This is something I wrote a few years ago.
Ol’ Charlie & Pride
Setting: A man sitting in a chair is remembering his life…
Well, the time is almost here. Funny thing about time, its endless until it’s gone. But I’m not complaining. I have nothing to complain about though that hasn’t stopped me sometimes. I have a loving family and I had a good job. I even have an enjoyable hobby, stamp collecting. You know, what most people would call the good life.
I remember my neighbor Charlie. Charlie was my best friend. He got me into collecting stamps. Charlie had grown up with a military family and stamps were his way of remembering every place he had visited or lived. Charlie and I share another great love, fishing. We used to spend hours trying to catch “the big one”. Fishing is great because you always get what you really came for even if you didn’t catch a fish. Not that catching fish was unimportant; a man’s gotta eat.
I could really talk to Charlie, anyone could. Whenever me and the misses got into it I would go to him to vent. He was always patient. He would point out how she might have felt and what I could do to make things right. He would always say “You are the only person you have control over”.
That is where our friendship fell apart. One day I had enough of Charlie blaming me for all the fighting with my wife. I don’t remember the details but I remember when it was over so was our friendship. About a year later he moved about an hour away from me. It wasn’t like we hated each other, we still exchanged Christmas cards. I thought about calling him, I did miss him and his friendship. I never did though. It was his fault our friendship ended, always blaming me for everything. He should apologize to me. Why should I make the first move?
Speaking of Charlie, one of the things he used to bug me about was my smoking. It wasn’t like I used to smoke a lot. Maybe a pack a day at the most. He always said it would kill me but how would he know? I was going to live my life my way and no one was going to tell me any different. And I did. This is the end result.
Let me explain, my mind is in this chair remembering my life but my body is dying in a hospital bed. The pain is horrible; I would not wish this on anyone. I’m dying of, you guessed it, cancer.
When you’re dying, you start to think about what might happen after, if anything. Charlie always used to talk about God. So did my wife, she’d never shut up about it. I used to ask her if she wanted to marry Jesus because she loved him so much.
Don’t misunderstand I enjoyed church as a kid. But that was kids’ stuff. I didn’t need God. I didn’t need someone to die for me. Bad people need something or someone like Jesus to feel good about themselves. I always felt good about myself. I’m proud of who I am. And I certainly didn’t need God’s help. I could do it on my own. Its not like I hated church and didn’t want to go at all. I like Southern Gospel music, they sure can sing. Not to mention the food, they sure can feed a body at those pot lucks. I never went though. My wife might think I was uncertain or weak and I never showed weakness, even if I felt it.
So as I lay dying, with my loving, patient wife by my side I get a visitor. Its Old Charlie. I haven’t seen him in 20 years. You know what he said? He apologized to me for being too prideful to come sooner. Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. You have to understand that lying here there isn’t anything to do except think. All of my thoughts led to one simple phrase: “I was wrong”. In Charlie’s case he was just telling me what I needed to hear and I got angry about it. Yet he apologizes to me, a hard-headed, stubborn, prideful man who threw away a friendship just so I could say I was right.
Charlie looks me in the eye and says he couldn’t let me pass without telling me about Jesus one more time. The past excuses, they sound so hollow now. I said I wasn’t weak. Now I’m hooked to a machine, unable to move, incapable of feeding myself, barely able to speak. I thought I was good enough but I can only laugh at such nonsense now.
I summon the strength to tell Charlie “I rejected him, he’ll never accept me now”. I wouldn’t forget Charlie’s response if I lived another thousand years. He said “You’re right, Jesus won’t accept you. Take the first step toward him and he’ll take the other fifty to get to you. Accept, no he won’t just accept you. He’ll welcome you with open arms and a choir of rejoicing angels. Think about it; Jesus, the only sinless man, took nails in his hands and feet and voluntarily suffocated to death on a tree. He accepted death then beat it at its own game. He did this for you, for you George. So no, you’re pride isn’t going to keep him away”.
Charlie led me through the “Sinner’s Prayer” and I finish with “Jesus I’m yours”.
As I lay here, seeing with new eyes, hearing with new ears and feeling with a renewed spirit I look at my past with mostly regret. I regret all the things I allowed my pride to take away. Things like a wonderful friend, a healthy body and a lifetime of true joy serving God.
What hurts my spirit far more than the cancer is hurting my body is that I allowed it. It’s my fault. Pride is the demonseed but I planted it, I watered it and I watched it grow with my full approval. I used it to rob myself of the life I could have had, the life I was supposed to have. All because I had to be better than I was.
I take small confort in that I found out moments before it was too late. At least I found out, thanks to Charlie and my wife. And that small comfort is blessed comfort, joyous comfort. Yet I still mourn for all that my pride has cost me. So as death comes to take my body I utter my final words: “Jesus I’m coming home but my pride stays behind.