He would no longer be in psychic pain. He deserved to be rid of his physical pain, as well.
As I turned around and gazed at his acquaintances, many waved, and smiled, tearfully, and I reciprocated. I thought it strange that no one would come up and join the honoree, at the front of the church, to look upon our friend and to say a final, kind word. I savored the opportunity for us to connect, and for him to psychically confide in me, his final, earthly act, which I have come to treasure and adore.
I have never been much of a funeral service kind of guy. When I was 8 years old, two of my fellow cub scouts, riding in the back of a pickup truck, fell out and died. My parents would not let me attend their services, thinking I was too young then to deal with death. Sixty years later, I still feel too young to do so.
Enough of me–just a pal, who knew him well during his life; shared some sorrow and much joy; watched and listened carefully to his clear needs, during his last months and days; and visited with him, alone preferably, or with others, if required. He said some profound things during his final days. Few others focused on him having his last days be peaceful, nor sought to mitigate his pain. Certain family members were too busy scheming to receive items from his estate, instead.
When he was first hospitalized, four months before, I recall his outrage. He had just been admitted to the Hospice Ward at a local hospital, so as to hurry him along on his precious journey. They wrested him away from his beloved home, which he enjoyed so much. A young resident doctor, whose duty it was to move hospice patients in and out as soon as possible, had told my friend just before I arrived, “you only have one week left to go, or less.” My friend smiled at me, sarcastically, and said “we will see about that!” He lasted 15 weeks after leaving Hospice.
An Ivy League Law graduate, and an esteemed member of this community and its constituents, he was smart and savvy to the end, despite his pain level. He knew that his earthly bonds were being loosened, so that he might relax, upon his upcoming journey. But with every passing day, many of the “others” were only anxious for him to hurry up and leave. They could not wait to carve up his estate, fight over who got what; and prove to the other family members which of them, was the closest to the decedent.
That day, while we were visiting alone, my first to the hospice unit, he asked his significant other, of 20 years, to “give us a minute,” and she left, smiling at me and nodding her head. We had become close friends, over the years that they were together, and she was in jeopardy of being disinherited, and had sought my advice, as a lawyer whom she trusted, to give her needed advice.
She had briefed me, as to the shenanigans and other unlawful acts that his blood relatives had been perpetrating upon them. None of them had a hint of humanity, ethics, nor any consciousness of the moral right and wrongs of one’s own acts, nor of their improper motives.
Realizing that his ending was imminent, he had done the right thing, and, finally, married his caretaker, in a short, but sweet, ceremony in their home, just ten (10) days before he first went into hospice. He was weak, and could not stand up, but none of his loved ones were aware of his disease, nor its severity.
My friend had known of a serious health condition which had appeared two (2) years before his passing. Without the consent of his then significant other of some eighteen (18) years, he had made a selfish, personal decision not to seek, nor to attempt to try to repair his health then. That decision had directly led to his sudden, never-before suspected by any of us, demise.
The cast of infidels is too long to describe here. Each behaved outrageously, when one by one, they raced over to beg my buddy for gifts. One sibling, egregiously and blatantly demanded $10,000, before my friend passed. He, the most unethical of them all, did not trust the new wife, to do the right thing, after my friend was gone. That unsupported, untrue aspersion was no both desperate and defamatory.
I am sad to report that nothing changed, as my friend weakened. Only the co-conspirators’ fanatical insistence upon getting their demands gifted to them before my friend passed. The accelerated timing of their final, insistent demands, were shameful, now, in my friend’s final moments of divine grace.
Most humans know what shame consists of: dishonor, disgrace, and a realization that we may have done something wrong. In this case, my friend instantly became beholden to a group of blood-sucking relatives, who tried to influence the decedent’s mind, as to the disposition of his estate. They cajoled and badgered him, in his last few weeks, despite the decedent having made his heartfelt intentions perfectly clear, before his ultimate demise.
My friend was clever and ultimately, deceitful, in order for him to accomplish his true dispositive intentions. To protect his new wife from the slings and arrows that the robbers were shooting forth recklessly, my friend told everyone that he was giving his entire estate to his thirty-year old son, who was dysfunctional, had no education, and no ability, nor judgment to deal with a sizable estate or the jackals preying on it. That made the ne’er-do-good relatives apoplectic, and they insisted that they receive their expected “gifts,” before my buddy passed away.
If this tale of woe seems sad, I must admit, that right up until the very end, the relatives all believed that he was going to disown the new wife, in his “last” Will and Testament. Severe arm- twisting had gone on for the entire four months that my friend was bed-ridden, trying to throw his true and only caretaker under the bus. It had appeared to all of us on the outside, that the blood relatives had indeed prevailed. It also appeared to the new wife, that my friend had omitted her, in favor of the blood relatives, and others.
Just a week after he left us, the lawyer, who may have been in deep psychic and physical pain, was, to the very end, conscious as to his final mission. Indeed, when the signed version of his Last Will and Testament was read aloud, at his lawyer’s office, just one week after the service, the slimy, scheming, selfish and totally narcissistic heirs, each of whom believed on the day of the funeral service, that they had indeed stolen my friend’s fifty years of blood, sweat and tears, away from his new wife, in their favor, were in for the rudest awakening of their lives.
They were cursing and shouting obscenities, and feeling “cheated,” with the final, fair, fundamentally-righteous result. My friend had changed his Will only the day before he passed, and made his new wife the sole beneficiary.
The moral of this disturbing story for me, was to stay loyal to the end, and to trust in a friendship and knowledge of some 40 years span, and pray that the right result might prevail.
My friend started with nothing, but his intelligence, pride and sense of righteousness prevailed. He ended his adventure with dedicated, intention to do the right thing, against all odds.
He must have been chuckling as he sailed into the gates of heaven, without regard to the roiling dissonance he had left behind. His new wife was shocked, but overjoyed at the sudden, but appropriate, outcome. All’s well that ends well!