We Have A Friend! - A Short StoryBy Dennis Maddox

He sat there stunned, tears running down his cheek, not really listening to the "alternative treatments" his doctor was describing. Cancer. Lung cancer. Metastasized lung cancer. Wasn't he too young to have metastasized lung cancer? He was only 55 years old. It would be 10 years before he could even think about retiring. How was he supposed to support his wife, pay his bills?

She sat beside him, holding his hand. Her face, too, was streaked with tears. Metastasized lung cancer, that's a death sentence, right? How was she going to survive? She had no skills that would gain her a job. She had never worked. He brought home the pay check. Wasn't he too young? Besides, she didn't really want to live without him. He WAS her world.

They were high school sweethearts. They got married right out of school and had a wonderful marriage. He made good money working at the shop and insisted she stay at home to raise the kids. Their kids were grown now and had recently moved out on their own, and they were looking forward to being empty nesters, and enjoying their later years together. Metastasized lung cancer would certainly change everything. 

They were never what you would consider "religious". He enjoyed golf on sundays and, truth be told, felt that religion was a crutch for the weak. He depended on himself and himself had so far been enough. Oh, she had tried to get him to go to this church on numerous occasions, but he refused. Saturday night parties and Sunday golf outings were more important.

They left the doctors office after promising to contact him regarding their choice of treatments. It was all just too much to absorb in one meeting. They needed time to think, though the doctor warned them that time was of the essence. 

When they got home, he opened a new bottle of Jack Daniels, took a big swig and chased it down with a Bud Light. He lit a cigarette, even though that did not feel right. After all, the horse was already out of the barn, right!? It was an hour before either one spoke, and in that hour they put a big dent in the Jack Daniels bottle. By dinner time, they were both pretty much hammered and chose to keep drinking instead of eating. 

He was mad when they first started discussing things. Why was this happening to him? He was a decent man, better than most. He went to work every day and provided for his family. He had never cheated on her or done any of the other "bad" sins. Why was this happening to him and not one of those ruthless SOB's who ran the shop or one of those rag heads that went around bombing children? Concern came next. He had never taken out a life insurance policy on himself, he had meant to, but had put it off thinking there was plenty of time. He probably couldn't get one now. They had a little money tucked away, but his treatment would surely eat that up in no time. He had heard that chemo was expensive even with health insurance. How would she live? Then he started to worry. He had also heard that chemo was very unpleasant to go through and oftentimes just postponed death by a few miserable months.

She, of course, went straight to worry. They had been together since his family moved next door to hers in fourth grade and they began taking the bus to school together. By high school, they were sweethearts. She never had to worry about a date, never had to worry about anything really. He had always taken good care of her. She knew there was no life insurance. She had pestered him to get some to no avail. She also knew the co-pay on their health insurance would eat up their savings. They had taken out a second mortgage on their home during the housing boom to pay for a trip overseas she had always dreamed of. He was always like that, doing his best to get her anything she wanted. But, without him,she'd certainly lose her home, the home she had lived in for 35 years, the home she had put her life into. She had no skills that would allow her to get a job and jobs were scarce, even for those with skills. Heck, their son had graduated from college 2 years ago, but still had not found a job in his field. He was barely getting by. Their daughter and her husband had just borrowed money from them to pay their mortgage. There wouldn't be much help coming from her kids! How was she ever going to live without him? 

As they talked, they voiced one concern after another, and the picture became worse and worse. The alcohol didn't help their thinking. Finally he said, "you know hon, I'm scared. I don't want to spend my final days barfing my guts out, losing my hair, and watching you worry yourself to death. I don't want to go through the chemo. And I don't want to die from lung cancer either, that is a horrible, painful death!" She told him, "And I don't know how I could possibly make it without you! I don't even want to try." She said, "You know, it's silly, but I always assumed the two of us would die together." That's when they hatched their plan.

