I remember visiting a member of my church in the hospital named John. John had been attending my church for about a year at the time. Every week he would show up at our second service and sit in the back left-hand corner, all the way against the wall.
The first time John came to church I could not help but notice his broad shoulders and muscular stature. Every week after the service he would come through our greeting line and shake my hand at the door. The thing is, he was so strong, he would crush my hand! Since shaking his hand week after week began to hurt so much, I started giving him a fist bump instead. It didn’t help much. One day, I finally said, “John, you’ve got to do that a little lighter.” Fortunately for me, he did.
I remember one Sunday after church in the lobby, John pulled a huge handgun out of his pocket to show one of our staff members. Our staff member, very shocked, promptly asked John to put his gun away. I learned at one time John was a private investigator. What struck me most about John, though, is as I got to know him better, it was clear he was serious about growing spiritually and God was working in his life.
After being a part of my church for a year, John found out he had a very aggressive form of cancer. I could see him slowly deteriorating week by week, going from this big, muscular guy to a shadow of the strong individual he once was. At the door he would stop and say: “Check this out”, and then ask me to feel the growing lumps in his abdomen. They were huge, and growing throughout his body.
We used to talk about riding motorcycles. John rode for many years, but no longer had a bike. So, one day, I said: “John, I know you want to ride a motorcycle. Why don’t you come over and ride my motorcycle?” It was unbearable to see him as he began to cry and confided in me that he would love to, but was no longer strong enough.
As John continued to deteriorate, he had a cardiac incident and ended up in intensive care. I went to see him, and he was weak, frail, and coughing up blood. It was not a pretty sight. He shared with me that they had given him three months to live.
As a pastor, I have walked with enough people through the dying process to know what the next three months would be like. John explained to me that he had a DNR, which means, “do not resuscitate.” There was no hope of medically helping John. From here on out, it would be pain management until he passed away. When the time came, everyone in the room would simply stand by and watch, helpless to intervene and extend John’s life.
A short while later I found myself sitting in John’s hospital room, discussing with him his pain and nearing death. I wish I could show you the joy on his face as we talked about what would happen when he died. I wish I could show you the peace that he had as he lay in his hospital bed. I wish I could show you the utter contentment and excitement in his eyes as he talked about eternity with God.
We’ll continue with Part 2 of John’s Story in my next post…