Clarence Goodman could hear the doctors talking outside his private room. They tried to whisper but weren’t very good at it. He’d been diagnosed with liver disease and lung cancer five years ago, but now they were both terminal. All the extensive testing done this week was to determine how much time he had to live.
“Mr. Goodman, we have the information you requested”, Dr. Ali said as he looked down at a chart filled with notes.
Clarence had been bald for the last two years of treatment and the lines in his forehead ran deep when he looked up to respond to the doctor. “What do you mean the information I requested? Like it’s my idea for you to come in here and tell me I’m going to die! What nerve you have young man! Do you enjoy this part of your work, telling people they have no hope to make it? You sure look like your enjoying yourself sonny boy!”
Both doctors looked at each other in a silence that was thick as butter, and who could blame them. It’s not everyday that you have to give this sort of news to someone that can make a few phone calls and suddenly you can’t practice medicine in the state of Georgia.
Mr. Goodman didn’t wait for them to tell him the cancer had spread to his brain and he was expected to expire in a few days. “So am I being released today or what Dr’s Curley and Moe?”
“Yes Mr. Goodman”, the taller younger doctor said. “You are being released today to spend your last days as you please.”
“Thank heavens”, Mr. Goodman replied. “You two can go now and send in my daughters to take me out of this retched place.”
The two men left out and Mr. Goodman’s four daughters rushed in with teary eyes.
“Now, now…it’s ok. Let’s not get hysterical just yet. I’m still here. Just take me home so I can enjoy my family”, he said. His children hugged him like he was the last teddy bear left in the world.
Mr. Goodman was admiring the trees lined perfectly along the private road leading to his estate when his older daughter Jessica interrupted his thoughts. “Daddy, we invited a few people over and most of the family is waiting at the house. We hope you don’t mind. I know you’re probably tired, but everybody wanted to see you.”
“It’s ok love. I am a little weary from that dreadful hospital, but I guess I can stand to spend some time with everybody…considering it could be the last time.”
Monique his youngest daughter, turned to face him. “Daddy! Do you have to be so blunt all the time! You’re dying and you act like your going to a business meeting. I hate when you do that!”
Clarence reached out to grab his daughter’s hand but she pulled back, folding her arms. “I’m sorry Monie. I’ll try to be more sensitive. I know this is a trying time for you and your sisters. I’ll try and change for you honey. I promise.”
Monique lifted her father’s arm and climbed into his bosom, tears rolling down both cheeks. “It’s to late to change for me now daddy.”
When the limousine arrived in front of Mr. Goodman’s twelve-bedroom mansion they were all sobbing in one another’s arms.
That night Clarence lay in his bed, his mind tossing and turning. An early conversation with one of his closest friends troubled him.
“Clarence. Have you made peace with God?”
Simeon spoke to Clarence on many occasions about Jesus. “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life Clarence. Give your heart to Him in faith, and He will make Himself known to you.”
“All paths lead to God Simeon. You’re my friend and I respect and love you regardless of your religious preference, but I just can’t accept that there is only one way that is right. How can your way be right and everything else wrong?”
“I love you too Clarence. You’re like a brother to me. The Word says there is only one way to the Father and that is through the Son. Why take an unnecessary risk? In all the days that I’ve known you, you have never taken unnecessary risks. Why now, when your soul is at stake. Will you take a chance at losing the only things that matters most? Please reconsider before it’s to late.” Simeon had a look of distress in his eyes.
“ I don’t mean to sound nonchalant,” Clarence said. “I’ll think about it my old friend. I’ll think about it.”
Now laying imprisoned by his bed and struggling to breathe, he’s thinking. Calculating. Weighing his options. Throughout his life he was a giving person. He gave millions to charities and other organizations. Even to those family members that spoke evil of him, and then called him when they were in need. He put thousands into churches even though he believed the preachers were just after money. He went out of his way to provide jobs for those that needed employment. He gave to the homeless on the street. He gave blood.
He forced his words, but they were thin and gravelly. “I gave of myself. Time and money! I gave. How can I not be at peace with God?” Before he could give or receive an answer he slipped into a deep sleep and was gone.
Now, Clarence Goodman stood before a great white throne among countless others. He’d been released from torments that seemed like a millennia. Angry and confused, he cursed in fits as he waited against his will to see why he was here. Suddenly, a figure appeared and His brightness temporarily blinded Clarence. Shielding his eyes, Clarence cursed again. “Who are you? I demand that you tell me why I am here. Now!”
Jesus’ face was full of compassion. A great peace radiated in His eyes and they glistened like flames. “You know who I am and you are here to be judged according to your works.”
“I’m sorry Jesus, but this has got to be some kind of mistake. I’m a good man. I shouldn’t be going through this. You must have the wrong person. There’s got to be a mix up somewhere. Please!”
Jesus was silent and still for a moment. He seemed to be sad as He looked into the hopeful eyes of Clarence. He extended His right hand in Clarence’s direction as if to say come, but Clarence couldn’t rise from his knees. Instantly a large golden book was opened and Jesus scrolled through the pages swiftly. Again His eyes met Clarence’s as he closed the book.
“What is it! What’s wrong?” Clarence was beside himself in anxiety.
“Your name is not written”, Jesus immediately replied.
“That’s preposterous! It must be there! This is a mistake! This is not happening!”
“It’s time”, Jesus said and went to a set of black books that were opened, and began to view the contents.
“Now what are you looking at?” Clarence dropped his face into both palms of his hands.
“These are your works”, Jesus said.
Clarence raised his head in expectation. “Let me see what is written about me.”
Jesus approached with the books and as He drew closer a foul odor grew stronger. He laid one of the books down close enough for Clarence to see the contents. Clarence began to gag uncontrollably as the pages were turned. His deeds, good and bad, were revealed. With the turn of each page the rotten smell was magnified until Clarence could take no more. “What is this!” he shouted and jerked his head away.
“Your righteousness,” Jesus said.
Clarence looked into the merciful eyes of Jesus and saw tears rolling down both cheeks. “What happens now?”
“You already know.” Jesus said.
“How can you do this to me? I don’t understand. I did so many good things in my life. You saw them yourself in the books! Don’t they count for something? I gave so much!” His pleading ended with deep sobs. “I thought you loved me.”
Jesus turned to walk away. “Your name was not written. I never knew you.”