By Suzy Kassem
There was a man named Milo, and he was the most famous artist in the world.But even though Milo made millions through the licensing and selling of his artwork, and had millions of fans around the world, he died in his late 30s from being severely unhappy.
Because doctors could not trace the real reason for Milo’s sudden death, the life insurance policy put on him by his family could not be honored. However, it was not a secret that Milo had left behind a will. And so two weeks after Milo’s funeral, his lawyer called his parents and eldest brother to tell them to be present at the reading of Milo’s last testament — in his office the following day.
In the lawyer’s office, both Milo’s parents arrived on time as requested. However, his older brother, a banker, walked in half an hour late and apologized by saying that he was busy touring high-end properties with his real estate agent. Yet as the clocked ticked steadily for another hour, the lawyer still had not started reading Milo’s will. Impatient, the mother stood up in disgust and said to the lawyer, “Why did you tell us to arrive promptly on time, if you were only going to make us suffer more by waiting?”
The lawyer quietly replied, “We are still waiting on one more person. As soon as he arrives, we will commence the reading.”
“WHO is this other person?” the mother lashed back in anger. “Milo has no other family, or anybody more dearer to him than US!”
Yet the lawyer ignored her question and continued tending to his paperwork.
About a half hour later, a homeless man in tattered clothing strolled into the room. “I’m sorry for my delay,” he stated politely, “I made it here the fastest I could on foot, but I couldn’t find a safe place to store my cart.” He then quickly scanned the room for a place to sit down and picked a chair furthest away from the family. “I hope you good people do forgive me.”
“WHO is HE?” Milo’s brother demanded nervously.
“This is Theodore Maximillus the 3rd, one of Milo’s dearest friends. This good man just arrived from California, where he had set out on foot from here two weeks ago just to get bushels of Nutmeg flower to cover Milo’s grave…as your son had once requested of him.”
“Well, I did hitchhike most of the way, Sir.” Theodore quickly corrected the lawyer. Then he fumbled in his chair while staring down at his holed-up shoes with humility.
“WHO is this impostor?” Milo’s mother shrieked. “Nutmeg flowers? I’ve never heard my son mentioning anything about Nutmeg flowers!”
“It was his favorite flower, Ma’am. It was the main subject in a lot of his paintings…if you paid close attention,” Theodore replied.
Immediately, Milo’s mother turned silent to reflect on the man’s words. And from the corner of her eyes, she studied him with great curiosity. Then, the lawyer started reading Milo’s will.
After fifteen minutes of legal jargon, the lawyer finally announced the verdict…
“I leave my entire estate to Theodore Maximillus the 3rd, to do with it as his heart wishes. And to my mother, I return to her my heart. And to my father, I return to him my brain. And to my brother, I leave to him my conscience so that he may one day use it,” the lawyer recited. “And thank you, my dear friend Theodore, for giving me your eyes, ears, and heart so I can leave to them my own.”
“THIS IS ABSURD! MY SON WOULD NEVER LEAVE HIS FORTUNE TO A MINDLESS BUM!!” Milo’s mother screamed. “I gave him everything, including life! What more could he want than that?”
“Have you ever asked him about his HAPPINESS?” asked Theodore.
The mother fell silent again.
Then Milo’s brother spoke up, “I called him almost every day. I was always there for him. I gave him tips and advice almost every night on how to manage his wealth!”
“And have you…ever asked him about his HEALTH?” asked Theodore.
Milo’s brother fell silent.
Then Milo’s father spoke up, “And what makes you so special over his own family?”
Without needing a second to think, Theo replied, “I gave him my heart, eyes, and ears. I was there to listen to him when he needed an ear. I gave him my eyes whenever he wanted feedback on his work or a change of vision. I gave him my heart whenever he showed me his, and after his death, my heart still holds his dreams.”
“And now YOU also hold HIS MONEY!!” Milo’s mother shouted.
“Ma’am,” Theodore intervened. “I don’t want any of your son’s wealth. If it means that much to you, then I have no intention of taking any of it away. Your son restored in me all that I had lost once before — and THAT is truly priceless. I had the opportunity to share moments with an amazing man with an amazing heart. That alone means more to me than any amount of money you could give me.” Then, Theodore reached down to quickly tie his torn shoe and gracefully walked out the door.
Sitting back in his chair with a crooked smile frozen on his yellow face, the lawyer finally added while shaking his head, “That Theodore Maximillus the 3rd — was the best district attorney this state has ever seen. He abandoned law years ago after his wife left him for working so much. It broke his heart. He was, and clearly still is, the most honorable man in the land.”
A flattened nutmeg flower that was once stuck to Theodore’s heel, now sat on the floor across from Milo’s family. They all stared it for a few seconds in deep contemplation, then looked down at their perfectly polished shoes with faces loaded with shame. — Suzy Kassem
Copyright 2011, Suzy Kassem. All Rights reserved. For more stories by Suzy Kassem, go here.