A Deathbed Secret

March 3, 2008
By Lindsay Cohen, New City, NY

Lifting my head as I awoke from my nap, I came to find that my friend was staring at me, propped on her elevated bed.

I could feel my hand’s imprint on my cheek, and my neck and back ached from my hunched-over position. I was in no mood to be watched, so I obnoxiously waved my hand towards her face to break her stare.

She turned her head away instantly, but didn’t say anything. I wondered what a dying woman thought about. Did she think about the past, or about her future?

I asked, “How are you today, Gina?”

This was how our conversations began for the past two weeks—the past two weeks in which I sat beside her, occasionally exchanging words, but being there in case she needed me.

She nodded her head slightly, and gave a feeble grim, ensuring me that she felt no better and no worse than usual.

I declined into my chair, making myself disheveled and as comfortable as possible in a dirty hospital seat.
I looked down and realized that I hadn’t changed my raggedy clothes in days. I was poor and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. This was an everlasting feeling that I could not shake.

I started to think about my work life, and how far behind I would be in all of my chores. My boss surprisingly understood my situation when I told him that my good friend was dying, and she couldn’t afford a nurse, so I needed to care for her. He told me to take as long as I needed, and that my job would be waiting for me when I was ready.

“You’ve been a great friend,” said Gina, bluntly. I jumped a little in my seat upon her breaking the silence between us.

“I wish there was someway I could repay you, Maddy,” she continued.

I placed my hand on top of hers, and assured her that she didn’t need to repay me. I was there for her because she needed me, and that’s what friends were for.

She had a dispirited look on her face; I would imagine she felt worthless because she couldn’t help me the way that I was helping her. She was just as poor as I was, if not poorer, and she was fatally sick.

My friend’s condition worsened over the next couple of months, and every day was a struggle for her.
As for myself, I lost my job. My boss was fed up with my work not being done. His excuse for firing me was that he thought I’d be out for only one or two weeks, and being behind on months of work was unacceptable. I could see where he was coming from, quite honestly.

It made sense that the only feeling I had at that point in my life was stress. My friend had become my life: she was my job, my friends, my family. I had lost touch with the outside world. The hospital was my home, and this hospital chair was my bed. I suddenly had an epiphany.

What am I doing? Enough is enough. I need to return to my normal life.

I reached over to the nightstand by her bed and grabbed that day’s newspaper. I flipped through the pages of job listings.

By the time I was through, I had at least ten different office numbers in my hand. I was desperate and willing to do almost anything that would pay.

I felt like I had felt two years ago, when I was merely a girl finding my place in life. Two years ago I had searched the paper for job offerings. Two years ago I found a descent job that I had stuck with all this time. And now I’m starting all over. I was driven mad, and I savagely shredded the papers I had torn out until they were no more than a hundred flimsy pieces.

Something inside of me burst, and I shot out of my seat. I paced the room with my eyes on the floor, as I prepared an explanation for my abrupt behavior.

“This won’t do! This just won’t do! I’ve been here for three months, straight, now! Can’t you tell me to leave? Can’t you tell me to go out and find a new job? Can’t you tell me that I shouldn’t come back here until my life is on track again?

Gina lay on her bed like a mute.

“My life is falling apart! Gina, you’re a great friend of mine. But I can’t do this anymore. I need normalcy. Of course, I’ll come back every night and stay with you. But I need to work. I’ve lost a lot now, but I could still lose more if I don’t do something. I’m sorry.”

I sprinted out of the room, and out of the hospital, running from the building as if it were trying to take my life.

My car— invaluable, unwashed, and dysfunctional—was opened. It was the most pitiful-looking car in the parking lot.
I hadn’t been home for four days, and all I wanted to do was sit at my kitchen table and think about my situation.

“Please start. Just this once. I need to get away from here.” I was asking my car to do me a favor—what had my life come to?

I began to cry when the car didn’t start.

“I give up! I give up! I give up!”

I was barely cognizant when a nurse tapped gently on my window with her fingernail. I opened my door, and she handed me an address scribbled on a piece of paper.

“Your friend wants you to go here and ask for Mr. Gold.”


She shrugged her shoulders and walked towards the hospital.

