If you are not already familiar with the story of my terminally ill friend David Wilder, I would advise that you read (or at least skim over) these previous posts before starting this one:
First of all, I apologize for not "dressing up" this post. I don't have the energy or desire to do so. I did, however, want to share a few memories with you. I will warn you ahead of time that this was not at all easy to write, nor do I expect that it will be easy for you to read. This is straight from my heart. It's a long post, but I make no apologies for that.
On Thursday, my wife and I went together to see David, perhaps for the last time here on earth. When we arrived at around 11am, I was not surprised to see several cars there, as David is simply one of the most beloved people that I know. We rang the bell, and an acquaintance from our previous church answered the door. David's brother was there (it wasn't hard to pick him out), and Jan was in the kitchen with someone I didn't know, and she was "having a moment", someone said. It turned out that the lady I didn't recognize was the hospice nurse.
We were invited back into the master bedroom. As we approached, I saw about half a dozen people around the hospital bed, which gave the moment even more weight. For some reason, I knew before we got to the house where they would put the new bed for him, and I was right.
I have been through this type of thing a few times, but never with a really close friend. I had so many things that I really wanted to say to him before he leaves us.
The second we entered the room, David knew who we were, even though we had been cautioned that he has tunnel vision now and we might have to get close to him and speak loudly. There were so many touching moments during our somewhat brief visit. One of them will forever stick with me - David smiled at me and winked. Having known him for 13 years, this has become somewhat commonplace for me, since he is pretty much like my big brother. However, it was made far more powerful when everyone in the room exclaimed, "You must be someone very special to him. He only smiles once or twice a day. Look! He winked!" Even as I am writing this, it brings fresh, hot tears to my eyes.
My first impulse was to greet him normally, "Hey, David. How are you doing today?" I realize that sounds a little silly now, but what else do you say? I immediately smoothed his hair as I spoke, then I was advised to use the hand sanitizer on the side table.
He looks so frail and helpless, but I know that my loving and loyal and generous and boisterous friend is still inside this failing body that I see before me.
I started to speak again, then I was caught short by my own tears, and I had to leave the room. I didn't want to sob openly into his face - at least not yet.
Pam and I visited with Jan in the kitchen, and I gave her the checks that I have received from my friends here at ActiveRain. We also spoke with David's brother, Andy. Andy reminds me so much of David that it actually hurts. Same type of voice, same mannerisms, same loudness (just being honest). We laughed and shared a few funny memories of David, then Pam went back in to speak with him.
I returned a few minutes later, and Pam suggested that we pray for David. David's mother was very enthusiastic about this. We asked David if that was okay with him, and he made a face as if to say, "Of course, you fools. Please pray anytime." It was funny to me to see the old David glimpse through there, since he was never super-patient about things like this.
Interestingly, there was no easy way for me to comfortably touch him without kneeling to pray and reaching through the bed rail on the side. It was as if God wanted me on my knees.
I began to pray, and although I have never been someone who is great at "public" prayer (i.e. in front of people I don't know), it went really smoothly. I prayed to thank God for giving us David as our friend for so many years, and I prayed for his healing, too, since we haven't closed the door on hope yet. Then suddenly I couldn't speak again, as I was sobbing openly as I stroked and held his arm. Pam finished the prayer, and David seemed much more at ease and calm, and his breathing slowed. He just seemed more relaxed.
I stood and touched his shoulder, and I said the most important thing of all at that moment. I said it loudly, to make sure he could hear me. In fact, everyone in the house probably heard me.
"I love you, David. I love you."
Pam told me later that David was tearing up a little when I spoke, and that she could see that he was visibly touched by my words, although I admit that I had other things on my mind right then and I didn't see it.
David's mother gave me a firm hug, and she said, "Thank you for loving him." I think she said something else, too, but I must admit I don't remember what it was. I just know that she was grateful that we came, and that we prayed for her son. She seems to be a wonderful and kind lady, and I can't even fathom how this must feel for her.
We didn't stay much longer, even though there were some other things I would love to have said to him, like how he is my hero, and how much our friendship has affected my faith over the years, and how I admire his boldness in sharing God with other people, and more. However, I think he already pretty much knew that stuff.
When we got to the car, I cried so hard that it made my head hurt. Since then, I seem to be randomly hit with a memory here and there that makes me cry or sometimes even laugh out loud.
As we drove away, Pam mentioned something that really hit home for me:
"David never wasted time, and he never waited to tell people how he felt about them. He got his work here done quickly."
This is an incredibly accurate statement about my friend. I once received a message on my cell phone from him that I wish I had now. It was something like this:
"Hey man, this is Dave, I just wanted to tell you that I had breakfast with Mike Johnson, and we were talking about you, and what a great example of Christian manhood you have become."
Believe it or not, this type of call was not really all that uncommon for this man.
While I still haven't given up all hope, things look pretty dark at the moment. I will continue to pray for him to be healed and I ask others to do so as well, but when his time comes, I hope I can pick up the torch and be the kind of guy who is unafraid to live, love, and touch others in a way that will impact them. David did, and he still is, even without words.