Choice Given …
Amos McKinley is in fairly good health at the age of seventy-nine. He lives in New York City on a main street, but he did not mind the traffic. He has lived in the same building for 40 years and gave up on cars many years ago. Amos walks or takes a cab to any where he has to go. This morning he took a cab to his doctor’s office.
This was not a regular checkup visit, but a consultation with the doctor to go over all his test results from referrals Dr. Roger Jensen had ordered at the last visit. The news was not good. Jensen told Amos the cancer had come back. He had been in remission for almost three years after all the treatments. “We have to get you started right away on the program, Amos, and nip this in the bud.” He would be admitted to the treatment center where he would have a private apartment and go back on treatments, which he did not want to do. “How soon do I have to decide, Roger?”
“Decide? Amos it is not a choice given to you, you have to be admitted as soon as possible. You do not have the luxury of taking time to decide. I will go ahead and make all the arrangements to get you settled in. I will call you when they have a suite ready for you. It will not take long to get you in there.”
Amos decided to walk home and go through Central Park. He stopped at the deli and picked up a Swiss and pastrami sandwich, milk, and a bottle of orange juice. “On second thought, double that order. Two sacks,” he told the clerk. I might run in to Willard, he would enjoy a fresh lunch and I would enjoy his company. Amos had few friends left, most had died or moved away. Willard was always kind and Amos had become very fond of the young man.
He saw Willard on the bench by the lake where they always visited and sat down by him. Willard had been homeless for about four years now. He slept at a mission where he received breakfast and dinner every day, but lunch was hard to come by since the rule was the men had to leave the mission after breakfast to look for work.
They ate their lunch, talking little, watching ducks in the water and people strolling by. Amos had thoughts about struggling through treatments again and Willard was wondering about the job he applied for yesterday. The two men had known each other for a few years. Though at the opposite ends of wealth, they really liked each other and, other than life style, had a lot in common. Neither had ever married and had no surviving relatives. Amos’ only brother had died in childhood. They are quite comfortable with sharing silence or discussing anything.
After finishing their meal Amos listened with interest as Willard talked about the job he applied for. It was a position in a lawn and garden maintenance company. Willard has prior experience from three previous temporary jobs over the last two years. He should hear this afternoon if he got this permanent job. Amos was impressed and wished his friend all the best. “I would enjoy that type of job, working outside and tending yards. I so love taking care of my terrace garden. I am too old for doing what you applied for, but you are much younger and can handle that.”
“How did your doctor visit go?” Willard sensed it was not good news, but listened and empathized. “Well, Amos you know where I am if you need to talk. Here is my card with the address and phone number of the mission.”
Amos took the card and put it in his wallet. “Let me ask you something, Willard. If you died and when in Heaven you had a choice given to you to come back down here, would you? Even though you know how life has been for you, all the struggles you have endured, the state of our country and the world – would you come back into this same life?”
Willard did not hesitate. “If the choice given was to come back here to this life? Hell no! I have had a bad life, no relatives, no kids, no one to love, devastated, poor, but I see it all as a lesson and the chance to grow spiritually. So, in my next existence I will be of a higher level. Given choice, Amos, I will go forward and ever on to betterment for my soul’s advancement. Ever onward till I reach my true home in eternity. Yep! That’s my choice given to myself.”
“My God, Willard! I never realized you are spiritual and know yourself so well.”
“What other way is there Amos? Are we not here to learn and grow? Even though it has been rough for me, I have learned to appreciate life and nature,” he motioned to the lake and ducks. “I also have learned how important kindness is. I know many people who have been kind to me, as you are, my friend. Kindness received has taught me to give kindness back.”
The two friends stood up, discarded their trash, and hugged each other. Amos watched his friend walk away. He never realized before that Willard walked with confidence and joy. Amos left the park in the opposite direction, in deep thought.
When Amos got home he called his lawyer and made an appointment. When Willard got back to the mission he received a phone call. He got the job.
Well, Amos did go back into the treatment center, but did not survive the ordeal. The last thing he thought about was what Willard had said about a choice given him. The on-duty nurse wrote in Amos’ file that the last words he spoke were, “Choice given? Hell no!”
At Amos’ funeral, a dignified man approached Willard. He introduced himself as Amos’ lawyer and requested a meeting with Willard. At the meeting Willard learned that Amos had been quite wealthy and left his estate, including the apartment suite he owned to Willard. Willard is to receive a monthly income gift for expenses to supplement his income from his job.
“What a guy!” Willard saluted Amos and gratefully thanked him. “I will miss you Amos. See you next time around my dear friend.”
When Willard unlocked the door to his new home the first thing he noticed was a large stone fireplace with a deep mantle. On the mantle were several photos of the park and ducks. There was one large photo of Amos and Willard sitting by each other on their bench and smiling. The photo had been taken about a year ago. Amos had recently written a note and taped it to the bottom of the frame, it said “Choice Given And Taken To Love Best Friend And Give Kindness Back.”
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns
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