Father Ignatius was met at the door of Parish House by an ashen faced Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, who said in a trembling voice.
“Father, I think Mr Luxton-Joyce is dead!”
“What do you mean … you think?” asked the priest.
“Well, Mr Luxton-Joyce’s butler rang about an hour ago and said that he had felt very faint and lost consciousness and has been taken to hospital. I haven’t heard any more since …”
Father Ignatius got back into his car and drove straight to the hospital.
He made his way to the main reception where he was well known as a regular visitor and asked which Ward his friend and church benefactor was in.
“Oh … he’s not in any Ward,” said the receptionist, “Mr Luxton-Joyce is in a private suite on the third floor, and he has brought with him a personal nurse to look after his needs. You’ll need to announce yourself to her …”
The priest hurried up to the third floor and was met by a stern faced nurse who wanted to know the purpose of the priest’s visit before letting him in. She insisted that, in her professional opinion, the eccentric millionaire was not to be disturbed by anybody and that the only visitor with him now is his wife.
The priest tried to explain in vain to the epitome of bureaucracy blocking his entrance to the private suite when God must have lost patience with her and intervened by making a distant phone ring.
“Wait here … and do not move!” she said harshly as she went to answer the phone.
Father Ignatius must have suffered another bout of deafness because he didn’t hear her properly and entered the large room to be met by a tearful Rose, Theodore’s wife.
He was lying in bed asleep with an oxygen mask on his face and tubes and bleeping equipment all around him.
“He’s resting at the moment …” Rose said as the priest sat down on a nearby chair. “He fainted last night after exercising on the treadmill and we phoned for an ambulance. The doctors have checked him out and they said it’s extreme exhaustion. He should take it easy in future …” she smiled feebly.
The priest smiled back and said a thankful silent prayer. He then brought out his Rosary and they started praying quietly. At the third decade Theodore stirred a little and opened his eyes. He tried unsuccessfully to remove the oxygen mask on his face.
“Take this off me …” he mumbled, “I’m not a dog to be muzzled like that …”
Rose carefully removed the oxygen mask and Theodore blinked once or twice and then seeing Father Ignatius he said, “Hello Padre … are you here as a friend or in an official capacity?”
“How are you feeling?” asked the priest gently.
“Oh … I’m fine … not dead yet! At least I don’t think so … although that nurse out there makes me wish I was … what?”
Father Ignatius smiled.
“I don’t know what the fuss is all about …” continued Theodore, “can’t a man faint a little without being rushed into hospital?”
“I understand you’ve been overdoing things,” replied Father Ignatius trying to reassure Rose as well as the stubborn eccentric.
“Nonsense … in business you can’t overdo things … For years I’ve worked hard to be successful and I’ve never slowed down or taken my eye off the ball … what?”
“At least don’t use that treadmill as often … and so vigorously …” pleaded Rose.
“I won’t switch it on …” he smiled with a wink, “and I’ll take it easy by walking on the treadmill width-wise side to side rather than along its whole length!”
Father Ignatius continued the Rosary prayer and after hearing the man’s Confession he gave him and Rose Communion.
They then discussed the fragility of life and how vulnerable we all are as we walk the tight rope balancing life from death.
In a rare serious moment Theodore admitted that in his pursuit of success, more often than not spurred by an up-bringing where failure was not an option, he had neglected the spiritual more important focus of his life.
“That’s really taking your eye off the ball … what? Padre!” he chortled.
“Keep your mind set on the things that are in Heaven, not on things here on earth!” replied Father Ignatius with a smile.