It’s been almost 11 years ago that I met a beautiful young man who was dying of cancer at the tender age of 18. I had heard about his struggle with cancer in the local newspaper and new that someone needed to reach out to him and his family. I was working a full time job then so I asked my preacher at the time if he would pay this young man a visit and he promised me he would. After 2 or 3 weeks had gone by, I learned that my preacher had not kept his word and I became livid. ‘Why am I giving this man my tithe money when he can’t even get his ass in the car and visit someone who is sick as the rest of us are at work struggling to make a living?’ I thought.
I then made the decision to make the visit myself and I asked another church member, who knew the family of the young man, if she would go with me to visit them after I got off from work. She agreed and in the cold and chill of December, we drove down an old, back country road to a white cottage in the darkness of the night out in the woods. Once we arrived at the home, we were met by some of the friendliest of people, given the circumstances. The new friend that I met that night, who I always call now my Charlie, was laying in the living room on his hospital bed, connected to a morphine pump as his source of pain relief and sustenance.
What happened that night I have never forgotten as I watched this young man, who did not have much left to his frail being, wake from his sleep and he began speaking to me, though he couldn’t see me as the cancer had taken most of his sight. We talked and I learned about his favorite instrument, his favorite sport, even his favorite flower. I also prayed with him that night asking God to be by his side and Charlie received assurance that he would go to meet his Maker. Minutes later, he drifted back to sleep but before he did, I gave him a red Bible.
Charlie died three days later on December 26th and after speaking with his mother after the funeral had taken place, I learned that he was buried with the same Bible I had given him. I also learned from his mother that the visit I had paid him gave him renewed strength that she had not seen from him in a while. He was a more cheerful person in his last three days, making mention of me several times and wanting to know where his Bible was. On Christmas day, after weeks of not eating because of the effects from the morphine, he awoke asking to get dressed and ate his last meal ever with his family. I didn’t know that the time I had left to reach him wasn’t that long. I didn’t know that Charlie was on the verge of death the night we went to see him. The local newspaper had minimized the state of his condition.
Just like my angel, Charlie, whose life was claimed by a gruesome disease called cancer, there are many victims of domestic violence who are also on the verge of death. If you and I don’t get to them, don’t talk to them, don’t reach out to them soon, and just wait for other people and organizations to do the work when you and I are just as capable, then it just may be too late. If we can save them or offer some kind of hope to help them move on and be empowered to take the next steps, then we’ve done our job.
I know my Charlie died, but he needed someone to come to him and give him some kind of hope as his fate was near. For those who are being victimized by domestic violence, they still have a fighting chance, however, and that’s the point I want to get across today.
So I challenge all of us who are fighting for the rights of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault to crime victimization, please remember that each person deserves the help and support. It’s not too late. Each person deserves to be kept safe from their abuser and out of harm’s way with whatever it takes. Judges, prosecutors, police officers and advocates reading this, ask yourselves are your departments doing all they can do to protect victims? Politicians and legislators, are you passing laws to keep victims safe or what’s holding you back from making the right decisions to protect your citizens? Is it that one little clause in a bill that needs to be modified that’s preventing you from voting on it? If so, then for Heaven’s sake come to a compromise, get it changed and pass that bill! And family, friends, co-workers, what’s keeping you from talking to the person you love or know about getting help as they are being abused?
If all of us wait for the next guy to come around, just like the lazy preacher I once had, what we’re called to do by Divine Intervention, Providence or Karma will never happen. So let’s take the time to make this coming holiday and new year a time to be more proactive in our fight for all of humanity. There are some things we just know we must do that are right. Someone needs you. Don’t let anything hold you back.
~Dedicated to my Charlie. Called home to be with his Maker December 26, 1999.~