My twin brother died. He was one of the best. You might say he was just a ‘regular Joe’. That was his name: Joe.
Joe had a bad heart. He received a perfectly compatible transplant match but his body rejected it and then he was gone forever.
Joe was well respected and made everybody proud of him. He was good. I was bad and ugly.
After high school, Joe and I went our separate ways. Trouble has dogged me all my life. I went a little wild. In fact, right now I am sitting on death row. The judge did not want to hear my pathetic excuses.
I should have listened to Mama. “Young man,” she would say, pointing that little finger at me, “You reap what you sow and you are sowing in shallow ground.”
“Oh, Mama,” I whined, “Get off my back about that Jesus and faith stuff. Nobody who’s cool believes that junk.”
For years she never missed one week in visiting me. There was no way to get away from the woman and her preaching. You might say I was a captive audience. I know one thing for sure .She loved me.
She must have worn holes in her knees praying about me. I have to admit, sometimes in the night when the loneliness is about more than a man can stand, her sweet voice will echo-like in my head and I ponder on what she said I should know.
She wrote in the front of my new Bible, “Johnny-boy, this is all the information you’ll ever need about your eternal life.”
She was absolutely sure. Daddy and my sister, Jenny Sue, felt the same way. They both died when I was little. My family of religious nuts is all gone now and I am locked up.
After my last trial for shooting some guy in a robbery, I got a sentence with a big period at the end. Who cares? I’d just as soon go ahead and start taking that long dirt nap now as later.
I’m not scared. Well, not real scared. I do sort of wish Mama was here. She passed on a couple of years ago. I miss hearing, “Now, Johnny boy, I love you and God loves you, so don’t forget. Okay?” I would just grin.
I’ve been thinking about what she tried to tell me. Shoot, I’m way too mean and nasty to get to Heaven. Now where did I put that Bible? It seems like there was something in there about being made as white as snow. Imagine that, me as white as snow. I wonder if that could be true?
Unless the governor calls tomorrow, it’s curtains for ole Johnny. Maybe I ought to try praying.
Uh, Lord, this is Johnny, you know, the one who got so messed up? Mama said if I asked you to forgive me and to save me, you would. Honest, I am so sorry for being blind. Please come into my dirty old heart and wash me, like Mama said you would. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Man, the sun is already rising. I wrote letters to victims and families I hurt so much. I sang that song all night, the one at the end of the Billy Graham programs about coming to Jesus just as I am and not having one plea. I made myself cry.
No phone has rung. I told the chaplain what happened last night and he hugged me like a brother. We both prayed. It felt real good.
Now I am lying on a cold stretcher and they are starting an I.V. of clear stuff. It will probably be like going to sleep for surgery.
I hear a voice. Didn’t they inject anything yet?
“Johnny boy, over here.”
I turn around to an outstanding surprise, as big as Christmas. Hey, it’s Mama! Oh goodness, there’s Daddy and Jenny Sue. They are laughing and running to greet me. It sure sounds like I hear an old tune, “When Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah, hurrah.”
I see a sign pointing to a tollbooth. Mama gets to me first and begins to hug me and dance. “ Come this way, son. Your toll has been paid already. You’ll never guess who is waiting to see you.”
That pardon came through after all. To think, I almost missed the call. Now I can’t stop saying, “Thank you, Jesus.”
Angels are rejoicing and I am singing, “ Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound…”