The feeble, old man lay on his deathbed. Beside the bed sat his old, loyal friend who tried bravely not to cry or to show the anguish he felt inside.
Referring to his wife, the dying man told his pal: “I rest knowing she’ll have someone looking after her, helping her with her needs.”
“Let’s not rehash that,” his friend replied. “You’ve no cause to worry in the least thanks to your many years of good fortune and wise management. It’s sad that there are so few men out there with your business talents.”
The feeble old man’s lips couldn’t resist releasing a smile.
“I suppose I never told you the true reason I had such good fortune in my life or ‘business talents’ as you call it,” he said slowly.
His friend cocked his head a little.
“No,” he answered, “I suppose you didn’t.”
“Ya wanna know?” the dying man asked.
“Yes, I wanna know.”
“Remember when I had that rundown stable? Near the old inn?”
“Of course I remember,” his friend said. “It was your first piece of property. You were proud of it.”
“I was proud of it,” said the dying man.
“How did that rundown place bring about this prosperity I’ve been witness to all these years?” asked his friend.
“I’m getting to that,” the old man said. “Now, one evening they sent a boy from the inn to say a couple from out of town had no place to stay the night. Inn was full as it usually was on Saturday evening. Revelers.”
The old man’s friend chuckled.
“You can say that again,” he said. “I heard a lot of stories about that inn.”
“I told the boy they could stay in the stable with my meager collection of livestock if they could stand it,” the old man said. “Sure thing. They wound up staying there about a week. I’d go check on them now and then as well as take them whatever victuals I could beg off my friends and relatives. I’m glad I did. Turned out the woman gave birth that very first night. Fat little fellow He was. I’ll never forget it.”
“Why didn’t they move into the inn on Sunday evening or Monday morning?” asked his friend.
The old man shrugged.
“Oh, I don’t really think they had much money although they didn’t say that,” he said. “Come Friday morning, they were ready to leave—baby and all. Found out cause I’d gone once more to check on them. I’ve never met two people as grateful as those parents were. I told them I’d like to know their names since I supposed I’d never see them again. He said his was Joe, hers was Mary, and the newborn’s was Jesus. They pulled back the face cloth and showed Him to me. I took a little finger and bid Him farewell. Joe said I could kiss Him if I wanted. Well, I didn’t want to seem rude, so I kissed the little Thing on its forehead. I can’t describe the feeling that came over me at that moment. I just know I’ll never forget it and that it was a strange, numbly feeling.”
“You mean to say you date the onset of your prosperity to the time you kissed that baby?” his friend asked.
“That’s basically what I mean to say.”
The friend looked over toward the window and saw the evening’s shadows increasing their length.
“Guess I’ll mosey on home,” he told his dying old friend. “You try to get a good night’s sleep and I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t you pull anything funny on me.” He rose from his chair and walked away from the deathbed. In it lay dying the best friend he’d ever had.