We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu
On my very first visit to Gene, a wonderful Baptist man, I knew how deep his faith was. He was only 60 years old, dying of cancer of the lung, but he had no fear in him.
As I was preparing to leave, I asked if he would like me to pray with him. This precious and confident man fell to his knees in front of me, hands raised, and said, “Yes, please.” I could just see God smiling at the picture of a Catholic nurse praying with a Baptist patient who was about to meet his Creator. We became fast friends in a very short time.
Gene had two handsome blue-eyed, blond sons and one beautiful brown-eyed, dark-haired daughter, all of whom he loved dearly. He told me about a great-great-great grandmother who was a Native American princess, which explained the beautiful daughter who for all the world could be one. Although he mentioned it to me, and was proud of it, it had not impacted his life to any great degree.
Gene was a very devout Christian and now, as he approached his death, he knew whom he would be seeing very soon. “I know where I am going and I’m not afraid to die,” he said to me on more than one occasion.
One evening while the whole family was kneeling around his bed, I asked, “Do you want us to pray with you?” Even though Gene had not responded for about three or four days, he made it known with groans and a shake of his head that yes, he wanted us to pray with him.
It became very clear that Gene could hear us praying and he joined us in a very unique way. His prayer sounded so beautiful and much like a chant, with all the rhythms and sounds associated with Native American worship. As he was praying, he began to lift his body into a sitting position with his hands outstretched and his arms raised. It was spellbinding to watch since he had not responded in any way for days and was really too weak to do so now.
It seemed wonderful that God would enable this faith-filled man to be accompanied by the ancestors he did not know and to find comfort in their prayers for him now. He died peacefully the next day with his loving family around him.