You Can Be Right

You Can Be Right

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

You Can Be Right

What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.

~Aristotle

Earl once told his younger sister, Liddy, “If you can hang on my back pocket, you can go anywhere I go, too.” So Liddy, six years younger, always tagged along, even on Earl’s dates. She once stowed away in the dusty back seat of his truck and popped up when he and his date arrived at the drive-in theater. As Liddy grew into a young beauty, Earl made sure all her suitors met his personal approval.

Even after their marriages, Earl and Liddy remained close. Years later, Liddy’s husband, Kirby, when diagnosed with terminal cancer, said, “I won’t worry about Liddy as long as Earl is alive.”

After Kirby’s death, Liddy withdrew from everyone, even Earl. He and his wife, Sue, recognized this as Liddy’s way of grieving, but gradually their contact with Liddy diminished. As more time passed, it seemed harder to pick up the phone and call.

One February afternoon, Earl collapsed at work. At the hospital, the doctors told Sue it was a heart attack. They offered what they called a “clot buster” shot to open up the arteries around the heart. The shot worked, and Earl’s heart attack lessened. After a successful angioplasty the next morning, the doctors told them, “All is well.” Relieved and grateful, Earl and Sue went home to rest and recover.

Within twenty-four hours, Earl’s entire body swelled. He returned to the hospital. With sinking hearts, Earl and Sue learned that 1 in 100,000 patients who receive the shot experience a side effect called “cholesterol showering.” Instead of breaking up only the clots that caused Earl’s heart attack, the medication made all the cholesterol in his body release into his bloodstream. The overload was causing all his organs to slowly shut down. One doctor on the medical team said they would have to amputate one limb at a time to try to save him. “I began wondering how much longer I had to live,” says Earl. “Emotionally, Sue and I hit bottom. We were both so scared, we didn’t know how to comfort each other.”

At home a few days later, Sue and Earl received a special phone call. It was Earl’s sister Liddy. “I heard about Earl.... I wish I knew what to do. If only Kirby were here....” Liddy’s voice broke with little sobs. “May I come over to see you? I’d understand if you said no.... Would you ask Earl?”

Sue gently replied, “I don’t need to. We both want to see you—as soon as you can get here.” Liddy surprised Earl and Sue by arriving at their home with all her children and grandchildren. Sue hugged each one as Earl watched from the couch where he lay. When Liddy greeted him she said, “It’s been a long time, brother.” Earl replied, “Give me a hug!” Receiving his hug, he whispered to her, “Can we put lost time behind us?”

“I’d like that,” Liddy responded softly, tears brimming over her eyelids and streaming down her cheeks. She sat on the footstool beside him. “Can you forgive me for staying away for so long?”

“You know I can, Sis. I just want us to be brother and sister again, especially now,” Earl said, reaching out his hand to wipe away her tears. Liddy grasped Earl’s muscular, yet swollen hand and simply said, “I sure missed you.”

In the following days, Earl’s spirits were up. Not able to leave the house, he had time to rethink what was really important to him. “I realized that if I was going to die, I didn’t want anyone I left behind to be angry with me,” he says. He began calling friends and cousins he had not seen for years. Some had drifted out of his life for no particular reason. Others, though, carried grudges or hurt feelings. One man, for example, had not talked to Earl for twenty years because of a misunderstanding. Earl called him on the telephone and said, “I don’t remember what we disagreed about, but whatever it was, you can be right. I don’t want there to be any negative feelings between us.” Every person he called came to visit him. One woman, suffering from severe physical pain of her own, came in a wheelchair to visit him during one of his hospital stays.

After many trips to the local hospital for tests and treatment, with only a medical file as thick as a phone book to show for it, Earl and Sue decided to travel to a nearby city to discuss Earl’s case with a renowned kidney specialist. The specialist gave Earl a month to live.

Soon after, Earl’s niece Ronda, one of Liddy’s daughters who worked in the medical field, asked another famous kidney specialist his opinion of what her uncle was going through. This doctor offered a glimmer of hope. He instructed, “Tell your uncle to go to bed; it may take two years, but total rest might allow the cholesterol to filter out of his system naturally.” Having exhausted all other options, or so it seemed, Earl agreed to stay in bed for as long as it would take.

Though they had no one to talk to who had survived this rare “cholesterol showering,” Earl and Sue found comfort in the renewed friendships that Earl had initiated. Phone calls of support came daily. And since medicine offered no answers, everyone they knew agreed to pray.

Late one night, after months of resting and waiting, Sue begged Earl to try something new. She told him, “We’ve prayed for your health many times, but I’ve noticed that the Bible also talks about anointing sick people with oil and asking others to pray over them. Could we at least try?” She nervously awaited his answer, knowing that the Earl she knew before this ordeal would have never agreed. But, she hoped that with all he’d been through, he might be willing.

Sue was not disappointed. With Earl’s approval, she called the minister at their church and asked him to come and anoint Earl with oil and pray for him. Though it was nearly 3:00 A.M., the minister and a deacon arrived, ready to do as Sue asked.

The next evening, the entire deacon board came. The members gathered around the bed where Earl was confined, and each took a turn praying. After everyone left, Earl and Sue knelt by their respective sides of the bed to continue praying.

On his knees, Earl realized, “What am I doing out of bed? I’m better!” His arms and legs no longer ached, and the swelling was gone. “When it dawned on us what had happened,” Earl says, “we got so excited, we went into our backyard in our pajamas and danced together under the stars!

“I knew in my heart that I had a lot to celebrate: first, all my friends, and now, my health, too!”

Several years later, Earl, now in his late sixties, is in excellent health. More important, though, he says, “Facing death, I realized more than ever how deeply I care for my friends. And I no longer need to be ‘right.’ Standing by what I believe will always be important, but it doesn’t mean I have to insist that everyone agree with me.

“Reaching out, forgiving and telling others, ‘Look, you can be right,’ didn’t cost me a thing. It gained for me one of the greatest treasures this life offers: old friendships. And I got back my sister, too.”

Now Earl and Sue talk to Liddy nearly every day. She is hanging on his back pocket again after all these years.

~Amy Seeger

Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul

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