Two able-bodied neighbors steadied Gordie on either side as he climbed from the car and wobbled toward the house after his first chemotherapy treatment – first and last, that is.
“It was awful.” His agitated wife, Margaret frowned. “AWFUL. We almost lost him. Took several hours to revive him. When he finally came to, he said…well, he said he thought he’d gone to h---.” She rattled the ring of keys in her hand, as if to change the subject.
“Just unlock the door, Mother.” It took every ounce of strength for Gordie to speak now that he was on his feet.
“The other day he kept talkin’ ‘bout the kids…just like they was still living at home. Lands, they’ve been grown and gone for years and years now. And he said he needed the car keys to go get some cigarettes - as if he could even drive. My goodness, he stopped smoking in 1986!”
“Okay, I’m coming.” Margaret swung open the door, held open the screen, and the trio of men stepped up two concrete steps and into the house in slow motion – first one foot… heave ho…then the other.
Finally, they stood inside the hallway. “Now, all of you, I gotta go pee,” Gordie announced ceremoniously.
“Does he need help?”
“Don’t need no help.”
“Better go with him.”
“I’m tellin’ ya…”
“Just until you get to the bathroom, Gordie. Are you alright?”
“Now….why wouldn’t I be alright?”
Eyes danced with every conceivable emotion. Compassion. Fear. Concern. Hope. Underneath it all a foundation of love and respect flourished.
A strong arm reached out to stabilize Gordie’s tottering frame as he made his way down the hallway.
“Now you young fellers…go on ‘bout yer business…while I do mine.”
The bathroom door closed. “Oh my, I hope he don’t….” Margaret mumbled under her breath, and scurried down the hall to check the doorknob. “Good thing…door’s not locked.” Her eyes seemed full of anxiety and uncertainty. She chattered nervously to the neighbor men, both of whom were nearing sixty years old themselves. “After the treatment, his blood pressure dropped real low…thought he was a goner…then like I said, when he woke up he…well, he made that comment that he thought he’d gone to h---.”
They looked at each other, not knowing exactly what to say. There was nothing to say, was there? Not right then.
“Well, he’s a tough old bugger.”
“Tougher ‘n ‘bout any man I’ve ever known.”
“Stubborn to the core.” Margaret added. “Doctor said it might be too late to try chemo, but Gordie had to try it anyway. Now all this talk ‘bout goin’ to h---….” She shook her head and stared at the floor.
Margaret had been a solid, practicing Catholic all her life, but Gordie stopped attending church with her years before when the traditional worship liturgy changed to incorporate guitars and drums. “Don’t have no use for them loud songs. I’m not goin’. God may send me to h---, but I ain’t listenin’ to no gee-tars in church. Jus ain’t right.”
What was he thinking now? Did his heart long for peace behind that gruff exterior? Was he waiting for some sort of rescue – or punishment? Was it right to confront him about his salvation..perhaps even that day? Or was it better to assume the best since he said once that he “believed in Jesus” - and that his off-the-cuff comment about h--- was an emotional reaction of someone not in his right mind?
That night while Margaret slept in another room Gordie found a pocketknife (somehow, somewhere) and intentionally cut the plastic tubing connected to his oxygen machine. Was his purpose in doing so to make a statement about control - or address death on his own terms? Was the purpose of family and friends to reprimand him – or to counsel him regarding his eternal destiny? Was Margaret’s purpose to become a full time nurse and watchdog monitoring his every move - or to sit him down gently and preview their future reunion in heaven?
There was only one goal worthy of pursuit for Gordie and for all those concerned about him as they faced those last days…and beyond…together. This was the same goal that has defined mankind’s purpose since creation: seeking, knowing, and honoring God.
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