Riding high on his Harley, Dwayne had no reason to think about how his life would end or what would come after. Suddenly plastered against the side of a semi-cab, Dwayne had no time to think about how his life would end or what would come after. Weeks later, now a paraplegic in a rehab bed, Dwayne had no wish to think about how his life would end. And especially not about what would come after.
And that’s when the Preacher and I met Dwayne—feisty, determined to get back on his bike one day, and constantly upchucking. The two men shared time on a rehab ward. Every so often they exchanged greetings when their wheelchair and stretcher passed in the halls. The greetings evolved into in-room visits, then into long conversations about life as it once was and as it may be.
Weeks later, doctors told Dwayne why his nausea wouldn’t leave. Diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, given weeks to live, Dwayne had no option but think about how his life would end and what would come after.
“Dwayne,” asked the Preacher one day, “do you ever pray?”
“Rick,” he said. “I’m sixty-three years old. Never been to church in my life. Why would I call on God now that I’m dying?”
The Preacher told Dwayne about the condemned thief who died on a cross next to Jesus—the one who, recognizing Jesus as undeserving of a criminal’s death, pled for mercy.
“Dwayne,” he said, “far as I can tell, the only time that thief ever prayed was when he was dying. Yet Jesus told him ‘today you will be with me in Paradise. ’” He let that sink in, then asked if Dwayne would like to pray too.
In a shattered voice, the man on the bed, eyeball to eyeball with death, answered, “Rick, I don’t think I have enough faith.”
Following inner directive, the Preacher told Dwayne about four friends who the Bible says carried a bedridden friend into Jesus’ presence for healing. “Dwayne,” he said, “Do you have enough faith in my faith, that what I believe is true for you too? Enough faith to let me carry you into the presence of Christ?”
Weeping, Dwayne agreed, and the Preacher led him in a simple prayer for mercy and salvation. In the following days, Dwayne learned that other friends had, through their prayers, been carrying him to Christ too—some for years.
On the day an ambulance took Dwayne home to die, the Preacher sat in the door of his ward room. As the gurney rolled past, Dwayne smiled, stuck out his hand, grabbed the Preacher’s and squeezed hard. “Rick,” he said, his voice confident. “You I WILL see again.”
Riding high on something better than a Harley, plunked down in the presence of Divine Hope and Forgiveness, Dwayne had no reason to worry about how his life would end or what would come after.
We heard later that right to the end he didn’t.
Kathleen Gibson is a newspaper columnist, author, and broadcaster. She and her clergyman husband, Rick, live in Saskatchewan.
Find Kathleen online at www.kathleengibson.ca, and other places.