by Jon Moray
“How long, Doc?” Paul asked, mentally preparing himself for the worst.
His doctor searched the ceiling tiles for a way to lay the news on his patient. “One month, two months, tops,” he said, as gently as his demeanor.
Paul tried to hide the tears that oozed from his eyes. “My daughter is getting married in three months. I was hoping for more time. Are you sure? I don’t feel that bad.”
“I’m sorry, Paul,” his doctor whispered.
Paul dragged his feet out of the office with the sobering news he was dying from lymphoma, at age 64. His drive to his senior living home was a blur of motorists coming and going. He got to his unit on the second floor and made a beeline for his rocking chair located by a window that overlooked a shopping center and a busy intersection. This was his perch where he did his best thinking and heartfelt suffering.
His thoughts swirled with memories of those that went before him, his dad, mom, and wife. His dad was called home twenty years ago, his mom, ten, and his wife six years ago. He decided not to tell his lovely daughter the death sentence handed down to him.
Suddenly, something his mother told him when he was young skyrocketed to the forefront of his emotions. “When things are at its bleakest, pray and get as many people as you can to pray for you,” she told him, one day when they were in church. He had forgotten that sentiment and it didn’t register with him when his loved ones passed away, but it hit him now as if it was a call to action.
He now focused on the supermarket across the street and the specialty stores that flanked it. In his crosshairs was a sign store, and a light bulb went on in his head. “Perhaps I can hold up a sign asking for prayers,” he mumbled to himself, with wrinkled eyebrows and pursed lips. He was always a shy, hide from the spotlight sort, so this would be totally out of character for him. Still, things were at its bleakest and he felt he needed to act.
The next day, he drove to the supermarket, picked up a few groceries, and loaded them into his vehicle. He shot a glance at the sign store, and slowly crept toward the business.
“Here goes nothing,” he snickered, peeked through the window, and went in.
“I need a sign or two to hold at the intersection,” Paul said, and pointed toward the street.
“We generally sell in bulk, so only two signs would cost more.”
“I think five signs will work, if that’s okay.”
The shop owner smiled, “what would you like the signs to say?”
“My name is Paul Morris. Please pray for me.”
The proprietor scratched the side of his scalp. “I have to admit, I’ve never had a request like that.”
Paul explained he wanted to live long enough to walk his little girl down the aisle and bask in the father/daughter dance.
The proprietor smiled at the old man’s motive. “I can have these for you by tomorrow. I’ll throw in the sign holders.”
“See you then,” Paul said, and exited the store. Paul got home and spent the rest of the day strategizing where he would station himself at the intersection and at what times. That night he planned himself to sleep and awoke the next morning, nervous with anticipation and wonder.
He packed a cooler with ice, a few bottles of water, and crackers. He also brought a fold-up chair with a shoulder strap, and a ballcap to shelter his head from the Florida sun. He picked up the signs and parked his car in an empty spot close to the intersection where he would set up shop.
It took him two trips, but he was now ready, seated in his chair and holding the sign low. He sunk his head, mouthed a prayer, and lifted the sign over his head, watching traffic go by and facing the sign toward stopped motorists.
Minutes into his crusade, his sign was met with motorists waving, honking horns, and tilted heads. A sheriff pulled up, exited his vehicle, and approached him. He eyeballed the sign and sized up Paul.
“Sir, I have never seen an approach like yours, but you can’t panhandle here.”
“Officer, I am not asking for hand-outs. I am asking for prayers. Honest to God.”
The officer spied intermittently at the sign and the old man. “Okay, but I will have to run you off if I see you accept money.” The officer headed back to his patrol car and waited, watching Paul and, when convinced of his sincerity, he bowed his head in prayer.
The rest of the day was met with warm smiles from motorists. One lady that just finished food shopping made a beeline toward him.
“I just have to say, you are making quite a buzz with the sign you are holding. I overhead several people talking about you in the supermarket. Have you made much money?”
“I don’t need money, I just need prayers,” Paul said gently.
The lady’s eyes squinted, looking for a shred of honesty. “Well, here’s ten dollars for your trouble,” she said, extending her hand with the currency.
“I don’t want money, but will you pray for me?” Paul beckoned, with pleading eyes.
The lady flashed a warm smile, slowly nodded, and walked away.
Paul packed up for the day and headed home, pondering how many people would pray for him.
This was his routine every day, weather permitting, except Sunday. Sit and hold the sign at different corners of the intersection, depending on time of day, and traffic patterns. He was met with more and more people approaching him inquiring about necessities; money, food, and shelter. He respectively declined, accepting only prayers. The honking of horns became a popular affirmation that motorists would pray for him after an online post of Paul’s plight on social media went viral. There were times there were so many horns honking by stopped traffic, it sounded like a brass band ensemble by beginner musicians.
Three months came and went, and Paul was still around. The sign holding and the loving responses made him feel healthier and more vibrant. If the Grim Reaper was coming for him, prayers were halting his progress.
The wedding was approaching, but inclement weather delayed Paul’s plans to land on Thursday and he finally landed in New York on Saturday, the morning of the wedding. He was driven to the church by his sister.
Paul’s arrival at church was a palette of happiness, reflection, and sentimental thoughts, all battling for supremacy in his head. He engaged in warm conversation with the groom in the pews, directed traffic to attendants, and greeted his daughter when she and her wedding party arrived via limousine.
“Daddy,” she beamed, as her eyes glossed.
“Uh, uh, uh,” Paul sang, “no tears before the wedding. You look angelic, my little girl,” he said, offering his arm. One of the bridesmaids alerted the pastor to the bride’s arrival, and the procession was on with the wedding party filling the aisle.
Paul was alone with his daughter in the narthex, waiting for the signal to enter the church.
“I’m not going to ask if this is what you really want, because you always know,” Paul commented with adoring eyes.
His walk with her down the aisle was a bouquet of memories of her in sequential stages of her life. Paul took his place in the front pew beside his sister and noted every detail of the vows as if he would be tested on it later. He didn’t want to miss a thing.
The reception that followed nearby was a celebration of bliss that Paul wrapped himself in. The traditional formalities followed and then the deejay announced it was time for the dance.
Paul led his daughter to the parquet floor as the music began. She rested her head on his shoulder a moment and then looked at him with glossed eyes.
“Is it time for tears now, Daddy?”
Paul’s wet eyes matched hers. “I wish your mother was here.”
“I know, Dad. I am so blessed you made it here.”
Paul leaned away, perplexed.
“I know about your two-month diagnosis, your sign holding, all the prayers.”
Paul blinked repeatedly at the lack of understanding.
“Social media, Daddy. Once something gets on there, it spreads like wildfire. You’ve must’ve had at least one hundred thousand people praying for you. I am so fortunate you’re my dad.” She expressed, comforting her head back on his shoulder.
Paul pondered her sentiments for a moment. “I guess one could say I am a rich man,” he whispered.
His daughter gazed back up at him with sparkling eyes and said, “the richest man in the world.”
Jon Moray has been writing short stories for over a decade and his work has appeared in several online and print markets. When not working and being a devoted family man, he enjoys sports, music, the ocean, and SCI-FI/Fantasy media. Visit moraywrites.com to read more of his work.