By Roger A Wilbanks
There was definitely something different about Brian Krewsloge when he walked into work today. The receptionist Janice picked up on it immediately. Brian spoke to her.
He never did that.
Most of the time the only acknowledgement she received was an indiscriminate hello. Any more than that usually required some sort of national holiday. It wasn’t that he was rude, he simply kept to himself. But today, he asked her how her day was going. He asked about her little boy and how his hockey team was doing. The conversation was kind and not forced in a way that was just counter to the way he usually did things. This was not the strange part however.
He smiled, too.
Brian had developed a reputation as a hard-ass. While he wasn’t necessarily mean spirited, he took the hard projects and got them to work. He ruffled a few feathers in the process because, while he was cordial to all whom he dealt, he was never nice. His was not a reputation for mincing words or accepting excuses.
Today he stopped seven people in the hallway and struck up conversations with them. This was all before lunchtime. Timmy in accounting put forth the idea that Brian finally got laid, as everyone in the office knew he had been single since his divorce 5 years ago. This theory was discredited when Brian’s mood remained the same three weeks after what had already been nicknamed the “Nice Day” day.
Brian just changed personalities for the better and no one could figure out why. He made the coffee everyday even though he never drank it. He helped coworkers move large file folders when he passed them in the hall. He even stayed late and helped Kenny the custodian empty the trashcans. He talked to him for an hour and soon learned that Kenny’s grandson was the star player on an inner city high school basketball team that made the playoffs for the first time in 20 seasons. On learning this, the following day he started a collection to help send Kenny and his family to the State Championship in Houston as well as organized a group from the office to go to the game as well. He cheered the loudest when Kenny’s grandson scored the winning basket in overtime.
Yes, there was definitely a change in Brian and everyone noticed it. He and Janice started dating and soon a different colored bouquet of roses began appearing daily on her desk for no reason. Mr Jennings noticed the extra effort around the office and Brian finally earned the promotion he had grumbled so long about being overlooked for.
People complained that the New Brian was simply a ruse designed to obtain that promotion and that soon you would begin to se the Old Brian begin to emerge. They were wrong. Brian attacked his new role in the company with the same fervor he did all things these days and soon the company began seeing records that stood for generations fall one by one. Sales, Production, Organization. Each department that was touched by Brian saw a rebirth and was filled with a new sense of purpose and energy.
Brian was everywhere.
He managed to do all this and still maintain his budding romance with Janice. He attended every one of her son’s hockey games and even got tossed from one when her son got clobbered and Brian had to be restrained from attacking the opposing team’s coach. It was no secret that Janice was QUITE pleased with the New Brian in the bedroom. Janice would tell anyone that asked that Brian attacked that aspect of his life with equal if not greater enthusiasm.
All in all, three months of exposure to the New Brian had a magical effect on those around him. People were helpful at work. They hung out together after work and went to each other’s houses to watch the Big Games. Morale was at an all time high when Brian did another thing he never did before.
He took a vacation.
He had taken time off work during the 12 years he had been with the company, but he always stayed home. He never went anywhere fun. This time that was going to change as Brian announced that he was taking 2 weeks off to see Europe. Janice was unable to go so she stayed home and provided everyone in the office with updates from the daily postcards Brian sent from the places he visited. He saw all the sites he always wanted to see and even took requests from his coworkers.
It soon became everyone’s vacation.
The postcards arrived every morning save one detailing his travels and everyone gathered around Janice’s desk as soon as the mail arrived to hear what he saw that day. When his 2 weeks were almost up, he extended his trip by another week so that he could visit Asia. No one objected. The postcards from China, Tibet and Japan amazed all who saw them. Janice had bought a large world map and began tacking the postcards to the countries they were sent from so that everyone could track Brian’s journey. When he finally returned he was thinner and a little more tired than he was when he left, but the spark was still there in his eyes. He told Janice that while the sites he saw were amazing beyond words, the food and travel conditions left a lot to be desired. Brian soon returned to work and regaled any who would listen with stories from his trip that wouldn’t fit on the postcards.
It really came as no surprise when less than a month later, he took another leave of absence from the company. He had decided to write a novel. He was a huge fan of detective stories and decided to try his hand at crafting one. Janice was sure he would be good at it since he was such a talented writer and had a sharp wit. Brian locked himself in his house for several weeks, checking in periodically with Janice with updates. She was concerned that he was neglecting his health and had still not regained the weight he had lost on his trip. In fact, as time progressed, he was actually thinner now than when he got back. Brian insisted he was doing all he could do to maintain his health and that was the end of it.
