Arnold is dead. He passed sometime Saturday night after midnight. Marie, his wife, doesn’t know when because she got the first night of uninterrupted sleep that she’s had in a long time. That’s because Arnold’s coughing didn’t wake her. Arnold’s coughing was mercifully over. He was at peace.
Knowing his condition, and that this could happen at any time, didn’t make it any easier. Marie was hysterical when she called me yesterday morning, like it wasn’t possible. She has been taking care of him 24/7 for two years. For that whole time he has been trapped inside a body that could barely move. There was always hope that he might improve, but evidence that he might not. Still he was alive. He could listen and talk, sometimes lucidly. He could crack a joke; he just couldn’t laugh. Didn’t matter. That suited his dry humor.
And he could hear the word of the Lord — something he hungered for after rejecting it for almost 45 years, and in his trapped state, he could respond to the truth that set him free eternally. After his baptism, he told ever visitor that came in that he had been baptized. He was like an evangelist in a straightjacket. People who knew him well couldn’t believe it; it was such a change from his former self. I never had that problem, because I only knew the sweet man he became — the one who loved his wife, loved hearing about God, loved listening to George Beverly Shea sing hymns, and actually worried about what I would do when he was gone.
I never once heard him complain. And though their life was terribly restricted,
Marie could still snuggle up to him, kiss him, and still hear him say, “I love you,” which he did every day. That was worth it all for her, I’m sure.
When I think about it now, I realize that what we’ve been doing is getting Arnold ready for heaven. He’s been talking about it all along, and he’s been talking like it was just around the corner. We didn’t hear that because we didn’t want to, but he knew. Obviously, last night, he was ready. And the question he would want to know of us if he were here is: Are we?
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-3