A Diagnosis of Life…Part 2

After Steven finished speaking, Valerie began to reason through the different possibilities, asking him questions. As she fought her way through the legal issues, Steven found himself admiring her intelligence and business understanding. Valerie also began to ask what would happen to the employees of the company. The query hung in the air as Steven suddenly admitted  that he’d never asked himself or Michael that question. To Valerie, however, that was the most important question. “Is there any way to rebuild the actual health of the company?” she asked. Steven thought for a few moments and then slowly said, “Well, Michael doesn’t want to try. He would rather sell the company, take the profits, and try another venture. He also asked me to go with him.”

“Steven, how can we do that to the people working in the company? How can we do that to the community? Flinders creates a lot of opportunities in this city. If the company goes under with everyone working together to try and make it work, that’s one thing, but if the company fails and we profit from it…” Valerie couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence. Her perspective was clear. She had been raised in a strong Christian home which valued faith, family and hard work. Her father worked 10 hours a day, 6 days a week  for as long as he’d been able, in order to build a farm he could pass on to his children. His word and a handshake were better than a contract, so neither he nor his daughter had much use for quick, easy money at the expense of someone else.

“I know, Val, but this deal could mean that you and the kids would be set for the rest of your lives when… I mean, if something were to happen to me.” She shook her head and looked out the side window with a look of disappointment on her face. “Anyway,” he continued, ” I have to make a decision by tomorrow. We have a Board of Directors meeting tomorrow morning at 10 and we will present the offer and the current state of the company to them. They will then give a recommendation to Michael. I mean, he can do what he wants to with the company… he owns the controlling interest… but their vote could provide us with some legal cover in case something goes wrong.”  As he finished speaking, he turned on their street then directed the Hummer into the three car garage when they reached the end of the cul de sac upon which they lived. After he turned the motor off, Valerie went to each of the children’s rooms to turn down the covers while he carried each sleeping child to their respective rooms. He tucked each one into bed and then prayed with them As he was leaving Kyle’s room, the boy sleepily said, “Dad, thanks for today. It was the best day of my life.”

Steven turned to look at his son and huskily responded, “Mine too, Son. Mine too.” He then turned the light off and just before leaving the room, said, “I love you Son.”

Leaving Kyle’s room, Steven stopped by Melissa’s room only to find her asleep. Rather than awaken her, Steven knelt at the foot of her bed and said a quick, fervent prayer for the safety and provision of his daughter. He then arose and gave her a gentle kiss and whispered, “I love you, Honey.” Melissa mumbled something in return, sighed, and turned over. Walking down the hallway to the master bedroom, Steven slowly became aware of a wonderful scent that slightly grew in intensity as he got closer to the room. It was Steven’s favorite scent. It was the perfume that was his first gift to Valerie while they were dating. The perfume was French and was an extravagant gift at the time, especially for a college junior he had just met. His friends were mercilous in their teasing. “…But you have to see this girl…” was his confident defense. Since that date, Valerie only used the perfume for occasions either momentous or intimate. Just breathing the fragrance brought Steven a melancholy pleasure.

Walking into the room, Steven’s gaze was drawn to Valerie, dressed in his favorite nightgown, her damp hair glistening in the warm glow of candles scattered throughout the room. As Steven followed the invitation of both Valerie’s eyes and the French perfume, he stretched out on the bed next to her. She stopped him before he could speak and said, “I just want you to know that I love you and trust you. I believe you will make the right decision tomorrow at the Board meeting and the children and I will support and love you no matter what the consequences are.” She gave him a deep, passionate kiss and playfully said, “Now go wash the campfire and fish off you and let’s go to bed.”

The alarm awakened Steven from a peaceful sleep with a raucous Lynard Skynard tune and the lyrics began a reverberation within his consciousness:

“Gimme three steps, gimme three steps mister…”

But as Steven made his way through his normal routine, other words fromearlier years began to build a cacophony of mixed messages in his wounded psyche, making concentration very difficult.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Steven turned off the shower and began to towel off. “What am I going to do?” he silently asked himself as well as an unseen Visitor. “I have to make the decision that is best for Valerie and the kids when I die.”

