Two Dead Night
Copyright 2020, John Manimas
The rights of the dead and dying are a controversial subject. According to state law, no one is permitted to participate in a planned suicide, known as "self-termination" among the legal literati. We do not prosecute individuals who attempt suicide and fail, or succeed. On the morning of October 30, 2020, Evelyn Strong was contemplating suicide, because she was freezing cold, soaked from a freezing overnight rain and being painted ivory-white by the first local dusting of snow. She could die that day, she knew, on purpose or by accident. She was not sure what decisions would make a difference. Not sure what there was within her power to decide. Just freezing cold.
Elizabeth Patton was also near death that morning, although reasonably comfortable in her home hospital bed, and less than two miles away from Evelyn, who was actually a distant relative. The space between the rich and the destitute can be surprisingly thin, attributable to circumstances surprisingly unplanned. Elizabeth was expecting to be visited by her youngest son that day, to talk about plans, plans for her estate, which was not lavish but significant enough to warrant decisions of interest to her descendants. Robert Patton arrived at 11:05 AM, kissed his mother on her forehead and said, "Good morning Mom. I love you today."
"I know," Elizabeth replied, "Did you find out what we can do?"
"Yes Mom," Robert said, "You can easily make a donation to the homeless shelter now, and it can take effect before or after your passing. You just have to sign the gift document, which I have with me. Attorney Patel will take care of it within forty-eight hours."
"Thank you. I have often had my doubts about what such organizations accomplish, but I need to perform this act of faith in people before I move on to the alleged better place."
"I understand, Mom," Robert agreed, "You have a right to distribute what you and Dad saved during your many years of hard work. Have you decided what to do about the house? It is old but valuable, Attorney Patel agrees."
"I'm not sure yet, but I will keep it in the family. You can decide whether to keep it or sell and divide. I'm growing tired of decisions," Elizabeth said in a strained, rambling whisper.
"You are still of sound mind," Robert said supportively, "our strong mother who keeps us on our toes."
"Yes," is all she could say, appearing to fall asleep.
Robert did not want to keep her awake. Let her rest.
The gift from the estate of Elizabeth Patton would be $100,000.00 plus $1,000 for its administration. The $100,000.00 was donated in the memory of Richard Patton, for the operating expenses of the Common Springs Homeless Shelter. Elizabeth and nearly everyone in town knew that the homeless shelter did much more than provide shelter for homeless locals. They provided a food shelf, daily lunches, and a clothing thrift store where the price could be zero when necessary. It was the modern version of the old Town Farm that faded into history when Elizabeth was a little girl. She remembered seeing the ragged residents planting carrots and turnips behind a weathered picket fence.
That night, Elizabeth drifted away and blended into the "better place" quietly while sleeping. At that time, Rosanna Campello approached Evelyn, who shivered under her pile of cardboard. Using a small flashlight, she noticed Evelyn's familiar sculptured wrinkles.
"Hello Evelyn. It's Rosanna. We have a bed free. It's yours if you just get up and come with me."
Evelyn struggled to get up, seated against the cold brick wall. "I thought you were always full."
"Yeah," Rosanna said, "We are usually full. But somebody left. Hurry up."
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