All right, here’s what happened.
I never did know for sure which team Mack was for. All I know is the one he hated: ours. He missed no opportunity to slam our players and coaches and me for supporting them.
This made little sense, seeing as how Mack was a native of this area. But when I wore a shirt sporting our team emblem, if he was in the yard–did I say we were next-door neighbors?–Mack would make a derogatory remark. Sometimes he would unloose a stream of profanity and more than once called the owner a scoundrel.
Now, I can understand neutrality about a team one doesn’t care for, but hostility? That one escapes me. Mack was most definitely not neutral. He hates us.
One time when we were talking over the backyard fence about something or other, I told Mack I had met his sister the other day and what a nice person she seemed to be. This set him off again. He informed me that she had been a cheerleader at one time for our team, and he thought she was a fool. He cursed her, cursed the team, and said the fans were idiots.
When Mack opposed something, he took no prisoners and left no one in doubt where he stood.
As the new season approached, I erected a small sign in the front yard supporting the team. It wasn’t much; I try to exercise good taste about these things. Two days later, when the sign came up missing, we found it in the trash on the other side of my house. There was no way to prove it, but I knew who had done it.
I often wondered what to make of Mack’s hostility toward our team. Not being a psychiatrist, I admit to never having figured that one out.
But the most bizarre aspect to this episode involving my next-door neighbor occurred not long ago. Mack died. He’d had a medical condition for years, and while I heard he was sick, I had no idea how bad.
I attended the funeral, sitting on the back row. Everything was typical of a hundred other memorials I’ve attended, but what surprised me was something from Mack’s longtime preacher friend and also from his brother.
They both said the same thing.
“Mack was always a fan of the local team. Oh, he might not have shown it the way others did, but he was a true fan.”
Remember the old joke about the preacher embellishing the life story of the deceased to the point that the widow tells a child, “Son, run up there and look in that casket and make sure that’s your daddy in there”? Well, that’s how I felt.
Are you talking about Mack, my neighbor, the one who had no use for this team, cursed the fans, and insulted the players, coaches, and owner?
Yep. That’s the Mack they were talking about.
Nothing more was ever said and I did not pursue the matter with Mack’s widow or adult children. It’s a loose end I’ll have to leave hanging.
Oh, did I say that our team is the Saints?
Mack had no use for the Saints, and now, according to his brother and the preacher, he has gone to live forever with them.
I bet he’s one miserable person up in Heaven.
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Postscript: This was one of those little things that woke me up this Saturday morning for reasons unknown. I jotted down the notes before losing the train of thought, then went on my daily pre-dawn prayer walk. Later, I decided to turn it into an article for the website. although I was unsure if it communicated. So, I asked some friends.
We put a link to the article on Facebook and invited those who read it to tell us if it worked, if it left them scratching their heads, if they thought it needed additional tweaking. As usual with almost anything we ask on that network, the answers were all over the map. To the two or three who simply did not get it, I sent personal notes: “It’s something of a parable about people who spend their lives downing the Lord and criticizing the church, and yet at their funeral, the speakers all send them to Heaven.”
Yes, I did have one specific fellow in mind as Mack. But we’ll leave that there. I trust he is indeed in Heaven with the real Saints and having the time of his life. But you have to wonder.
I wonder why people who criticize God’s people and never spend any time with them, who take God’s name in vain and curse those trying their best to serve Him faithfully would want to spend eternity with them in Heaven. Wouldn’t that be a form of hell for them? I’m not being facetious.
I know, of course, why they want to go to heaven and why their grieving loved ones play this little game of fooling themselves into thinking he may well have ended up in Paradise.
The alternative is pure hell.