As I understand it, the following story is based on an actual event. Regardless its authenticity, it’s a good lesson in life.
A nurse was tending to the old man, who was a patient in the hospital’s cancer wing. The old man was hooked up to an oxygen tent, as well as several IVs. A young, fit marine, neatly attired in dress uniform, stuck his head in the door.
“Oh, your son is here to see you,” the nurse calmly said to the old man. She repeated herself several times before the old man opened his eyes. Heavily sedated because of the strong pain medication he was taking to deal with his terminal cancer, unable to speak, the old man, through a haze, cast his eyes toward the young marine, who then entered the room.
The old man weakly extended his hand, and the marine wrapped his strong hand around the old man’s limp, cold hand and lightly squeezed it. The marine took a seat in a chair, at bedside, and continued to hold the old man’s hand throughout the night, completely oblivious to the sounds associated with a hospital: the beeping sounds of a variety of medical equipment, the moans and groans of other patients, etc.
Early the next morning, around dawn, the old man died. The marine gently released the old man’s hand and summoned the same RN — still on duty — who’d originally been inside the room. She entered the room, and the marine waited outside while the nurse went through the steps of hospital protocol pertaining to a patient who just had expired.
After a few minutes, the nurse stepped outside the room, into the hallway, and commenced offering her condolences: “I’m so sorry, but he just . . .”
“Who was that man?” the marine interrupted.
Taken aback, the nurse replied, “Uh . . . ah, he was your father.”
“No, he wasn’t,” the marine said. “I never saw him before in my life.”
“Then, why-on-earth didn’t you say something when you first entered the room?” the nurse asked with a stern tone, a puzzled expression on her face.
“It appeared, right off, that I’d made a mistake and had come to the wrong room,” the marine explained. “But, more importantly, it was obvious the old man was near death and needed a son, and there was no son present. When I realized he was too sick to know whether or not I was his son, I just remained by his side to give him as much comfort as possible.”
“So, what, exactly, brought you to the hospital, all dressed up in your marine uniform?” the nurse further inquired.
“My mission was to come here and a find a Mr. William Greer Sr. His son, William Greer Jr., was just killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. I was to deliver the news to Mr. Greer.”
Looking at his watch, the marine continued with, “Not trying to be callous, but my mission, still, is to deliver to Mr. Greer news of his son’s unfortunate death. Could you, now, take me to him, please?”
The nurse’s eyes welled up with tears, her bottom lip quivered, and she leaned against the wall, shaking her head.
“Did I say something wrong?” the marine genuinely asked.
“No, you didn’t,” the nurse said. “In fact, you said the most beautiful thing I ever heard in my life.”
“Wh-wh-what . . . I don’t understand?” the marine sincerely probed.
“The man who just died — the one with whom you sat all night and held his hand — was Mr. William Greer Sr.”
Though he’d been taught to always maintain “marine toughness,” a tear fell from the marine’s eye, and a smile came across his face.
It never hurts to be the “one” for someone in need.
Mike Vinson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.