Pierre Fontenot Friday, February 7, 2014 0

Early in my workday I said hello to people who are dying.

We joked, we hugged, talked about the mid-20’s weather, felt sorry for the plants, there was a little conference about a four-dollar error from yesterday, all before any customers arrived.

I looked at them and they looked at me and nobody seemed to be thinking about us all being one-day-older and one-day-closer….

We were small talking like we were on Day One of eternity.

Same me, same morning, minutes later, I had a conversation with someone dying from breast cancer.


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It’s a strange thing, to be in the presence of someone with a thin calendar.

“So how do you feel?” I asked. That’s how it started. “Are you in pain?”

She seemed inclined to talk, and so I asked another question and another question.

“Were you ever mad at God?” Same question I asked my dad about a bad time in his life. She reacted like he did, a fast-fast answer, no pause, complete assurance, “O no.”

She was Stage 4 when diagnosed. Said she was a Triple Negative, not caused by any of the three usual suspects among hormones. Her cancer is in a bad spot. When faced with radiation there seemed only bad choices with hard consequences.

She prayed.

(The most powerful sentence in the New Testament might be the shortest, “Jesus wept.” I left the above paragraph alone, two words, competent together, one child of God, receiving the C word, and now what…)

She prayed.


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That we have long lives is only revealed to be a luxury when death comes to our peers. I think back on my life and ask, ‘What did I do that year…what do I have to show for entire decades?’ It’s a cliché, this sentiment, to live every day like it’s your last; you can frame Carpe Diem mighty-nice and hang it over the front door, or slap a magnet on it on the frig door, but it doesn’t stick, the urgency of the message, because-because, we’ve been alive a chunk o’ years and tomorrow always came, and odds are, it will tomorrow too.

The air is early-30’s cold, a breeze of it coming right at us, and there we are, talking this talk in the parking lot.

It’s been four years since she said no to radiation. She has peace. She has no idea how long she has left. That just hangs out there…the not knowing…and I realize that it’s just as true for me…

The peace comes from Him. When she quotes that line, about “peace that passeth all understanding”, I know there’s no point in asking; her elevator is up higher than mine; I’ve known uncommon peace, but not about facing death. For all I know it’s a one-of-a-kind peace, God saving the rarest versions for the highest calls, the rarest moments.


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I met her before she was diagnosed; I see her now a couple times a year; there is no change in her smile. How I interpret that smile is different.

B.C., before cancer, her smile was soft and spoke of a nice spirit; A.C, her smile tells me she’s found herself stronger that she thought she was, more substantial. It’s an odd thing, to receive this smile, knowing what I know, this is someone Up Ahead of me, Down The Road and Farther Along, and I am honored that she is gifting me with these never again minutes.

I ask a question, she answers it. It is a great gift to me, to have this talk where nothing is small. We are two children of God, and she is sick, and I care, and yet she’s giving me more than I’m giving her.

We hug and off she goes to the rest of her Day That The Lord Hath Made.

I come in from the cold all-the-warmer. She has filled me with High Things.


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Here comes my father. It’s Wednesday, our lunch date. He’s 84, and death occasionally comes up in conversation.

I mention the conversation with the lady, the power of it, how moved I still am…  He nods his head.

He remains surprised – I guess that’s the word – “surprised” to have outlived all his elders. He’s now older than his father, mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles…ever were… He tells me again about his own mother, diagnosed with cancer, telling him that she had enjoyed a long, good life, and now was praying for God to “withdraw” her. He ends like he always ends this anecdote –

– “I haven’t begun asking for that…”

I don’t know what I’d do if he ever asks to be withdrawn. He’s the kind that would. And he’d tell me. He would.

My father is not a particularly brave man, but he’s not afraid of death. He is all-in for Faith. He Believes. He trusts his soul to his Faith.

He believes that life is a gift…and as I’ve heard him say so many times at funerals, he believes that death is also a gift.


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He gets his soup and I go claim a booth and grab some silverware. When we’re both seated I do the “pray-us-up-Pop” line and here he goes with grace.

He has some familiar phrases in his meal prayers, that God would provide for “those less fortunate” being one of them, but today he throws out this new line, old-from-the-Bible, but new-to-the-dinner-table, and quotes, “Lo, I am with you always.”

Why that, Dad? Why today? Where did that come from?


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When I asked her if she was ever mad at God, she said no, but yes, she’d been afraid. I understood her face, and I knew she wasn’t afraid now. When she walked out on radiation she walked into reality, that the end was coming, a day-by-day life. She and I and you, we have the same reality; her advantage over us is the clarity, and simplicity.

Lo, I am with you always.  You are, aren’t You?

Wrote about this a while back, this lady, in a hospital room filled with loved ones, and in walks a doctor with a bad-news face, and what does she do…

..she excuses herself, goes into the bathroom, shuts the door, looks up and says, “Okay God, it’s You ‘n me.” When it’s life ‘n death, that’s no time for a committee. She went straight to The Man.

Those words, Lo, I am with you always, that’s not chatter, that’s not a sentiment on a balloon bouquet, perched up there on the sill of the hospital window.  That’s Him talking.

I am with you always.

In your bad news, on your bad days, in your fall, in your decline, when your body is breaking down, I am with you always.

In your last year, on your last day, in your last five minutes, Lo, I am with you always.

That’s big talk. Faith says He backs it up.


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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where the guy typing this is drippy eyed out of thankfulness, that His promises are always kept, even when our story doesn’t have a fairy tale ending.


Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories are posted on Eighty-one’s Facebook page, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, about pillow time. Uncle P can be reached at 81creativity@gmail.com.