«Welcome to all my fellow residents, our lovely staff and friends. Today, I feel like I’m in a good place. The brightness of the sky seems to ease my eyes, the wind seems gentler, and there are birds that I remember only seeing on my first day here.
«That was 13 years ago, my dear friends. Like most of us, I did not choose to come here. Like most of us, I thought my life was over.»
That fateful day flashed before Maggie’s eyes. The coldness of her son Spencer’s voice, their final goodbye that was painful to her, the slamming of the car door. Maggie could remember everything she had felt that day.
«You have become a burden to your legacy, mother. The mansion, the steel company, all of it is suffering because of you. Your memory loss is getting out of control. So you have a choice: go to a nursing home or a mental institution.»
A shiver brought Maggie back to the present moment. «But then, as you all know, there was a hand that rescued me.»
Maggie chuckled with emotion, and the audience turned their gaze to the janitor and smiled.
Damien smiled back, awkwardly adjusting his uniform. Looking at Maggie, Damien remembered their first meeting.
A small, graceful old woman stood in front of the gate, her uncombed silver hair flying in the air and two suitcases scattered at her feet. Damien remembers thinking, «This looks like a portrait.»
At the time, Damien had just joined the nursing home as a janitor. He observed that the elderly woman had not moved an inch for several minutes.
«Ma’am, are you okay?»
That’s when he saw her eyes. They looked exhausted and red — as if they had been crying all night. But what struck Damien was that the woman’s eyes were lost. She was looking at him, but she wasn’t really there.
«Let me give you a hand.» Damien picked up the suitcases and offered the woman his arm to hold.
Maggie had clung lightly to his arm and walked with a slow shuffling step. She didn’t say a word. Not that day, not that entire week.
After several days, the first word Maggie spoke was «Damien!»
Damien was cleaning his room while listening to music on his headphones. He was shocked to hear Maggie speak so loudly and clearly. «Yes, Ma’am?»
«Call me Maggie. What are you still listening to?»
«It’s nothing. Just a little music.»
«I want to hear some. Could you… ?» Maggie waved, asking for the headphones.
It was the first time she’d heard «Sweet Child O’ Mine.» For someone who had only listened to Bach, Mozart and the like, she was instantly fascinated by the song’s raw emotions and imperfections.
«I want to play this song! Is there a piano here?»
The nursing home did not have a piano. But that changed the next day.
Maggie spent money out of her own pocket and had a brand new piano delivered to the facility. She would have loved her old piano, but Spencer had ruthlessly given it away just before she left the house.
No one knew how the frail little lady had managed to pay for a new piano, or that she was the wealthy widow of one of the most successful industrialists of her day.
The piano was the first of many changes Maggie made to the boring old house.
Over the next few weeks, she got together with a few other residents and devised a grand plan to renovate and modernize the nursing home.
At first, the management didn’t care, pushing back on the ideas, citing a «lack of funds.»
But that couldn’t stop Maggie and her friends. They organized a fundraiser, pulling every string they could, using every influential contact they had. And when that fundraiser became a huge success, they did another. And then another. Within the first two months of Maggie’s arrival at the facility, she and her friends had raised enough money to renovate half the space.
Maggie kept busy during the day, overseeing renovations, conducting meetings and enjoying the new amenities. And during those hours, Damien went above and beyond his cleaning duties and lent his hands to help.
Whether it’s designing a new proposal on the computer, setting up the new coffee machine, or organizing the guest list for the next fundraiser, Damien is the first to offer his support.
Life was surprisingly good for Maggie, yet there were days when she would break down and cry in loneliness. Damien was the only one who saw her hurt and vulnerable side.
He was the only one who knew how Spencer and his wife had broken her over the years. And his concern for Maggie was genuine.
«I am your son. I will always be here for you.»
Damien was the only one who could hear her practicing «Sweet Child O’ Mine» on the piano. Maggie was a perfectionist, and every night she spent an hour practicing that song.
«There’s something missing,» she would tell Damien.
And Damien knew exactly what it was. The next day, he brought someone to visit Maggie — it was Damien’s six-year-old daughter, Annie.
«Hi, sweet Annie. What brings you here today?» Maggie took the little girl’s face in her hands and asked.
«Can you please play ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ for me? I love that song, and Daddy says you play it very well.»
«I don’t normally play for anyone, but you’re special to me, just like your dad. So here goes….»
Maggie started playing the intro and closed her eyes. A few seconds into the song, she heard a melodious and moving voice singing. It was Annie!
Maggie looked at the little girl, lost in the song, and she had tears in her eyes.
«Annie, you have the voice of an angel.»
From that day on, Annie would visit Maggie every chance she got. The duo would play and practice for hours, after which Maggie would help the little girl with her homework. Annie loved taking care of Maggie. She became the one to give Maggie her medicine every day.
These two talking and laughing together was the most beautiful sight Damien had seen in a long time. He hadn’t done much with his life as a single father, but seeing his daughter so happy, he knew he had done something right.
Damien wiped away his tears and focused on the present, where Maggie was on stage giving a heartwarming speech.
What none of them knew was that this would be her last speech.
The next morning, with Damien and Annie by her side, Maggie Grimes took her last breath.
While his beloved friends at the nursing home made funeral arrangements, his son Spencer and his wife waited for flight prices to drop so they could book a ticket to attend.
When Spencer and his wife finally arrive at the cemetery, well-dressed and with manners that don’t hide their arrogance.
«Hi, I’m Maggie Grimes’ lawyer. She wanted me to talk to you about her wealth, including her $2.3 million mansion.
Spencer’s face lights up.
«She left it all to a girl named Annie Williams, daughter of Mr. Damien Williams.»
«Williams? Who is this person? No, that must be a mistake.»
«I am Williams.» Damien came face to face with Spencer for the first time.
«I am the poor janitor whose life was changed and improved by the woman you left behind years ago. When she died, I was by her side. And my daughter, Miss Annie Williams, sang to her when she took her last breath.»
Spencer and his wife listened, shocked.
«And the last words she said to me were, ‘I forgive him, but I love you.'»