Carl writes: "I am a Christ follower from Detroit and a 2006 graduate from Liberty University. I was a young know-it-all hotshot who actually went to a doctor's office in my late teens and witnessed a father comforting his Down syndrome son. It touched me in a way that changed my life and inspired me to write a story based on my encounter."
Shane and Ronnie
Sometimes at the most unexpected times, something happens that will
change you forever. For Ronnie, a 17 year old junior in high school, it
happened in a waiting room at a doctor’s office. Ronnie was a popular
student who played sports, went to parties, and really only looked out
for himself. He told his mom his arm was hurting and she noticed a
strange rash, so they went to the dermatologist. While in the waiting
room, Ronnie noticed an older man trying to calm down another man who
looked to have Down syndrome. The man with Down syndrome looked to be in
his thirties and the older man his sixties. Ronnie assumed it was
father and son, and at first didn't give it much thought. The man with
Down syndrome was crying and making a scene, and most people in the room
just ignored what was going on. The older man was so kind and gentle to
his son, and told him everything would be fine. Finally, the man with
Down syndrome stopped crying and soon after that was called in to see
Ronnie wasn't religious and neither was his family. He never gave much thought to God or the Bible, but for some reason this experience at the doctor’s office was pulling on his heart. For the rest of the day he was quiet and his family was worried. They asked him what was wrong and he simply told them he didn't know. The love this father showed for his handicapped son was something incredible to Ronnie. The son with Down syndrome was causing this huge scene, and the father only showed him love. Ronnie couldn't let this go and he continued to show change in his everyday life.
Every two weeks Ronnie went back to the dermatologist for treatment. A few months later Ronnie saw the father and son again. This time Ronnie was sitting closer and he struck up a conversation with the father. His name was Allen and his son’s name was Shane. They talked for about ten minutes until they both were eventually called in. Ronnie was now going to the doctor without his mom since he turned 18, and before he left he overheard Allen make a future appointment for Shane. He decided to schedule his next appointment the same day and time so he could see them again.
Sure enough, Ronnie went back and Allen and Shane were both excited to see their new friend. Allen invited Ronnie to lunch after their appointments and he accepted. At lunch, Allen told Ronnie about his life. How his wife died a few years earlier and it was just Allen and Shane now. Ronnie discovered Shane had a serious skin condition and Ronnie told them his reason for going to the doctor wasn't that serious. After lunch, they went on their ways and Ronnie was able to get their number.
Ronnie was now in his senior year of high school, and it flew by. His rash seemed to get worse in the winter, but he kept it from his family. He stayed in touch with Allen and Shane, and went to their church every Sunday. Shane considered Ronnie his best friend, and it was truly a special friendship.
As the summer approached, Allen heard Shane’s skin condition which was cancer, spread throughout his body. Shane only had a month to live. Ronnie was also in a lot of pain and finally told his parents his rash was getting worse. He was diagnosed with cancer as well, and would have to go through some painful chemotherapy.
Two months went by and Shane was still full of life. The days he knew he was going to see his best friend were a big reason he kept going strong. He looked forward to those times more than anything. At the same time, Ronnie was weak. He barely had the energy to get out of bed. Shane would go see him with Allen, and Ronnie would try his hardest to have the strength to be upbeat and positive.
Ronnie’s chemo unfortunately was not enough and he died in his sleep. His classmates and family were heartbroken. At his funeral, which was at Allen and Shane’s church, it was packed. Shane was in a lot pain at this time, but he asked his dad if he could speak. He got up to the front of the church and told everyone the story of Ronnie. He talked about how much it meant to have this popular high school student befriend him. How he never had a friend in his life, and how much Ronnie meant to him. Many of Ronnie’s old classmates never knew Ronnie befriended this 30 year old Down syndrome man named Shane. Everyone was touched by Shane’s speech and there wasn't a dry eye in the church.
Shane died two days later, also in his sleep. Allen arranged the funeral, but with little family or friends he wasn't sure who would show up. When the day came for Shane’s funeral, the church was packed. People from Ronnie’s funeral were so touched by Shane. Allen touched by the kindness of everyone at the church couldn't help but smile. He used to feel like he was all Shane had, but Ronnie changed that. The funeral was a celebration of the life of his son. Shane and Ronnie were now gone, but the impact their unlikely friendship had on this church and community lasted forever.
Allen’s love for his son reminds me how God loves his children. When we are sad or scared, he is always there for us. Unconditional, unbelievable, perfect love.
(© 2014 Carl Coffee – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)