Don’t Waste Your Cancer (Bob)

Phil & Euretta

An Excerpt from Chapter 8

From the moment I laid eyes on Phil and Euretta, I sensed there was something peculiar about them. They stopped me after church, introduced themselves, and asked about the little Bible Study we held in our basement on Sunday nights. Halfway through our conversation I thought I’d figured it out. There were smiles on their faces, and yet they weren’t really smiling. It was like they were keeping a secret. Phil said he heard I had an extensive collection of Ohio State football memorabilia. I told him about my authentic 2002 National Championship helmet. It’s autographed by Coach Jim Tressel. From that point on, we talked Buckeye.

We all know people who conceal their pain and sadness. They mask it over with empty smiles and small talk. I invited Phil and Euretta to visit our Bible Study. But I also invited Phil to meet me for coffee. I felt a connection with him. A desire to go deeper. To maybe see what he was hiding. To see if he needed some help. Phil showed up at Starbuck’s the next morning wearing the same peculiar smile. I leaned back in my chair and asked him how he was doing.

“You don’t know about Euretta, do you?”

“I guess not.”

“Euretta’s dying. She has terminal liver cancer. She’s got about two or three months to live.”

His words landed on me like bricks. I gulped and scrambled for something to say. But Phil wasn’t done yet.

“To tell you the truth, we’re both good with it. In fact we’re really, really good.”

For the next hour Phil talked and I hung on every word. It turned out the peculiar smile was concealing something. But it was the opposite of what I expected. It was joy, not sadness, I saw leaking through his face. Phil and Euretta were living between two worlds. And they had found something I’d been looking for all my life.

I laughed at myself when I realized Phil didn’t need my help. I needed his. So I did the logical thing and asked him to lead our Bible Study the following Sunday.

I’ve heard Joe speak about his little brother’s death many times. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like on that doorstep with the State Troopers. Phil and Euretta’s pain and loss were similar to Joe’s only theirs was suspended in time. Almost in slow motion. And it was unfolding right before my eyes.

I have never personally experienced that kind of life-changing pain and loss. At least not yet. I know my time is coming. Almost no one gets through life unscathed. It’s very rare to hear of anyone living a comfortable, secure life from beginning to end, and then dying in their sleep with a little smile on their face.

Many people go through tragic events and never recover. The pain and loss destroys them. But for others it’s just the opposite. Intense suffering becomes part of a process that makes them stronger and more alive. I want to be like that. That’s why I lean in close and listen hard to people like Joe and Phil and Euretta.

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