Three Months

Three Months

I was in downtown. Feeding a flock of pigeons at some random park I had wandered into.
A much older man came to stand beside me. I looked his way and he gave a slight nod with a smile on his face. I smiled slightly as I nodded back.
“I hope you don’t mind if I bothered you a little.”
I looked his way again and with a little shame I must admit my mind registered quickly that he was very well dressed and looked in no way like a druggie or destitute.
“You see. I have only 3 months to live. Cancer of the prostrate.”
I noticed now that he was sort of pale and quite lean as well. But still his “lines” started like the opening gambit of a “con”. But I didn’t have any “real” money and I was off for the day so I didn’t have anything to lose.
I wasn’t sure what to say to him after the “Sorry” I muttered quickly.
“Nah. That’s ok. I am cool with it. I am actually luckier than most. I had time to empty my bucket list.”
I went on feeding the pigeons and he went on standing by my side. I could tell the uncomfortable silence was from me as he looked completely content just standing there.
“If I could impose a little on you. Coming from a stranger, It’s a strange request I know but I thought I would ask all the same. Do you think it would be possible for you to arrange for a headstone for me?”
I glanced over and my mind was still processing what he had said when he went on quickly.
“Please. I will cover the cost for the headstone. It won’t cost you a cent. I really couldn’t tell you why at the moment. And yes, I do have a family.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. Yes or no or maybe.
“Please say yes.”
He dipped his hand in the pocket of his jacket and brought out a cheque for several thousand dollars which he handed over with a business card.
I couldn’t actually do anything else but accept the cheque and the card from his outstretched hand. The card indicated he was a lawyer. He was obviously one of the partners in the firm. I stood there with the cheque and card in my hand.
“Oh. You can put those away.”
I hesitantly shoved them in my pocket.
“How do I actually know when you … and where the grave will be.”
“Oh. That’s easy. I should be dead in about 3 months. You can call in to my office around that time.”
“By the way, I would really prefer if you use Mark’s Marbles over on 53rd and 4th. They do an excellent job. Besides, Mark is an old acquaintance.”
“Em. Ok.” My mind was still not fully decided on how to proceed.

“You know I fed those pigeons for quite a while in the past myself. It’s actually a way to relax and get your mind off everyday stuff for a while. Besides, this place won’t be the same without them.”
“Hi guys. Why are you back so soon?” He said to two young guys in suits who suddenly appeared and stood about three yards away.
He turned to me and said with a smile “My minders. I guess it won’t be nice if I just keeled over in public.”
“Well. Young man, it’s a pleasure.”
He extended his hand and I shook it.
“Ok boys. Let’s go.”
The two guys fell respectfully to either side of him.
My mind was in a blur as I watched him go. I wasn’t sure of what it was but it seemed I needed to say something.
“Hi Sir. Why me?”
“Well. If you are kind enough to feed the pigeons, I think you will remember a small request from a tired old man.” He said with a smile.
“What should I put on the tombstone?” I asked.
“Anything you like. Maybe some part of our conversation today. It doesn’t really matter. It was lovely making your acquaintance. I should say see you later but we probably won’t meet again. At least not in this life time. Be good!”


I kept the cheque safely under some clothing in my room. I tried to put the matter out of my mind but every few days I would remember the old man, the cheque, and the request.

Fast forward three months or maybe more appropriately go forward mentally excruciatingly slowly three months.
I made the call.
“Hi. Oh yes. So sorry. He passed away a couple of days ago. It was peaceful. There is a remembrance service for him on Saturday in case you would like to come.” The voice on the other end of the line said.
I wondered what would have happened if I had called two days earlier. But I had kept making the call literarily to the day three months later.
I went for the remembrance service. The church was full. Several of his associates and friends gave short eulogies. No one cried as far as I could tell. Lots of smiles and back pats. I don’t know if it’s appropriate to “enjoy” a remembrance service.
I thought briefly of trying to make contact with some close member of his family. But I couldn’t think of what to say to them that won’t make be sound like a con man or some nut job.
He had indicated that a week or so after the burial should be about right to go place the order for the headstone.
So one sunny morning, I took a short break and found my way first to the bank to cash the cheque and then on to Mark’s Marbles.
It appeared they were expecting me.
I was ushered into the inner office of a gentleman I suspect would be about the same age as the dead lawyer.
A brief exchange of pleasantries during which I discovered he was “Mark” and it was on to business. He asked me to tell him about my encounter with the old lawyer in as much detail as I could remember.
I did.
“May I see the money?” He asked.
I handed over the cash. He barely looked at it. Instead he looked at my face curiously for a while. He tapped the edge of the bundle of notes in his hand on the table. He appeared to be thinking.
Then suddenly he dropped the money on the table. Pushed it across to me.
“That’s yours.”
I indicated I didn’t quite understand as the money was meant for the headstone.
“Don’t worry about it. He got a headstone shortly after his burial. You can go look for yourself.”
“Also”, he said as he pulled out the top drawer of his desk.
“This is for you.”
He handed over a cheque.
I took the cheque hesitantly. Something was not quite right. First I didn’t have to order a headstone. Second, I got the money back. Third, I am getting a cheque?
I couldn’t believe what was written on the cheque. Same figure as the cash I just got back but with four extra zeros tacked on behind it.
“Is this real?” I blurted out.
“But of course.”
“He had a sense of humour, a large heart and the way he saw certain things changed a lot towards the end.”
“It’s all yours. Looks like a lot. In fact it is a lot of money. Invest it wisely. But just as important, don’t be a slave to it. Enjoy yourself. You will be surprised how easy it is to lose something like that. I guess he mentioned his bucket list to you.”
I nodded in the affirmative. I was lost for words.
I got up to go. But I couldn’t help ask a couple of questions that came to my mind.
“Do you think he gave this to many people?”
“Yes. Ten I believe. His social experiment.”
“How many have been claimed?”
“Two including you.”
“The more interesting question is how many of the original cheques have been cashed.”
“How many?” I couldn’t help being inquisitive.
“Seven as at the last count.”
“If the money isn’t claimed in six months, it goes to some of the non-profits his foundation supports.”
“I don’t believe I will be seeing any of those other five, but one can always hope. Also there are still three others out there.” He said with a smile.

“Feel free to come around at any time. I can’t guarantee any world changing advice but at least you can benefit from not repeating certain mistakes I made in the distant past.”

He offered me lunch but I declined. I needed to be alone to process what had just happened to me properly. Besides my stomach was in no state to absorb anything. I promised to talk to him soon though.

I sat there in the dark and thought of the old lawyer. I remembered his face and the last thing he said as he walked away with his “minders”:

“I should say see you later but we probably won’t meet again. At least not in this life time. Be good!”

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