Art’s last phone call to me was two or three months ago. This time, his wife had left him and he needed a few thousand dollars, or he would lose his house. I told him I couldn’t do that. He said, “Oh, well, I just thought I’d ask. How’s the family?” He didn’t sound panicked or angry or desperate.
We talked a while longer about some of the other things gone wrong in his life, and I asked him, “Art, how’s your relationship with God?”
“Well, I’m not too big on organized religion you know. I’m hoping the good’s gonna outweigh the bad, ” he answered. I should have said more but didn’t.
At one point, he said, “I think I’ll just start drinking as much as I’ve always wanted to.” Art said stuff like that, so it didn’t hit me as profoundly as it should have.
I said something like, “Well, that doesn’t sound too good.”
He drawled, “Yeah,” as I heard him draw on a cigarette. We talked a little more, said our good-byes and hung up.
A couple weeks later, I looked for his number to call him, but, again, couldn’t find it. I figured he’d call again in a while, and I’d save it then.
That was it. A few days ago, Sharon called me at work to say Art’s stepdaughter had found my number in some of Art’s stuff and thought she should let me know he died. He didn’t want a funeral, but she and her mom are planning a memorial service.
I was, and still am sad and angry about Art and disappointed in myself. I mean, what is the deal with Art? Why did he never use his gifting, and why would he go to school for something and never use it? And did he know Jesus well enough to get into Heaven, and, if he did, why didn’t his life show more of it? I mean, how much faith does salvation take? The one robber crucified next to Jesus just said, essentially “Give the guy a break. He doesn’t deserve this,” and Jesus announced to him that he’d be in Heaven that day. That’s all it took.
I don’t know, but what is the fascination with ending up sick, poor and homeless? How quaint and interesting is that? Am I supposed to feel sorry for Art or think him foolish? I tend to think he was foolish, but there was something in his life before I met Art that started him on that track. Was he rejected by somebody significant? His dad had died when he was quite young, I think. Was it laziness or fear of failure or some rebellion against the establishment? Well, who won that war, Art? The whole thing just ticks me off. Come on, Art. You could have done better than that.
And then there’s my part in this. I wonder if Art enjoyed the positive I represented more than I ever realized. He may have been glad I was a Christian, and I thought he rejected it. How many Christians had he ever respected? Maybe he hoped to gain points with Jesus by being associated with me.
I didn’t desire to chill out to the degree Art did, but I could have used the time he made himself available to me to speak more life into him, or conviction or vision maybe. But, hey, I’m busy. I’m working and raising a family. Art and I had talked about Jesus and church. I knew how he felt about it. It seemed fruitless to hash over old information. He never seemed interested in my faith and how it affected me. I didn’t want to turn him off. You know, keep him coming. But keep him coming for what? In the end, I never did rise up to make him face his spiritual situation. I was just polite enough to let him talk.
But, you know, he graduated from Moody Bible Institute. He’d heard the gospel there and had to have told people he accepted it, or he never would have gotten through school and worked at a Baptist church. But he rejected it because he was offended. Still, I think I’ll be disappointed in myself over Art when I stand face-to-face with Jesus. Jesus will get me through it, I know, but I really hope Art is there to greet me…I just don’t know.
It is sad. Intentionally or not, deceived or not, Art left behind nothing but a legacy of poverty as far as I know. No money, no children, no wife, few good friends, no significant work, few touched lives that I am aware of. But even all that would be OK, if I was convinced he had faith in Jesus.
There have been a few times, especially early on, when my life has been rather daily and predictable, and I have wondered how life was for Art. Few responsibilities, few expectations. I don’t think that so much now. I am thankful for the life God has given me, I mean the LIFE He has given me.
Art has shown me where choosing death as many times as he did gets a person.
This is all my pre-memorial perspective. I may come back from that event having learned that Art’s life had improved and sustained many others. If that is the case, I will alter the message I’ve written here.
At any rate, I choose life, and I choose to do a better job of helping others choose it, too.
Art, ya big dummy, why’d you do this to yourself…and everyone else who needed you?