…then he was gone

There was this guy at church.  He’s a good 30 years older than me, and “I don’t fit into his group.”  When his wife was ill, and he was spending all his time at home with her, I was with him quite a bit.  But after she passed, he never slowed down enough for me to even have a cuppa Joe with him.  So I stopped asking.

Then he was gone.

There was this guy I met and became great friends.  He and I would grab coffee and an occasional burger together.  He was in the hospital during Super Bowl, so I watched the game in his room.  He asked me to sing at his mother’s funeral.  But he started taking a lot of painkillers, so I stopped hanging out with him.  One night he overdosed.

And he was gone.

There was this guy in my neighborhood, the first family we met when we moved in to our new house 20 years ago.  And we would visit each other quite a bit.  Then he got sick and crabby.  And he complained a lot.  And I stopped going to his house.

Then he was gone.

There was another guy from church.  If anyone missed a Sunday, they would be sure to get a call from him – not chastising, just making sure everything is OK.  When he developed lung cancer, the doctor told him he needed to cough a lot.  He said, “Cigarettes make me cough, so they’re good for me, right?”  One night, his granddaughter called me.

And he was gone.

And after each of these men died, I felt a pang of regret.  I had given up on them.  I had let them be alone during their time of greatest need… during their time of dying.  I could have visited each of these before they left this world.  I could have …

I should have …

I …

But I’m too selfish.  And I don’t like to be hurt.  And when my friend starts to exhibit signs that he won’t be long for this world, he becomes another brick in the wall.  And I protect myself from being hurt by abandoning them.  When they need friends the most, I abandon them.

I beg their forgiveness.  I beg God’s forgiveness.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

Matthew 25: 40,43 NIV

The pang of regret will be with me for a while.  Then, like the men mentioned here, it will be gone.  And I will remain, a hopefully wiser person.

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