” But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Steven put a bead of toothpaste on the toothbrush and began to vigorously scrub his teeth,remembering how Valerie teased him after they were first married about how much effort he put into the daily chore. Cleansing his mouth of the paste with water, he smiled at the memory and caught sight of his reflection in the mirror. Looking deeply into his own eyes, he asked, “How did you get in this deep? What happened to the values you grew up with? Where has the church youth group leader gone, Steve?”

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

“How did you get caught up trying to control tomorrow, the future, by your own efforts today? Why? You won’t even be here tomorrow. At least not many more tomorrows.”

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.”

Grabbing his electric razor, his personal conversation continued. “I have spent so much time preparing for tomorrow that I failed to really live today! Oh, God in Heaven…”

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Steven’s plan was to arrive at the office about 30 minutes before the board meeting. When he walked in the door, Stacey met him with a list of calls he needed to return and some other items considered urgent to other people. Steven invited Stacey to come into his office and close the door.

“Stacey, you are the first person I have told this to and I really don’t know why I am telling you other than you deserve an explanation. Stacey, I’m dying…. The doctor brought a report back the other day that says I don’t have much time. Months, maybe weeks… we don’t really know. Anyway, what is really weird about the whole thing is that since I found out, my whole perspective about life seems to be changing. Yestarday I spent the most ‘alive’ day with my family that I have ever lived, and yet, I’m dying. When I spoke to you yesterday on the phone, I think I finally woke up to the fact that I have been a really selfish person. This isn’t something new to you, I’m sure, but I want you to know that, if I don’t see you after this board meeting,  I am sorry for my attitude in the past, and thank you for your faithful service to me, to the company, and to God, I think. Are you a Christian, Stacey?”

“Y-Y-Y-Yes, Mr., I-I mean Steven. But why wouldn’t I see you after the meeting?” Stacey stammered.

“Because I may not be with the company anymore. Look, its a long story, but things will be changing at The Flinders Company in the near future. Anyway, say a prayer for me while I’m in there, will you Stacey?” Steven asked as he ushered her towards the door.

“Sure, Steven…I’ll pray during the whole meeting.”

After Stacey left his office, Steven once again closed the door to collect himself, his laptop, and a file of financial spreadsheets. Stopping for a moment next to the door which led to the executive meeting room, he looked into the mirror. “Well,” he said aloud, “you look pretty good for a dead man, O’Rourke!”

Suddenly, from inside his jacket pocket, his cell phone started ringing. Taking out the phone, he looked at the caller ID and remarked, “I wonder what they want?” Answering the phone, Steven said, “Hello?”

“Uh, Mr. O’Rourke? Is this Mr. Steven O’Rourke?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“Well Mr. O’Rourke, this is Dr. Wilkerson. Uh, I have some news…”

“Look Doctor, I’m just beginning an important meeting and…”

“Mr. O’Rourke, this can’t wait. Um, when you were in my office the other day… uh, I, uh, p-p-pulled the wrong chart when you came in to confer about the results of your tests. You see, I pulled Shawn O’Rourke instead of Steven O’Rourke, and uh, I gave you his diagnosis instead of your diagnosis. The fact of the matter is, sir, uh, you are as healthy as a bull, other than you could lose a few pounds, heh, but, uh, I could too, for that matter. Mr. O’Rourke, I’m really sorrry. If there is anything I could do…”

Steven pushed the “end” button and stood in stunned silence. It was a short silence, however, because someone began to knock tersely on the door to the meeting room. Steven could guess to whom the knock belonged. Hesitantly, Steven’t gaze alternated between the laptop and file folder on his desk and the door to the meeting room. Finally, Steven strode confidently to the desk, picked up the laptop and file, pulled his shoulders back, and with a slight smile entered the executive board room.

“Gimme three steps, gimme three steps mister,

Gimme three steps for the door.

Gimme three steps, gimme three steps mister,

And you’ll never see me no more.

Fo sho.”


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