A nurse took an anxious young man to the bedside of an older man. “Your son is here,” she whispered to the elderly patient. The patient’s eyes opened only after she repeated the words several times. The older man was heavily sedated for his pain, and he dimly saw the young man standing beside him.
The older man reached out his hand with all his might, and the young man warmly wrapped his fingers around it, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.
The nurse brought a chair for the young man to sit beside the bed. The young man sat holding the older man’s hand, offering him words of love and strength all through the night. The dying older man said nothing as he held tightly to his son. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the young man could move away and rest awhile, but he refused.
As dawn approached, the older man peacefully died with the young man still holding his hand. The young man placed the lifeless hand he was holding on the bed and notified the nurse.
While the nurse did what was necessary, the young man waited. Finally, when she was done with her task, the nurse began to say words of sympathy to the young man.
But he interrupted her. “Who was that man?” He asked.
The nurse was startled, ‘I thought he was your father,’ she answered.
“No, mam, he was not my father,” he answered. “I had never seen him before in my life.”
The nurse was stunned by the young man’s answer and asked, “Then why didn’t you say something when I brought you to him?”
He replied, “I knew there had been a mistake right away, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realized he couldn’t tell whether I was his son or not, I understood how much he needed me to be beside him as a son. So, I stayed”
This is not a true story but an incredible work of fiction written by Roy Popkin in 1964. It was published under the title “Night Watch” in the September 1965 edition of Reader’s Digest. Due to its highly emotional pull, the story has been re-circulated online since the 1990s under various titles such as “Just Stay” and “He Needed a Son.”