It was a night with a heavy rainfall and lightning. A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. “Your son is here”, she said to the old man. She had to repeat several times before the patient’s eyes opened. Heavily sedated because of the pain in his heart, he dimly saw the young uniformed marine standing outside the oxygen tent. The nurse bought a chair so that the marine could sit beside the bed.
The marine wrapped his toughened fingers around old man’s limped ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement. Occasionally, the nurse suggested the marine to move away and rest awhile. But he refused. Throughout the night, the young marine sat there in a poorly lighted ward, holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength. He was oblivious of the night noises of the hospital – clanking of oxygen tank, laughter of night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of other patients.
The dying old man said nothing, only tightly held to his son throughout the night. Along towards dawn, the rain stopped with the breath of the old man and the marine released the lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse.
After doing her work, she came back to the marine to give him words of sympathy but he interrupted her and asked, “Who was that man?”
The nurse was shocked. She said, “He was your father.”
But the marine replied, “No, he was not. I had not seen him before.”
The nurse asked keenly, “Then why did not you say something when I took you to him?”
The marine replied, “I knew right away there had been a mistake but I also knew that he needed his son, who was not present here. And he was too sick to tell whether I was his son or not. So, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed there.”
The nurse became silent and thought that he is a stranger even then he did all the duties of a true son.