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Yes, virtue is its own reward…but it also can bring sweet surprises

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

Painfully shy, the old man had been a loner most of his life. Reared by his widowed mother from the age of 13, he had made few friends in high school, in college, in the Army or during his career in government. 

He didn’t marry until his early 50’s and then again in his 60’s but neither marriage produced children. The first wife divorced him after he paid for costly dental surgery for a stepson. The second wife was a co-worker who likely shared his indifference to socializing. 

He lived 460 miles from his closest sibling and had not visited or hosted a family member for many years. But, as a federal retiree, he lived comfortably in the suburbs.

Infrequent phone calls were his only contacts with his sister and two brothers and their children, a total of 13 nieces and nephews. 

Eventually, his three siblings passed away. By then, his health problems and reclusiveness kept him from attending any of their funerals, an obvious source of hurt.

As old age further reduced his quality of life, his second wife developed dementia and was admitted to a senior care facility. His visits with her ended when the pandemic struck last year.

By then, he had become a stranger to almost all of his nieces and nephews. But two of them had not forgotten their eccentric uncle who had been a welcome visitor in their earlier lives.

A niece in Kentucky and a nephew in Texas felt sorry for their sick and lonely uncle with no family or close friends to look after him.

They reached out with love and compassion to discover that he, too, had become an invalid, now sharing the nursing home room where his wife lay speechless and motionless.

The niece made regular phone calls to cheer him up. The nephew sorted out his uncle’s legal affairs. Shortly thereafter, the wife died and the uncle said that he, too, was ready to die because, sick and alone at 87, he had nothing to live for.

His passing came two months later. His cremains and those of his wife were sent to the nephew for interment.

Two months later, the 11 surviving nieces and nephews received notice that their uncle’s estate would be probated in March. The caring nephew was named primary beneficiary and the loving niece is the secondary beneficiary. The estate is estimated at several hundred thousand dollars. 

The moral of this story is that doing the right thing is always reason enough but sometimes there can be other benefits.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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