What good is it for a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?Mark 8:36
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We went to Dick’s drive-in in the U-District Thursday (U being University of Washington, for those of you unfamiliar with my exotic, sophisticated, Washingtonian lingo). It wasn’t optional. As far as I know, it’s not possible to drive to and from SeaTac airport without making the obligatory stop at Dick’s — our version of In-and-Out Burger.
Got in line. Gave our order: Two deluxe, four cheeseburgers, four fries, two tartar, three vanilla shakes, one diet Coke. And then Dave said, “Isn’t that Bill Gates?”
Sure enough. Two lines over, smiling and trying not to notice that twenty heads had turned in his direction, was the founder of Microsoft. “Hi, Bill,” someone near him said, as though Bill were a buddy.
“Hello,” he said, still smiling.
One woman left her line and scampered over to stand behind him. Clearly, he was her buddy too. She began talking as though resuming a previously interrupted conversation.
While I strained to eavesdrop, Zac, whom we had picked up at the airport, said, “That’s just wrong.” I might have heard more of Bill’s conversation than just the woman’s “I’ve noticed it’s really grown around there in the last ten years, haven’t you?” if Zac wasn’t delivering a speech about standing-in-line propriety and burger anonymity right in my ear.
“Mom, quit looking at him,” he warned, smack in the middle of said speech.
I really wanted to linger so I could tell you what Bill ordered, but Zac hustled me straight to the car. I can tell you that Bill wore simple black pants and a modest blue jacket with thin black squares, and that Melinda was waiting for him in their Volvo station wagon, two cars from ours.
I have to say, he seems like a very nice, very humble man. But while watching Bill back up their car, pull out of Dick’s, and drive east on 45th Street, I thought the same thing I often think when his name or his face pops up in the news. I wondered if He knew God, and hoped he did— and I thought of baubles, and how quickly they will dissipate when this life is over.
Later in the day, we went to the home of a rich man, to bring him worship and communion in the last hours of his life.
We parked not far from his mobile home, and noticed as we did so that two other couples from church — Dave and Sue Kunkle, and John and Laurie Watson — were also parked near the Baileys’ home. With Bible, communion elements, and guitar in hand, we walked up to the house, knocked on the door, and joined the others inside.
Bruce was lying in his hospital bed in the living room next to the sliding glass door, where he had a view of the neighboring mobile homes, and the potted plants Alberta had set on their deck. Two IV bags hung from a stand at the head of his bed. When I asked her if she rotated the bags herself, she nodded. “It’s okay except when I have to lift the stand higher to get a better drip. I’m just not strong enough to do it when two bags are hanging there.”
I walked to the bed and took Bruce’s hand. “Hello,” I said. “It’s good to see you.” His eyes latched with mine. He didn’t speak or smile, but his grip tightened. “Your hands are nice and warm,” I said.
We took seats around the bed, and prayed, and sang. First, a song of declaration.
I believe in Jesus
I believe He is the Son of God
I believe He died and rose again
I believe He paid for us all
And I believe that He’s here now
Standing in our midst
Here with the power to heal now
And the grace to forgive
Then a song of adoration.
Isn’t He (isn’t He)
Isn’t He (isn’t He)
Prince of Peace
Son of God
After another song, and more prayer, Dave asked, “Bruce, would you like to have communion?” And Bruce said his one and only word: “Yes.”
Dave read from Matthew. Alberta gave her husband a small bite of communion bread, then helped him drink the juice. Then, clustered around his bed, we laid hands on Bruce and prayed that God would ease his pain, and fill him with peace, and give him glimpses of the heaven he was about to enter. Bruce closed his eyes, and kept them closed — and sometime in the early hours of Saturday morning, he opened them to Jesus.
He died a rich man — rich in the love of his wife, the love of his church family, the love of his God.
And he’s a rich man still.