1 Williams Place
Our Fairytale
It was February 2002. I was perusing the Class of ’62 on the Classmates.com web site.Our 40-year reunion was coming up soon. Paul Williams had entered a new profile. We had classes together, but had not been close friends in school. I clicked on his profile and was struck that our lives seemed to have paralleled along many of the same paths. I sent him an email to that effect, not really expecting him to answer. To my surprise, he answered right back saying he remembered me and appreciated the email. He was happy to reconnect with old friends and classmates.

In the email, he said that his wife had been in the hospital since the first of the year diagnosed with leukemia. It wasn’t going well, and his discouragement was evident. Since he said they were Christians, I began sending them encouraging Scriptures from the Bible. I would send prayers online for them both. We chatted on instant messenger occasionally, and he would talk about Debbie’s current circumstances. Sometimes he would pour out his heart in sadness, sometimes he was angry. I tried to listen gently and just be there. I will never forget the night of her death. He had not been online for a couple of days, and I knew she must be worse. The chemo had not brought a remission, and she was deteriorating quickly. It was about 3 a.m. on May 22. I was awake and writing on the computer when I saw him sign on. I sent an IM. “Is everything alright?” “No, Debbie passed away at 12:30 this morning.”

Although I had never met Debbie and I really wasn’t surprised to hear the news, I felt as if the breath had been jerked from my lungs. I knew he was devastated. I had been concerned that he might try to take his life when the end came as he had threatened to do on a particularly painful day. I breathed a prayer and asked God to send His Comforter to be with Dallas and to give me the right words—His words of comfort and peace. (Uncle Sam insisted on using Paul’s first name, Dallas, and it had stuck.) He talked about all that had happened the last couple of days and how he had held Debbie in his arms as she slipped away. He shared how her family had left the hospital soon after, leaving him alone to collect all of her belongings as he left Mission-St. Joseph’s that morning, alone, for the final time. All I could do was "listen" and just be there for him to vent his emotions.  

Our 40-year high school reunion was scheduled for the middle of June. I was planning to go, and Debbie had urged him to go on. It would be the first time we had seen each other in 40 years.

Arriving at the restaurant on Friday evening where many of our classmates were meeting for a pre-reunion dinner, we introduced ourselves with a friendly hug and chatted off and on during the evening. The next morning, we had separate events to attend but spent a little time together in the afternoon, mostly traveling to and from reunion events.

I felt a bit out of place with him. I had never been around someone who was in so much grief and pain. I could feel the anger that was seething just under the surface of his emotions. He spoke few words. I sincerely wanted to support him and be the friend that I believed I had become, but I was beginning to interpret his demeanor as his preferring that I wasn’t there. I made my excuses not to go with him and the group that was attending church with one of our classmates on Sunday morning. When I got home to Atlanta after spending a couple of days with my dad, I had several emails from him wondering where I was and if I had made it home okay. I must admit that I was surprised to hear from him!

In July, I went to northwest Tennessee to visit a girlfriend. I stayed there three months helping her work on her house. Dallas had planned a trip to South Dakota in August, so he plotted his route to come through Tennessee for a couple of days. He seemed to be in somewhat better spirits than when I had seen him two months prior, although he still didn’t say much. We went sightseeing, and he took us out to dinner at a very nice restaurant. I realized that he was grasping for hope as we talked about the Lord. He was still grieving deeply.

Dallas later recounts that, after arriving in South Dakota, he had a profound encounter with God, complete with a wide-awake vision. His trip was to include a visit to a church in Custer that he had pastored for a short time in 1966-67 when he was at Ellsworth AFB. After visiting the church and seeing the sights in South Dakota (the Black Hills, the Needles, Mt. Rushmore, and the Badlands), he decided to come back through Tennessee to share his experience with us. The trip had become a kind of “Bethel” to him.

As is typical after a great spiritual event, the enemy attacked him in force so that by the time he got to my friend’s house, he was in tremendous pain. He had been diagnosed some time back with rheumatoid arthritis, and it had reared its ugly head with a vengeance. He stayed three days, most of the time wrapped up in a blanket in the recliner.

By the time he got home to Asheville, NC, he was worse. His health continued to deteriorate. By October, he couldn’t get down the stairs of his condo and couldn’t drive his truck with a clutch. Dressing himself and preparing meals had become nearly impossible. He had to have help. And that’s when he called me to ask if I would consider coming to Asheville to help him.

To read the rest of the story and how Dallas was healed of lymphoma, click here.

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