He lay on the bed, head slightly elevated. There were several tubes and a wire harness connected to his body in various places, but he found it still possible to roll a little to one side or the other. His aging frame and muscles got cramped from being in one position too long. He realized he was near death, but saw no need to make things any worse than they were.
His trusted assistant, Randy, stood by, making the notes for the final disposition of the man’s substantial assets. He had long ago passed on his many corporate responsibilities, but he was still quite the man, quite the hard-charging CEO even over his personal property. The vast array of things he owned or controlled privately still required a highly paid private secretary to execute his wishes. Thus, his assistant was one of the few people allowed free access in his final hours.
Consulting an electronic device from one if pockets, the assistant noted, “George is now among those waiting to see you, Sir.”
“Good.” The old man paused a moment. “He’ll wait until I’m ready. We have to finish this business today.”
“I thought George was one of your few real friends.”
The old man turned slightly on one side. “He’s my only real friend.”
The assistant’s mouth twitched just a hair, but he said nothing.
“You’ve been with me for over a decade, Randy. Of all the people I’ve ever employed, you were the only one whom I could trust. With you on my staff, I’ve been saved from losses quite often because you genuinely watched out for my financial interests. Your devotion to that one thing is why you get paid so much, and why you will reap even more in the end than you saved me.” He took a deep and labored breath. “You’re my best employee and you deserve every bit of it. But you aren’t my friend.”
Randy said nothing. Who knows what he was thinking?
“George never cared a fig about my property. He cared about me.” After a pause, “George cares about truth itself.”
They ran through a long list of assets and finally the last item was covered. Randy prepared to go.
“No, stay a few minutes, Randy. The only thing I can’t give you, I still want you to have. Just listen.” The old man signaled for security and called for George to be let in.
He was almost scruffy, dressed in sweats, worn hiking shoes, and an unmatching athletic jacket with some light stains on it. The man’s hair was combed, but still sort of shaggy, no styling at all. It wasn’t exactly clear if he intentionally grew a beard or simply hadn’t bothered to shave in awhile. The old man smiled, almost sat up, yet visibly relaxed when he saw George walking in the room.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting George….”
“Don’t be silly. I’m retired and I have nothing better to do.” He grinned.
Apparently it was an inside joke, “Yes, I know, we have all day.” The emphasis was obvious from the old man’s voice. It was a rare animation from the man many were sure had no soul at all. “Are you sure you don’t want that truck?”
“I’m sure. I’d have to find some worthy person so I could give it away. I don’t need anything like that.”
The old man smiled. “No, I suppose you don’t. You’ve used it plenty on my behalf, but otherwise only borrowed it once for someone else’s needs.”
“Nice truck, but it breaks down too often.” There was a twinkle in George’s eye as he grinned.
“Yes,” the old man said, seeming almost to drift away. “It’s how I met you, waiting for the towing service, which was even more unreliable than the truck.” He seemed lost in the reverie. “You knew immediately what was wrong with the engine and why it could never be fixed right. Then you helped me tolerate that awful heat while we waited for the wrecker. Is there anything you don’t know about?”
George shrugged, “Lot’s of things. I don’t know how to run a stack of major corporations.” He laughed.
“No, but you surely know how to run your life. You’ve seldom told me what I wanted to hear, but always told me the truth.”
“That’s because you listened. It’s no different from what I’ve told anyone else.”
“Yes, and today I’ve actually followed your advice, at last. After making arrangements to pay all the medical expenses, I don’t own a darned thing.” The old man breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly he turned to look at George. “Do you realize how hard it is to avoid taxes on giving stuff away?”
George shook his head. “Never ran into that. Never had that much to give away.”
The old man made some tiny gesture, and Randy slipped out. “It’s all someone else’s problem now. Let’s talk some more about that sense of peace you and I discussed the other day…”