Richard Exley Ministries

In Memory of George Gentry
Posted on February 13, 2013

George was my friend and I looked forward to spending an hour with him from 4 to 5 PM each Tuesday afternoon. His illness prompted my first visit but it soon became secondary to the relationship we shared. That first afternoon, however, we were sizing each other up. He was tempted to view me as Joyce’s preacher, while I was struggling to see him as a man in his own right and not just Joyce’s son-in-law.

Joyce loved George and couldn’t bear the thought of his impending death. Knowing that all things are possible with God, she was eager for me to pray with George for complete healing. However when I asked George if he would like me to ask Jesus to heal him he said, “Absolutely not. My times are in God’s hands and I don’t think we have any business interfering with what He has planned.� I could have debated the finer points of divine healing but that seemed somehow inappropriate. As the weeks and months slipped by I would ask him from time to time if he had changed his mind. Without hesitation he would reply, “Let’s leave things the way they are.�

We became friends and I found myself looking forward to Tuesday afternoon each week. Joyce would meet me at the door with a bottle of water and I would make myself comfortable while George expressed his views regarding the latest “liberal lunacy� with Fox News playing in the background. Once he got that out of the way we turned to other topics – usually George’s favorite – himself.

He was a fascinating storyteller, holding me spellbound week after week. I learned about his childhood and how many different schools he attended in a single year. He loved dogs and the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Hard work was second nature to him and he spent most of his adult life in construction work. No matter how tired he as at the end of the workday, he always had time to play with his children. He spoke often of his spiritual heritage – his grandmother was Pentecostal but he grew up Baptist. Somewhere along the way he became discouraged with church, although he never doubted the reality of God or His unconditional love.

Of course, I was concerned about his relationship with Jesus, especially given the condition of his health. He assured me that he had made his peace with the Lord and that Jesus was his personal savior. After four or five weeks of visits we began taking communion together. Joyce would join us, and once or twice Susan (George’s wife) got home from work in time to share in that special time. Once his granddaughter joined us. Each week at the Lord’s Table we experienced forgiveness, regeneration, and the promise of eternal life all over again.

On my very first visit George said to me: “I hope you’re not like that hospice Chaplin. Every time he comes to see me he falls asleep.� I assured him I would do my best to stay awake. Next he told me he hoped I wasn’t like his nurse who was always late. Once more I assured him I would do my best to be on time, but that I couldn’t always control my schedule. I managed to be on time for the most part and if I was running a few minutes late I always asked my secretary to call. I only fell asleep once and just for a split second, but he caught me. I started to deny it, but he just smirked at me and I knew I couldn’t fool him. We both laughed. I blamed it on his boring company and he told me I was just a worthless lay about.

Somewhere in the weeks and months we became good friends. We laughed a lot, shared the stories of our lives, argued politics in a good natured sort of way, prayed together, and talked about what it felt like to know you were dying. He was mostly free from pain and he was thankful for that. He hated the thought of leaving Susan and his family, but he was kind of excited about going to heaven. He dreamed about it once or twice and in his dream heaven was a lot like the Ozark Mountains – only better – and he had a dog to go hiking with him. Of course God was very near and more real than he could explain.

The last two or three times I visited him he was too weak to leave his bedroom so I pulled up a chair next to his bed. Talking was an effort and I had to lean close in order to hear him. I told him that I hoped that when my time came I could die with as much dignity as he was. That seemed to please him and he told me I probably couldn’t because he was a better man. We both laughed until he started coughing.

The last time I saw George was Tuesday afternoon, December 18th. I think we both knew it was going to be our last visit. I was traveling to Pennsylvania to be with my daughter and her family and George was going home to be with Jesus. George, as I’m sure you know, is not really a touchy feely type of guy, but he had grown accustomed to my goodbye hugs and seemed to enjoy them, but of course he would never say so. On that final afternoon I bent over George’s bed, kissed him on the forehead and bid him Godspeed.

Thank you George for sharing your life with me. I am a richer man because of your friendship.

This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.

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Category: In God's Hands

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