Garth was a prideful man. He loved to humiliate and dominate others. His favourite victim for this purpose was his sidekick and best friend, Larry. Garth also enjoyed talking for hours about his personal philosophy to anyone who would listen. He believed that every idea he had was great. He had two sons, and preferred his eldest, Pete. He lavished attention on him, and Pete, during his youth, turned against his mother, taking Garth’s side in their unhappy marriage.
Over the years, Garth worked for various companies, but did not like to take orders. He dreamt of opening his own business. He wanted to give orders and feel superior. A series of his business ventures failed. Finally, one succeeded, but there was a problem. Even though his partner, Bill, was easy going and reasonable, there was strife between them. After a drawn-out battle, Garth sold his share of the business to Bill and retired. “I could have put him in a wheel chair,” Garth said.
Over the course of his retirement, his friendship with Larry began to sour. Larry’s longtime wife had died and he had remarried. His new wife, Anne, was financially well off. They could afford to travel and Larry bought a new car. Garth was envious. The power balance in the friendship quickly changed. Larry began to “talk back” to Garth, and Anne disliked him. Garth stepped up his insults directed at Larry. The final straw came when Garth called Anne “ignorant.” Larry broke off the 50-year-old friendship.
Garth’s two sons had moved away, the younger one to the other side of the country, and Pete’s feelings about his father had gradually changed. Nevertheless, Pete regularly visited his dad, much more out of obligation than affection. Garth’s marriage did not improve, yet the couple stayed together, partly for financial reasons and partly because they were “old school.”
Garth spent much of his retirement years taking art and music lessons, while his wife continued to work hard, inside and outside of the home. Garth also compulsively read a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. “Napoleon was crazy! Why did he invade Russia? No one can conquer Russia!” Garth would often say. Or he might say, “Do you think it was right that Napoleon was kept as a prisoner on Saint Helena?” Regardless of how one might answer those questions, Garth would take the opposing view.
Garth grew very old. In spite of rigorously caring for his body, undiagnosed cancer quietly crept into his bones. One day, he collapsed in his kitchen. His wife phoned the emergency number and Garth was taken to the hospital. He could no longer control his bowel movements too well and he sometimes defecated in his pants. However, he refused to wear diapers and verbally abused and threatened the nurses who tried to care for him.
During this twilight of his earthly life, Garth depends a great deal on Pete. “Pete’s a great son, always there for me,” he says. But Pete doesn’t feel the same way for his dad. “He’s a selfish bastard,” he says. Pete’s trying to get Garth committed to a nursing home, “and the sooner the better. If it wasn’t for my mom, I’d have given up on him,” he says.
But Garth isn’t all bad; there is some goodness in him. Will he swallow his pride, repent of his sins and turn to God before he dies? There is no one in heaven that is not humble. But hell is a place where each person is alone with their hatred, their bitterness and their pride. We are all more like Garth than we realize. Now is the time to repent. You may not be nearing death but, “Be on your guard … because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13) when you will be judged.