Bert sat in the pew of the church building, holding a cane in his right hand. Dr. Hodges lay in front of him, fast asleep.
Bert lifted the corner of his mouth in a smile, remembering just how desperately Dr. Hodges had fought for Bert's life.
He had tried to waive Bert's fees, but when the hospital refused, he offered to pay for Bert's treatment himself. When he found he didn't have enough money to do even that, Dr. Hodges did the only thing he knew to do.
He prayed for Bert.
Bert had thought it silly. Well, not silly, exactly, but he certainly didn't think that it would work.
Mary Poppins had fit in there, too.
She'd stayed with him, not working for anyone, not even the Banks family just so she could be there for Bert.
They'd actually gotten married a few months after he found he had cancer.
Bert smiled and looked down at his ring. It was Mary's dad's ring, and it was so tarnished that it was almost unrecognizable in color. Bert didn't mind. Mary was his wife, and she would be there until death do them part.
Until his death do them part.
At least, that's what it looked like before Dr. Hodges had given up everything.
And the Banks had been there for him. Mr. Banks paid the fees for treatments that Bert absolutely needed and couldn't afford, Mrs. Banks had led a campaign to bring more awareness to cancer, and the Banks children were what kept Bert fighting.
Bert shouldn't have been alive.
Mary had stayed up when Bert was weaker than he had ever been, bringing him broth and bread. She had gently brushed his hair – that had grown longer than he appreciated it to be – out of his eyes, softly singing a song she had heard in America.
Dr. Hodges had eventually moved in with them, with Mary trying to find ways to support them all. (In reality, Mr. Banks provided everything they could possibly have needed). Doc would sit on the ground, leaning against the wall, almost asleep, and he would be talking to himself.
Or to God, rather, but it looked like he was talking to himself.
And the fact that Dr. Hodges had appealed to the most supreme being for Bert's sake…
Bert was touched beyond words.
Jane and Michael would come around as often as Mary would allow them, and they would occasionally sneak past her on the days she didn't allow them to see him.
It was on those days that Bert fought the hardest.
There were times, of course, that Bert thought that all the fighting in the world couldn't defeat his cancer. That even the most supreme being in the universe couldn't heal him. That no matter what he did, he was going to die, but at least he was going to die with his loved ones around him.
Bert had never been a parent, but he thought he understood when he saw the quiet strength of Jane. When he saw the evident pain on Michael's face. The thought of leaving them behind to face this cruel world without him…
That was enough to make him look Death in the eyes and laugh.
Bert turned to see his son, Aiden, standing at the entrance to the church with his mother and sister standing behind him. He smiled a bit when he remembered the fight he'd had with Mary, saying there was no way on God's green earth that his kids were going to be formal with him and call him "Father."
Aiden stepped into the church, slowly making his way to his father. He put his hand on his father's shoulder. "It's time that we get home, Dad."
Bert nodded, using his son as a crutch to help him stand. The two men made eye contact, and Bert said, "I need to tell him goodbye."
The younger man nodded, watching his 65-year-old father hobble up to the doctor's coffin. He craned his neck to see his father pat the doctor's folded hands. "I couldn't have done it without you, Doc."