This is part seven of a series about my friend, Jerry, who departed from this world at age sixty-eight after a prolonged battle with prostate cancer. Jerry endured repeated biopsies, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and experimental trials, but the cancer continued to metastasize to his bones, back, shoulder, neck, sternum, and both femurs and to who knows where. The cancer and treatments left Jerry as weak as a kitten and his balance poor. Excruciating pain is typically associated with bone cancer, nevertheless Jerry didn’t complain much and he never gave up.
One day Jerry called and told me about standing in his front yard, looking up toward the sky, losing his balance and falling backwards into the bushes. To make things worse, he was too weak to get back up by himself. Nevertheless, he insisted on helping his son, Joel, build an extension on Joel’s garage. And yep, you guessed it, off the ladder Jerry flew. Jerry’s family considered him “stubborn”; I preferred to describe Jerry as “strong-willed”, but there is a fine line between the two.
Jerry was an old hippie with a need for speed; therefore everyone anticipated that giving up motorcycle riding would be one of the most difficult losses for Jerry. A few weeks before Jerry departed from this earth he determined to ride his bike from Springfield to Portsmouth for a visit. I figured that it would likely be his farewell ride and I think he did too. I was relieved when Jerry steered his bike into our driveway. He could barely lift his leg to dismount. Throughout the day he struggled to get up from our couch so my son-in-law, Shane, extended him a helping hand. Nevertheless, Jerry still insisted on helping me and Shane hang some heavy wooden framed mirrors and a large picture at my daughter, Elizabeth’s.
It was like an episode of “The Three Stooges”; Shane, Jerry and I commiserating over how to repair and hang one of the large ornately framed mirrors. When Shane suggested, “We could caulk it!” Jerry replied, “Where are you from anyway, West Virginia?” Then Jerry chuckled and added, “I was just wondering.” Of course, Jerry knew Shane was from West Virginia. Elizabeth was so entertained by it all, she secretly videoed us and titled it “How many men does it take to hang a mirror.”
Jerry’s body was ravaged with cancer and he knew his days were numbered; nevertheless, he never lost his quick wit and sense of humor, and even more inspiring, his heart never stopped going out to others. He was always pleading to help.
Around 6:00 p.m. Jerry geared up for the ride home. He couldn’t lift his right leg over his Triumph Bonneville so I lifted it over for him. Nevertheless, Jerry started his bike and gloved up. I suggested, “Why don’t you let me ride the bike back for you and you can drive my car” But he wasn’t having it. I think he crossed that fine line between strong-willed and stubborn that evening. Everyone was so relieved when he arrived safely home. Jerry’s son, Joel, wasn’t as worried as the rest of us. He later commented, “Dad could ride a bike better than he could walk”.
A few weeks before Jerry departed this earth, I asked Jerry, “Is there anything in particular that has helped you cope, that has helped you get your mind around all this?” Jerry reflected for a few seconds and replied, “As a matter of fact there is. I was thinking about how everything changes. I’ve changed, everyone around me has changed, and the world has changed. But when I look back to the time when I first got saved, and who God has been to me, and what He has done for me, I realize that God’s love for me has never changed.”
You see, Jerry knew that he wasn’t home yet and that, “The Best is yet to come”, (Tim Doyle, friend and brother in Christ Jesus).
“…as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped…for all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning…Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel; and afterward receive me to glory…My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” (Psalm 73).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble .