It had been a lot of work, convincing his parents to let him visit Dan one last time. Dan...
When Andy was younger, too young to say "great-granddad", they had visited him and Lucy often. But after her death two years ago, Dan had started acting weird, or so Andy's parents said. Andy had noticed a change, but it hadn't frightened him like it did his parents. He was getting old, after all, and lonely without his wife. Andy argued that it would help Dan if they visited him more often instead of staying away, but he was only five at the time and his parents didn't listen.
Now he was seven, and Dan was dying. He wanted to say goodbye, and they couldn't argue that away.
Dan's room was homelike; if you hadn't come in through the hospital hall, you wouldn't know you were in one. He lay in a low, wooden bed with soft, green sheets and stared at the ceiling.
Andy hurried to his side and took his hand. "Hey, Dan! Look who's come to see you!"
The head turned slowly on the cushion, and muscles unused to the work tried to drag a smile into place; it was no comparison to the radiant young face hovering next to the bed.
Lips moved, a dry tongue tried to form words that wouldn't come. A warm hand grasped Andy's shoulder firmly, and he looked up into the sad face of his mother.
"He's nearly gone, Andy. Don't expect much, OK?"
Andy nodded mutely and watched a nurse giving Dan something to drink.
"Maybe we should leave and let him rest," suggested Andy's father.
"No, I want to talk to him," said Andy, tears welling up in his eyes. Dan turned away from the nurse, spilling water over himself. His lips moved again with no sound.
The nurse looked up. "You should leave, you are overexerting him," she said, but an old hand shot up and grasped her arm before she could usher them out. She turned her eyes back to Dan in surprise. "All right, they can stay for a few minutes. But you have to drink up first, understand?" Dan nodded.
Andy watched as the nurse took care of him, but he could hear his parents whisper behind his back.
"This is not a good idea."
"I know, we should leave as soon as possible, but he wanted to see him so much..."
"Well, at least he can't talk."
When Dan had drunk up, Andy sat down on his bed. He remained silent, his gaze fixed on his great-granddad and the young hand again holding the old one, while silent words passed between them.
After a few minutes, he burst into tears.
His mother was at his side in an instant, trying to drag him away from the bed, but he wouldn't let go. "Let's go, sweetie," she whispered in his ear.
"Not yet," he replied, shrugged her off and leaned towards Dan. Kissing him on the cheek, he mumbled "I'll miss you."
Dan's Adam's apple jumped, and words came, rough and hushed. "Don't be sad. I'll see Lucy again in heaven. Be happy for me."
Andy's brow wrinkled. "Heaven? You mean like the sky?" But Dan had turned back to staring at the ceiling.
"Heaven. We'll go to heaven if we're good. Many things have been done in the name of Jesus that heaven is not very happy about. Heaven, Lucy..."
Andy's mother took him by the shoulders and dragged him away. He was too stunned to resist.
"Let's go," she said. "He's so confused!"
At the door, Andy looked back. Dan's lips still moved, but he couldn't hear him any more.
"Mom, why did he say he'd see Lucy in the sky?"
"He is old and confused, honey, don't ask me."
"But you're working with the old and confused every day!"
"That does not mean I understand them."
"And what about Jesus?"
"Never heard the name."
Andy could see she was lying.