The following is a true story. Ever since it happened it has been a part of me. It is a love story written by the hand of God Himself.
It was the spring of 2014. Ed and Cathy had been my neighbors for less than a year. They had met when Ed was 60 and Cathy was 40, and neither had ever been married. They fell in love, tied the knot and had just celebrating 25 years of wedded bliss.
However, there was a problem. Ed’s prostate cancer had returned and was destroying him quickly. Meanwhile, Cathy had been diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma. She told me about it when she had “maybe” six months to live. Being a prostate cancer survivor, myself, and as my first wife had died of melanoma, I was able to discuss their cancers openly with them. They knew I understood.
My daily routine usually starts around 5:00 a.m. with a one-hour walk. For some reason one Thursday, I felt nudged to take another walk in the heat of the later afternoon. Reluctantly, I obeyed it.
I headed down the street and there was Cathy, standing on her front lawn, supported by her walker. Realizing that she was fighting to hold herself up I hurried over, asking if everything was all right.
“I was waiting for you, Larry. I need to talk to you.”
I was dumbfounded. “I never walk at this time of day and you say you were waiting for me?”
“I just knew you were coming by. I can’t explain it.”
I had a chill run down my back. I leaned against her SUV as she leaned heavily on her walker. “You know Ed is dying, right?”
“Yes, Cathy, I know, he talked with me about it. And your prognosis? Any change?”
She smiled and looked me right in the eye. “They told me I only have a few weeks left.”
I tightened my lips, took a breath, and asked, “What can I do for you?”
They knew I was Catholic and an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Cathy asked me if I could bring a priest. She told me that they were non-practicing Catholics and had not been to church in years. It was time for them to “make things right with God.”
I promised to put in a call to Father as soon as I got home. Cathy thanked me saying “That’s why I was out here, waiting for you.”
As I slowly walked her back to the house, she spoke on of her husband — how she wished she could ease his suffering and how wonderful it might be if they could go for a bicycle ride just one more time. “I thank God for every moment we had together,” she said.
I checked in on Ed, and, as Cathy excused herself, we chatted for about ten minutes. Ed’s conversation was all about Cathy: how he wished he could ease her suffering and how God had been so good to him allowing him to find such a great woman to share his life with.
When God is present sometimes it is hard to breathe. I took a deep breath.
Once home, I called our newly ordained priest, Father Scott. He came over the next day and spent about an hour with Ed and Cathy. Ed and the young priest both had roots in Roanoke, Virginia, and talked and laughed and had a raucous good time together. Even though more than 50 years separated them, it didn’t matter. It was like they’d grown up together. It was beautiful.
Father heard their confessions, anointed both Ed and Cathy, and gave them Holy Communion. He told them he would come back the first chance he could, but with Holy Week coming up, he would be busy. They all hugged and said good-bye. That Palm Sunday I had the honor of bringing them Holy Communion.
Easter Sunday I was again privileged to bring Ed and Cathy Holy Communion. They were lying next to each other in bed, holding hands. Ed smiled and said, “Larry, we are so happy. This is the greatest Easter we ever had.”
He turned and looked at his wife, who was smiling lovingly at him. She reached over and wiped his wet, happy eyes. They stared into each other’s eyes and I thought they were seeing into each others very souls. It was a moment filled with a shared spirituality I had never seen before, or experienced, but I could actually feel it. I have no doubt that at that moment Jesus was there with them holding their hands in His.
Ed died the week after Easter. A week later Cathy moved into hospice. She lived another two weeks.
As for me, I thank God for their friendship and for being a part of their final journey. Sometimes I like to think that I took two people in love to the airport and watched them get on a plane for a a true flight to paradise.