She brought it up first. Why couldn't they die together? Surely there was a painless way they both could die together. He agreed, but wondered how. They didn't have a gun, so that was out. She felt that cutting their wrists was too slow and too many had been rescued. She couldn't face the kids if they failed. He agreed. He said that he had heard that people who fall into icy cold water usually pass out almost immediately. They then drown to death, but that is a painless death because they are passed out. (Where he heard that is questionable.) It was January and the temperature outside was close to zero. All the lakes and streams were frozen over, but the Deep River was still flowing because of the rapids, although there were chunks of ice flowing in it. There was a bridge over that river not 2 miles from their home that would be perfect for their plans. After much discussion, they decided to visit the bridge to see it first hand.

They got to the bridge around one o'clock in the morning and nobody was around. He was showing her how they could climb over the guard rail, stand on the edge of the bridge, and jump the 30 odd feet to the icy water below. This was something the boys had been doing for years in the summer. The water was deep.

He held her hand as she climbed over the guard rail, but she suddenly slipped and fell from the bridge. He could have just fallen with her but, instead, tried to save them both by grabbing the guard rail with his free hand while holding her with his other. As she was staring at him with eyes filled with fear, their hands slowly slipped apart and she plunged the 30 feet to the icy waters below. He will never forget her screams. The swift current carried her down river, but at that point everything seemed to go into slow motion and he watched, helpless, as she struggled and cried for help. She did not pass out right away, like he had heard, but the weight of her clothes finally pulled her under. She would surface again and scream until the cold finally won out and she screamed no more. 

In a fit of anguish and rage he yelled out, "My God, what are you doing to me?" Then, a still small voice in his head replied, "I have done nothing to you". He cried, "Who are you?" and the voice answered, I'm your friend, I'm God. He screamed, "You gave me cancer", but the voice answered back, "No, you gave yourself cancer by smoking all these years". He shot back, "Ya, but you allowed it to spread without being caught in time". The voice answered again, "No, you let it spread, remember that physical you cancelled last year, it would have been discovered then". As he lay there cold and in anguish, he shot back with, "How could you let me hold on here watching the love of my life die? If you are God, you can do anything. Don't you care? You have have no idea the pain I felt, no idea"! The voice replied, "Yes, son, I do. I watched as they crucified my son on that cross at Calvary." He collapsed in anguish, sobbing, and wondering to himself, "What am I going to do now". That's when the still small voice gently whispered, "Come to Me, you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest".

Suddenly, she was shaking him and telling him to wake up, he was having a nightmare. As he awoke and realized it was her shaking him, he almost burst with joy. He put his arms around her and wept like a baby. It had all been just a dream! There was no cancer, she wasn't gone. He held her, just shaking with joy, for the longest time thinking to himself that this was almost like a second chance. It was Sunday morning and he asked her what time that church she had been bugging him about had service. She told him and he said, "Let's get dressed and go". She said, "You want to go to church this morning?" to which he relied, "Ya, there's a friend there I want to get to know better!"

God is often blamed for things that go wrong in our life. Some say He punishes us, others say He is cruel. Many place the blame on His not doing anything to stop a tragedy. When God created us, he gave us a free will. We, each of us from Adam on, chose to sin against God even though He told us that the wages of sin is death. But God is love. His love is eternal, never changing. He loves us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on Calvary's cross for us. Jesus paid the debt for our sins!

So much of what God gets blamed for is a result of our free will, like choosing to smoke and then getting cancer. Even more is due to someone else exercising their free will, like the guy that chooses to go in and shoot students at school. Could God intervene in these tragedies? Of course. And I suspect there have been untold times He has. We just never hear about tragedies that don't occur. But God is reluctant to interfere with our free will, and I thank Him for that. I would much rather serve Him freely than to be programed like a robot to serve Him. 
That's what God wants as well. God created us to have fellowship with Him. He loves us and wants our love in return. However, He wants our love to be freely given, that's why we have a free will. When you accept Jesus as your savior, you return to a relationship with God as He first intended it.

Most people don't know it, but God is our friend. We all need to get to know Him better.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35

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