The paper read, “Mr. Gold. Forty Seven Millburn St.”
What did she want me to do now? How many more favors could I do for her?
I made a deal with myself. It would be justified for me to use Gina’s car to get home if I made a stop at forty seven Millburn Street for Gina on my way.
I slipped into Gina’s driver’s seat, started the ignition, and pulled out of the parking lot.
After a fifteen minute drive, I arrived at a small, brick building. On the building’s face were gold letters that read “The Law Office of Mr. Gold.”
There were two glass double doors leading to the inside of the building. Mr. Gold’s office was to the right of the entrance.
It was late and I was surprised to find that the man who I presumed to be Mr. Gold was still working.
I knocked on his slightly ajar door, and he looked up from his paperwork and motioned for me to enter.
“Mr. Gold?”
“That’s me. What can I do for you?” He was friendly, but simultaneously disinterested. He occasionally made eye contact with me, but he was mostly consumed with his paperwork.
“I’m Madelyn Pross. My friend, Gina Moore, told me to come here.”
He stopped scribbling and shuffling and looked at me with wide eyes.
Quickly, he got out of his chair and came around his desk towards where I was standing.
“Come here, darling.” He became more attentive as soon as I mentioned Gina’s name.
He was holding a delicate, white envelope that appeared to be empty. “This is for you,” he said, handing me the envelope.
“I was instructed to tell you nothing. Gina said that all of your questions will be answered in here.”
This was by far the strangest experience I’d ever had in my life. I could not fathom what was happening; I had not the slightest clue what to expect.
“So, that’s it?” I verified.
“That’s it,” he assured me.
“Thank you,” I said, as I turned to leave the office.
There was no way that I could describe my feelings at that moment. I was bewildered, thrilled, thankful—thankful for the least bit of excitement in my life. I was angry, mostly because there was something that Gina had been keeping from me. I was eager to open the envelope, even though I had uneasy feeling in my gut.
“Your welcome.”

I opened the envelope in the car. Inside were two slips of paper: one, a letter from Gina; the other, a note with few words. I read the letter, first:

Dearest Madelyn,

There is a part of me that’s unknown to you. I have not kept it from you to harm you in any way. I have kept it from you because I feared that you would abandon me if you had known.

My family comes from old money. I have always led you to believe that I was needier (monetarily) than I actually am. I actually have inherited a large sum of money.

You see, I didn’t choose to live a luxurious life because that life is a lonely one. I know that you don’t consider me your best friend, but I consider you mine. I’ve been lonely my whole life, and I was never treated well by others. But you were different towards me. You were always charming and benevolent, and so were your friends. I did not believe that you would have accepted me if I’d lived so generously, so I decided to keep my money a secret.

I’m glad I made that choice. You were the only person I could turn to when I was sick. You stuck by me, and you lost your job and your life for me. There is nothing that I can do to compensate for everything you’ve lost. Nevertheless, I want to at least try and help you.

Enclosed you should find (along with this letter) a sheet of paper that lists my possessions. From now on, my money is your money. There is no one else that I love enough in this world to give my possessions to, so please do not feel awkward at this proposition. Remember: you helped me already, and now it’s my turn to help you.

Thank you, Madelyn, for being so kind to me and for being my best friend. You are truly an incredible person.
Yours truly,

I stared at the letter for some minutes before I became cognizant again.

I looked at the other sheet of paper. Moore, Gina. Pin Number: 1807. Balance: $500,000. Seven acres of property in the state.

Still unable to grasp what was happening, I started the car and raced back to the hospital. I ran up the stairs to the fourth floor and stumbled into Gina’s room. She wasn’t in her bed.

I was out of breath, but I found a nurse and asked her where Gina was.

“Excuse me, have you moved Gina Moore to another room? I was here a couple hours ago and she was in that room over there.”

“No, mam, I’m sorry. Gina just passed an hour ago.”

Gina and I had never had an honest conversation with one another, and part of me felt as if our friendship were a lie.
Though our friendship when she was living had been shady, our friendship after she died was clear to me.
The conclusion I have come is to is that Gina believed that I was strong enough to rebuild my life after helping her. She knew all along that I would lose my job and have a fit, but she had planned all of that beforehand.
Gina had faith in me; she believed I could make something of myself. She gave me her fortune so that I could accomplish dreams that I never could have beforehand.
But something still bothered me: was this a true friendship? Or was it more like I had lent Gina my services and she had paid me for them? I like to think the further is true, but I cannot help but keep the latter in the back of my mind.

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