Six weeks and 450 pages later, Brian emerged from his study with a riveting tale of deception and discovery that amazed all who read it. He made everyone a bound copy of his novel, which he titled “Gather ye rosebuds” and sent it to a literary friend of his in New York who had connections. Two weeks later, Brian received a letter at work from this friend informing him that his novel had been bought by the third publisher he shopped it to for quite a large sum of money. Brian took this news in stride and catered a large Italian meal for the entire office to celebrate. The question was put to Brian at this party,
“Will you continue working or, now that you are a writer, devote yourself full-time to that?” Brian became quiet for the first time in months. An answer was not readily available.
“I’ll have to get back to you on that one,” he smiled.
Three days later Brian Krewsloge died in his sleep.
Janice was the first to discover his body. She came to his house when he hadn’t answered her repeated phone calls to see if anything was wrong. She immediately called 911 and talked to the police. Brian’s doctor arrived at his house almost the same time as the police and he pulled Janice aside to talk to her in private.
“Brian was diagnosed with inoperable cancer 5 months ago. I gave him the option of Chemotherapy and hospitalization that would have prolonged his life probably 6 more months but he told me something odd when I did. He said, ‘Doc, I’ve spent my entire life living for tomorrow. For that one more day. I have to go to work so that I still have a job tomorrow. I have to pay my mortgage so that I still have a house tomorrow. I have to buy groceries so that I can cook dinner tomorrow. I have never lived for today. I’m 43 years old and I can’t honestly say I have enjoyed one single day of my life. I am changing that today. If you tell me I only have 6 months to live, I will tell you I have 180 days to do all the things I have dreamed of doing. I am going to live each one of those days like it was my last.’ That is exactly what he did.
Oh yes, on his trip to Europe, he did stop and see a specialist friend of mine for a second opinion. He learned there that his condition had indeed worsened. He was then sent to China to see another specialist. The diagnosis was the same. He was dying and maybe had 3 weeks left. I was ordered to inform no one of this. Brian was never one to seek or accept pity. That would have killed him faster than the Cancer. He wanted to keep this secret from everyone, even you. He spoke of you often and quite fondly. He gave me this letter to give to you when he finally passed on.”
Janice took the one page letter and began to read it as the doctor went to speak with the police officers. Tears flowed down her face as she read the final words of the man she had grown to love. In the letter, he thanked her for the love she had shown him and apologized for not talking to her much sooner. He asked her to forgive him for keeping this secret but he wanted his final days filled with joy. He asked her not to grieve for him but to take his cue and live each day as if it were her last. He said that this had brought him indescribable happiness. He asked her to relay these wishes to any and all that asked. He wanted this to be his legacy. He also informed her that she was the beneficiary of his estate. All he had was now hers. He hoped the money from the novel would provide security for her and her son whom Brian had also grown to love.
His funeral plans had already been made and his only request was that people not mourn him; rather they should celebrate what his life became. This would not be the case, however. Everyone that had grown to know this new life-loving Brian Krewsloge shed tears by the bucket on learning of his passing. His momentarily bright spark had illuminated the lives of all that he had contacted.
His funeral was standing room only. Even people whom he met in pubs across Europe attended the service. Janice stood to give his eulogy.
“Live today with the knowledge that you are going to die.” She said.
“Brian has that one small thing to ask of each of you. Smile at the person in line with you at the convenience store. Hold the door for someone and say ‘Thank You’ when someone does it for you. Give a dollar to a homeless man. Go see a silly movie. Stop at a park and enjoy the sound of laughing children. Pet a stranger’s dog. Do these things and you will make the world a better place. We are all going to die. Each and every one of us. The only thing we can honorably do is earn these last remaining days on this planet by making the lives of those around us better.”
She was greeted with a respectful silence. As the friends and family filtered past her though, they all assured her that they would do just that. They would all follow the example so briefly but brightly displayed by their departed friend. Janice did all that she could to maintain the memory, including giving birth to a 7 pound 5 ounce baby boy 7 months after Brian’s death. She gave the boy the gift of Brian’s full name and spent every day of the rest of her life trying to live up to it.
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