Not too long ago an old friend of mine and I were fishing on Hayden Lake, Idaho. Of course, as fishing buddies will do, we’d been swapping stories and laughing about dumb things we two old guys had done lately. We’d been out since early morning and had caught several nice rainbow trout. It was close to noon and Bill had just poured the last of the coffee from the thermos. I glanced at him and his face looked a little white. He sat the coffee down and held a hand to his chest.
“You okay, Bill?” I asked.
“It’ll pass,” he said. “It’s my old heart. Chest pains again. I‘m sure I’ll be all right as soon as I take a couple of my nitroglycerin tablets. I’ve wrestled with this angina for years. A little while and the pain will pass.”
“You’re sure, now? Maybe I should head back to the marina and take you to the hospital.”
“No, let me just relax here a few minutes and everything will be okay.”
After taking one nitro tablet every five minutes for twenty minutes, with no relief of his chest pains, Bill said, “I sure hate to spoil a great day’s fishing but the nitro isn’t helping me this time. The pain is getting worse. Maybe you’d better head for shore and get me to the Emergency Room at the hospital.”
I tied the boat at the dock, left the trailer in the marina parking lot, and made a quick trip over to highway 95, then down to Kootenai Medical Center. Bill was looking pretty drained of color by the time we got there. I stayed with him in the emergency room for the next two hours of tests and the doctors finally made the decision to admit him to the cardiac care unit on the third floor of the hospital.
A short time after we’d gone upstairs, I said, “Bill, I’m in the way here right now so I’m going to run back up to the marina, take the boat and trailer home, then come back a little later and spend the evening with you. How’s that sound?”
”Sounds good to me,” he said, then motioned for me to come closer. “Bring me some of those chocolate chip cookies from the cooler when you come back,” he whispered.
The nurse turned, glaring over her glasses like a Marine drill sergeant. “NO cookies!” she said.
When I returned to the hospital Bill was awake and resting comfortably. I laid my Bible on the night stand, pulled a chair up close so Bill and I could talk, and settled in.
The nurse, who’d been adjusting an IV, left the room and I pulled out a Ziploc sandwich baggie holding four cookies. Bill grinned wide, dug in, and took a bite of his first cookie.
I rattled on about my boat and the new fishing motor I wanted to buy. We talked about fishing equipment and lures and bait. We spoke of other lakes in northern Idaho we wanted to fish that summer, and we retold every fishing lie we could remember. But I noticed that Bill wasn’t really into the conversation like he would be normally.
“Bill, what’s eating you old friend? You act as though you’re off on a fishing trip tonight. Are you okay? Do I need to call the nurse?”
Bill took a long deep breath then sighed. “Carl,” he said, “you know I’ve had this heart condition for years and every time I have a problem, like today, I realize I’m not going to live forever. I could slip away any time. I could have gone today for that matter. Who knows how much time I have left? Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my sweetheart, June. I’m sure she’s in Heaven. She always talked about Heaven as though it was a real place, like Oregon or something. I’d sure like to see her again, and my brother, Al, too. Al seemed to know that he was going to Heaven, just like June did. Talked about it a lot before he passed away.
“But me? I’m not so sure about Heaven and all those things June and Al talked about. I guess I’m not sure about anything right now. Before they died, both Al and June urged me to ask Jesus to come into my heart. I didn’t know exactly what that meant and I never bothered to ask.
“Oh, I remember repeating some prayer once, back when I was about eight years old. It might have been in a Sunday school my mother took Al and my sister and me to when we were kids. About one Sunday a month the Sunday school teacher would read a prayer to the class, asking God to take us all to Heaven. She’d read her short prayer and all us kids in the class would repeat it after her. But it didn’t mean much to me back then. You know, I was just doing what everyone else did. You know what I mean?”
“I sure do, old friend,” I said. “Been there, done that myself.”
Bill continued. “I’d drive June to the services at her church every Sunday morning but I rarely went inside with her. Of course, I knew everyone there because most of them dealt with me at the hardware store but I just felt out of place in church. I visited at Christmas and Easter when June would ask me. Her pastor, Tom Johnson, even came by the house from time to time to visit. He’d always ask me if he could tell me about being saved but I’d tell him that I felt I was okay with God and that he’d be wasting his time. I always told him I was too busy to go to church or some other excuse and then I’d tell him he should go help someone who really needed it.”
I hadn’t seen Bill this serious in a long time. I listened, letting him get everything that was bothering him off his chest.
“I’ve talked with different folks since June passed,” Bill continued. “That Preacher from the big church downtown, the one who wears his collar backwards. I think his name is Doctor Russell. He came in the hardware store last year and I asked him what he thought happens after we die and if he believed there was a real Heaven. He went on for thirty minutes about Heaven. He laughed about a place called Hell, though. Said he didn’t believe there was a Hell. And he also said that, to him, Heaven was what each person decided it was for them. Like the memories I have of my sweetheart, June. Doc Russell said that my memories of her could be her Heaven.
“And I’ve also talked to several other folks through the years. They all told me basically the same thing: “Bill,” they’d say, “You’re a good person. You’ve tried to live your life the best you could. You’ve never cheated people when you ran the hardware store. You never cheated on your sweet wife, June, all those years before she died. You’ve been a good neighbor, a good citizen in the community, a good husband, father and grandfather. We’ve known you to be a person that would give your last dollar to help someone in need. If anybody would go to Heaven, Bill, you sure would.”
“I’d have to agree with one part of that,” I told Bill.
“IF only ‘good people’ go to Heaven, you’d be one of them, old Friend.”
Of course this isn’t the end of the story for Bill. The best part is yet to come. I invite you to stick with me as I share the rest of his story. You can find it above, under “Booklets.” When you’ve finished reading, I’d appreciate it if you’d give us your thoughts in the “comments” section at the end of Bill’s story.
You might also like to look over my novels, above right, on Amazon Kindle. They’re chucked full of good wholesome writin, just for you.
Lord bless until next time,
Each of my novels is available on the Amazon Kindle link at the top right of this blog post. They are:
Victory – Heroes are sometimes found in the most unusual places. Victory is the short story about a boy’s daydreams and how he learned “The Secret Formula of How to Make His Dreams Come True” … from a most unusual friend. Victory is truly a Technicolor animated fantasy adventure for the whole family.
The Tallest Angel – The inspirational family adventure novel based on the above short story, Victory. This family story takes over where Victory ends, that is, AFTER RICHIE WAKES UP from his dream adventure! A fun story, part real life, part Disney-like animated fantasy, woven together to surely charm the kid in each of us.
Solo – A twenty-four year old Christian woman, Joy, is tempted to stray from her Lord. But through a series of unique, heaven-sent events she is befriended by Paul, an older man who steps in as the father figure Joy has not had for nine years. As their father – daughter friendship develops, Paul gives Joy much-needed wholesome Christian advice about life and marriage.
Transgression – Definitely an edgy John Grisham type novel. The story of a sinful preacher and the terrible consequences his sin brings upon his church family. The amazing part of this story is how the Lord eventually brings a silver lining out of the darkest storm clouds. This story is powerful, at times overwhelming, yet gentle in its application of God’s truths.