On Monday November the 25, 2019, I received a text from my client and good friend, Mary Durie. She said that if I wanted to see Paul again, it would need to be soon. Paul had been battling liver cancer for several months and after exhausting all options, his doctors had sent him home. Hospice was called in and they were doing their best to make Paul comfortable during his last days. For more background, go to Prayers For My Friend Paul.
Fortunately, it was my day off and I promised Marie to come over right after lunch. As I explained in “Prayers”, Paul was a big time Dr. Pepper lover and had recently gained the taste for Hershey’s with Almonds. So, on my way over, I stopped at Kroger’s and bought him a little pack of 7.5 oz miniature DP’s and two extra-large Hershey candy bars…with almonds of course.
My door knock was greeted as usual by the barking of their two little dogs, Thelma & Bandit. One of Paul’s nurses answered the door and led me back to Paul’s room where he was watching an old Western. Due to a recent fall which slightly fractured his hip, Paul was pretty much bed ridden without help from his caregivers.
When I walked in, his face lit up and he was so surprised to see me. To my shame, it had been too long since my last visit. All was forgiven when he saw his Dr. Pepper and Hershey bars. He was curious to know how I knew about his new found love for chocolate, and I explained that Mary had told me.
We chatted for a bit and then Mary came in to join us upon returning from running a few errands. While I was thrilled to see them both, I could see everything I didn’t want to see in Mary’s expression. Paul was running out of time and it was hard to find the words. I mean, what do you say to someone who’s facing their end. For the positive, I knew Paul’s faith was solid having had that conversation months before. He was a believer in Jesus Christ and his salvation was secure.
As Paul started to struggle with nodding off, Mary said that it was probably best for me to leave however she asked me to pray with Paul first. So, I knelt down by his bed and took his hand and asked for God’s grace and mercy to be with him. It was short but from the heart and with that I gave him one last hug and Mary walked me out.
As we stopped just inside their front door, I asked if I could come back that Friday as I knew my schedule would be light. She said that today would probably be the last time as Paul’s strength was rapidly going down. Little did I know how prophetic her words would be. As it turned out, Paul’s pain level spiked the next day and the nurse had to give him extra pain meds which helped, but he was never the same.
Looking back, I’m so grateful for seeing him one last time still in good spirits and relatively pain free doing at least a few of the things he loved…watching Westerns with a Dr. Pepper and Hershey bar. He passed that next Saturday morning and Mary was good enough to let me know that same day. I had been booked solid at work and never saw her text until I broke for lunch at 1PM.
As I promised Mary months before, I attended Paul’s funeral the next week. Fortunately for my schedule it was literally right across the street from my gym and I was able to rearrange my calendar accordingly. There was a nice turn out and I was all the more thankful for being able to go.
After signing the guest book, I made my way in and down to the front where there was a big picture of Paul on a tri-pod. They had a private service for Paul that morning so the afternoon event was more of a memorial service to him. To pay my last respects before the service officially started, I stood in front of his picture as my mind filled with memories of all the times I worked with him in the gym.
I couldn’t help but cry as the enormity of Paul being gone set it. If there was any silver lining, it was good to know that his spirit was now at peace and his body restored after the battle he waged with cancer. Mary came in soon after surrounded by family and sat down towards the front. I was able to give her a quick hug before taking my seat.
For the first few minutes, they just played a slide show from Paul’s life with the song, Leader of the Band, playing in the background. The one thing that struck me both from my time with Paul and from seeing his pictures was that he loved people and he loved life. By the way, he loved his golf too which naturally made us kindred spirits. I will always remember our many conversations about Indian Creek where he used to play and practice…and where I used to work as a club professional…many years ago.
Paul…you were a good man and I will never forget our time together.
God bless you.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”