You used to say that I see the world in living color, and you see the world in black and white. That description fits us perfectly! For you, it was yes or no, on or off, in or out, honest or a lie, done or not done, good or bad. There were no prizes for getting close to the goal in your world. It either was or it was not. Honestly, that made it easy to live with you….well most of the time. It was obvious what your choices would be. You made your choice quickly and there was no fuzzy line. No need to negotiate because once it was said the subject was closed. Black and white.
For me, however, things got more complicated because of all of the “colors”. I must have driven you wacky with all of the options I could throw out for one simple situation. After all, in addition to thinking with your head, you can also think with your heart and emotions and instincts and history and possible outcomes and oh so much more! Can’t you see that? You never did. Your brain was not wired that way. It is a miracle that we lasted 35 years! Maybe that was the part that kept it interesting.
I remember the day that I walked into your ICU room before visiting hours. I snuck in when the receptionist went to the bathroom so she could not give me her harsh look and ask me to wait in the lobby. When I opened the door, I saw tears streaming down your face. I hated to leave you at night. Each morning when I arrived, you told some harrowing tale of what happened during the night. Most of these things would never happen under the prying eyes of family members during the day. When I was not there, I could do nothing to protect you and watch over you to ensure that you were being treated as the dignified man you were. When I saw your very unusual tears, I felt panicked. What had they done to you? What had happened during the dreadful night hours?
“Come closer. I need to talk to you” you said. My stomach flipped over, and random thoughts raced through my mind of all of the possible horrors this hospital may have made you endure last night in my absence. I was not here to watch them and fight for you! They made me leave and I let you down knowing that this was not the first or the last time.
You told me one morning how the young arrogant nurse bent over you and whispered in your ear: “You will show me respect and say please and thank you”. That ended that same day when we reported her to the patient’s advocate. That night, she apologized to you and was taken off of your case. The hospital director called me groveling and probably praying that I would not call our attorney. This type of nonsense happened over and over, but never when I was around to intervene. This is why I was standing at the ICU door at 8:59 am every morning so that when the clock struck 9:00 I was by your bedside getting a report from the previous night.
On that morning I had to get very close to keep our conversation very private along with attempting to hear over the beeping machinery noise. You were extraordinarily upset, and I felt the panic swelling inside of me. Had the doctors told you something terrible? Had you been mistreated again? Was your pain intolerable? Will this be in my power to fix or will I be faced with letting you down again? God, please do not let me disappoint him again!
With tears of agony rolling down your face, you reached up and put your hand on the back of my neck and pulled me in close. I put my cheek on yours and said, “Baby, what is wrong?”
“I don’t think that God is going to let me into Heaven” you said as you wept.
“Oh, Larry. You are the best man I have ever known. Of course, He will welcome you into Heaven. What makes you think He will not?”
Your tears were now mixed with mine as we clung to each other and tried to manage this conversation about eternity that neither of us wanted to even admit could happen. You whispered, “I don’t know how many people I killed in Vietnam. There is no way for me to know how many deaths I was responsible for. I had to call in air cover and artillery to protect my men but will never know how many other people died because of the decisions I made. I might have been responsible for killing children and I will never know.”
How could I respond to this? You were right and you had too many hours of time to think about this over and over. There was nothing for me to say and I could not fix this. “Want me to call the Chaplin?” You answered, “Would you, please?”
The Champlin came and we prayed for forgiveness and prayed for eternal salvation. I continued to reassure you that you were a man of honor and integrity. What more could God ask of you? When I was forced to leave that evening, you clung to me and thanked me acknowledging that you knew this was incredibly painful for me. It was, but not nearly as painful as is was for you. As usual, your priority was me and not yourself. That is what made you a good man.
The next morning at 9:00 I walked into your hospital room. I looked at your face and I saw it immediately. You said, “Baby, come closer.” I walked over and grabbed your hands and I bent over to kiss you good morning. You said, “I am at peace with God” and I SAW it. I saw the glow around your head and a look of contentment that could only be peace on your face. Whatever happened between you and God in those overnight hours when I was gone prepared you for what was next for you. Your struggle with God was over and your face radiated peace.
God did not prepare me.
I love you and know that God welcomed your immortal soul with Him in Heaven. If He welcomes me please be there to meet me.