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What's Left Behind This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


     Volunteeringat a nursing home every Tuesday and Thursday started as school-based service, butas I began to talk with one man, I went there whenever I had free time. His namewas August Richards.

When I started, I thought this would be boring, or awaste of time. I can't lie, that's how I felt. But as I continued visiting, Ibecame attached to Gus, as he was known. He became my best friend there, and mytime at the home was no longer a dreaded trip for school, but two days each weekthat I loved.

There was nothing I enjoyed more than to sit and talk withGus. He would tell me about his adventures as a fighter pilot in World War II,and about the steel factory he owned and how his business increased when the warstarted. Our relationship went from simple chatting to a friendship I wouldn'ttrade for anything. This man was 80 and still full of life. We went for walks andplayed checkers.

I had been visiting for about four months when thingsstarted to change. One afternoon, as I got out of my car, I noticed he wassitting outside on the front bench waiting for me, which he'd only begun to dorecently. I walked to him and he took my arm as we began our walk around theblock. As we walked, he began to talk, but not in his usual happy tone. I askedif something was bothering him, and he looked at me and said, "My fatheronce told me that everyone should make the best of life and take nothing forgranted, because what is left behind in life can never be given back to you.Promise me this, dear boy: make sure you don't leave me behind." As I lookedat him with worry, he lifted his head and smiled as if to reassure me.

When I left that night, all I could think about was what he had said, trying tomake some sense of it. When I returned Thursday, I walked up to the third floorto Gus's room and knocked on the door. No answer. I wondered if he was outsidewaiting for me. As I walked down the corridor, a nurse approached. She told meGus had died; he'd had a heart attack. I couldn't believe it. So this was what hemeant. Gus had known he was dying.

They allowed me in his room. Gus hadtold the nurses it was alright, I could take anything I wanted. He specificallyleft the checkerboard we always used. When I picked it up, I found a letterwritten in his chicken-scratch. It read, My dear boy, I couldn't have pickedanyone better to spend my last few months with than you. You were more of afamily to me than my own. I will miss you truly. Remember, if you don't leave mebehind, I will always be with you.

I couldn't help myself, I brokedown. When I'd said good-bye to him on Tuesday, it was the last hug I would everhave from him. I lost one of the best friends I'd ever had. But his note left mewith a strong sense of calm. He knew he was dying; he was ready. I attended hiswake and funeral and was invited to the reading of his will. He left me somemoney and belongings. Had I meant so much to him that he would do this for me? Atthat point I realized it doesn't matter how young you are, you can make adifference in someone's life.

As I keep his memory in my heart, Iremember what he said to me. I have left the nursing home behind, but he willalways be in front of me. His memory will never be left behind.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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