“…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Richard looked at Polly. He smiled and took her hand.
“It’s going to be alright”, he mouthed softly.
Polly just shook her head. She didn’t know what to say.
Yesterday Dr. Patterson had called and said he needed to talk to them as soon as possible. It sounded urgent so they agreed to meet with him in his office at ten o’clock today. It was now ten-fourteen. Both Richard and Polly were anxious. They had learned to value time differently since Richard had been diagnosed with mantel cell lymphoma over four years ago.
His first round of chemo therapy had sent the cancer into remission, but three years later it was back; with a vengeance. The second round had not been as successful. Richard’s only hope now was a bone marrow transplant.
The call for a donor had brought in twenty-three applicants, including Polly and their son, Adam. No suitable matches had been found.
Dr. Patterson brushed through the door of his office. “Sorry I am late, Guys. Tough schedule today.”
Richard shook his hand, Polly hugged him.
He sat down behind his desk and opened Richard’s file. “Do you realize that we had twenty-three no match?”
“Yes, we know”, answered Richard. “Jonathan, Polly and I want to thank you for your efforts. Please don’t feel that you have failed…”
“Failed! We haven’t failed! Richard, number twenty-four was the lucky charm”, said Jonathan Patterson with a grin.
“I…what do you mean. Did you…?”
“Yes! We have a match!”
“Thank God”, whispered Polly.
“Are you sure? You didn’t tell us that someone else was testing.”
“He requested that we not tell you until we got the results.”
“Who… I mean when can we meet him?”
“How about right now. He’s in the waiting room.”
“Yes. Please send him in”, said Polly with a tear trickling down her cheek.
Dr. Patterson called his receptionist on the intercom. “Betty, please have Mr. Lassiter come in.”
“Lassiter?”, questioned Polly. “Honey, do we know a Lassiter?”
“I don’t think so”, said Richard with a puzzled look.
The man who walked through the door was about their age. He was a distinguished gray haired gentleman and appeared very confident and professional.
Richard, Polly, this is Dr. Walter Lassiter.”
“Walter Lassiter. That name is vaguely familiar”, Richard thought.
“Hello, Richard. You probably don’t remember me. It has been over forty years. You might remember me as “Chunky Lassiter.”
“Yes, Chunky. I remember you. You look great! Chunky… I’m sorry, Walter, this is my wife Polly.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Polly.”
“I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to meet you, Mr. Lassiter.”
“Please call me, Walter, or Chunky, if you choose”, he said with a laugh.
Dr. Patterson said, “Why don’t we all sit down.” He pulled another chair beside the desk.
“I don’t understand, Chu… I’m sorry, Walter. How did you find out about my situation?”
“Well, I am an oncologist in Baltimore…”
“Baltimore! I’ll be darn”, said Richard. “You came all the way from Baltimore? That’s four hundred miles away!
“I saw your name on the list of people needing transplants.”
“How did you know it was me?”
“I called Dr. Patterson and he confirmed it.”
“Walter, can I ask you a question?”, said Polly.
“Why would you be willing to do this? It’s been forty years since you have seen Richard?”
Walter hesitated for a second and then, with emotion he said, “Because your husband saved my life.”
Polly looked at Richard. “Is it true, Honey?”
Richard looked confused, “I don’t know…I mean I don’t remember if it did happen.”
“You wouldn’t remember, Richard, because I never told you. I never told anyone.”
After a short pause Walter continued. “Do you remember the day we became friends?”
“Yeah, vaguely. I remember you walking down the sidewalk loaded down with books and clothes and a bunch of stuff. You kept dropping things.”
“You stopped to help me. Remember I told you that I was cleaning out my locker at school?”
“Yeah, but I can’t remember why.”
“What I never told you is that I had made up my mind to commit suicide that night. I planned to go the garage after everyone else was asleep, start the car and wait for the fumes to put me to sleep.”
“I didn’t know, Walter.”
“You see until you came along I didn’t have a friend in the world. The kids at school made fun of me; my Mom and Dad were getting a divorce, which I blamed on myself; and I was failing my grades. I saw no hope and had decided that the world would be a lot better off if I were dead.”
“You were wrong, Walter”, said Polly admiringly. “Look what you have accomplished. You went to college and medical school and now you are saving lives.”
“That’s right, Polly, but without Richard none of that would have happened”, added Dr. Patterson.
“Richard was my outlet, my confessor. You probably don’t remember but I asked you a lot of silly questions.”
“I do remember that you seemed to be so serious. I tried to lighten you up. Remember my jokes?”
“Yeah! I remember your jokes but believe me they are not what saved me”, Walter said with a laugh. “What saved me was your willingness to just listen. You were the only one I could talk to; the only one who didn’t judge me. You accepted me with all my shortcomings. You loved me when I couldn’t find love anywhere else.”
“I remember. You moved away when your Mom and Dad separated and I never heard from you again.”
“That’s true but, Richard, I never forgot you and what you did. After that my life changed. I lost weight, I studied hard. My outlook on life completely changed.”
“Walter, I can’t begin to thank you enough. My gift to you was unintentional grace, but what you are doing for me is deliberate grace. Thank you, my friend.”
Richard and Walter hugged. Polly cried. And hugged them both.
“Well, I guess we have some work to do”, said Dr. Patterson. “Betty, he said over the intercom, “Could you come in here? We need your help.”