Written by: DeAnna Erdmann
“You’re the guy from the news, aren’t you? The one who lost his wife in the house fire and whose kid has leukemia?” asked the woman.
Harold sucked in a deep breath, silently cursing the media for exploiting his family’s tragedy. “Yes, yes I am,” he said as he folded the newspaper in his hand.
The woman who sat next to him could scarcely be called a full-grown woman. She was thin… too thin. Her blue floral print dress hung loosely on her body, shoulders and arms. She didn’t have eyebrows and she wore a beautiful sky blue kerchief over her head.
Harold’s heart softened. This frail-looking woman must be going through the same thing as his son Milo. Chemo and radiation therapies might kill the cancer, but they leave the person looking like death. “My name is Harold. My wife was Julia and my son’s name is Milo. He’s ten.”
“My name is Lisa. I have leukemia. I’m not going to make it, but I gave it one hell of a fight.” Her piercing blue eyes were looking off in the distance to a place Harold couldn’t even imagine.
“I’m sorry. That’s so hard. Milo has his fears, but his prognosis is good. Is there anything I can do for you? Can I pray with you?”
Lisa smiled deeply into his eyes. “No, thank you. The Lord has blessed me more than I can use in my lifetime. I am an only child. Both my parents passed away. I’ve never wanted for anything because of their Will.”
Lisa looked down at their feet. “Hey, we have the same satchel… haha, proof, God does have our best interest at heart.” Harold laughed under his breath, unsure of what to say next.
They both rocked forward as the train braked on its approach to the next station. “Well, this is my stop Harold. I hope you and Milo thrive. I didn’t know Julia, but I believe she would want you both to be happy.”
Lisa stood up and grabbed her satchel. “Thank you for the chat Harold. God bless you and Milo. May you both be healed.” She turned and walked to the door, giving one last glance at Harold before she exited the train.
Harold spent the rest of his train ride staring out the window, lost in thought about his wife and son and his train companion Lisa. He left the train and station at his stop, his body moving out of memory more than conscious thought.
Sitting down at his desk he pulled his satchel up and opened it to pull out the reports he had worked on last night. Harold stopped short. Staring back at him was an envelope with his name written on it. The envelope was sitting on a pile of cash. He snatched up the envelope and pulled out a letter. It read,
I was so sad to see the news and hear what has happened to you and your family. I am dying and have no need of any of this. Use this money to honor your wife and to support your son and to live. Truly live Harold, because I can’t. Live for me and live for your wife and do it well.
With All My Heart,
Harold refolded the letter and fell to his knees in tears. All his prayers answered and all his hopes realized in one strange encounter on the train.
“Is that true?”
Harold blinked away the memory at the sound of his son’s voice.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
Milo stretched his long legs across the dark grey sectional he was sitting on. “Is that a true story? I mean, you’ve told me it hundreds of times, but I have researched and I can’t find anything about a young woman named Lisa that had a million dollars and died of cancer.”
Milo seemed lost in thought as he spoke, absently running his hands through his hair. “I remember being sick and I remember mom dying… having her funeral in the chapel at the hospital because I couldn’t leave, ya know… but I don’t remember you telling me about this Lisa until I was a bit older.”
Harold smiled. “It was an absurd situation, Milo. Who hunts down a man from a television news story and secretly gives him a million dollars in cash, pretending she just happened to sit next to him on the train into the city?”
Milo chuckled, “Yea it is a bit crazy sounding.”
Harold grabbed his coffee mug off of the coffee table and slowly stood… being a 55-year-old man sure felt different than being a 35-year-old taking his teenage son on crazy adventures. “I didn’t touch the money for a long time. I cut back at work, remember? I took the remote position so I could stay with you at the Shriner Hospital in St. Louis. We had great insurance from my job and your mother had gotten our family life insurance when you were diagnosed. That money got us through her absence for a few years, but by then you were well into remission. I paid off the house and bought that old motor home.”
Milo laughed out loud. “That old thing shook like there was an earthquake every time I flushed the toilet.”
Harold couldn’t help but giggle too. “Hey, she wasn’t perfect, but we saw every state in the union with that old girl… well except for Hawaii. That drive to Alaska was crazy! You were trying to finish your senior project for your high school economics class and there was that stretch of the drive through Canada where we didn’t have cellular service for nearly two days. You were convinced that you’d have to submit it late and that your teacher would fail you.”
“I didn’t acknowledge you more than a few grunts until my phone beeped that it had service and I knew I could email it in.”
“But man did you eat! I think you went through three packages of hotdogs and four boxes of Mac ‘n Cheese!” Milo threw his shoe as Harold, who ducked out of the way. “I was 17! I was a growing boy… and besides, stress does that to a person.”
Harold choked down his afternoon pile of pills. Looking up he caught a knowing look in Milo’s eyes. “I guess these things are pretty similar to what you went through.”
Milo stood and went to his Dad in the kitchen. He was a bit taller than Harold, so it was easy to take him into his arms and rest his chin on his head. “Cancer brought us a lot of crazy and I’m not going to let it take one more thing from me.”
Harold returned his son’s embrace. “Come on champ, let’s go watch the news… we just might need to pay it forward.”