The serviceman – stay

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. Your son
is here,” she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several
times before the patient’s eyes opened. Heavily sedated because of the
pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young man in the Marine Corps uniform
standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine
wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a
message of love and encouragement. The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine
could sit alongside the bed. Nights are long in hospitals but all through the
night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the
old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the
nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused.
Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of
the night noises of the hospital – the clanking of the oxygen tank, the
laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans
of the other patients. Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words.
The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the
night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine placed the lifeless
hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she
had to do, he waited. Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of
sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her. “Who was that man?” he
asked. The nurse was startled, “He was your father” she answered. “No, he
wasn’t,” the Marine replied. “I never saw him before in my life.” “Then why
didn’t you say something when I took you to him?” “I knew right away, there
had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t
here.
When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was
his son, I knew how much he needed me so I stayed.”
The next time someone needs you…be there. Stay!

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