His ticket home: A gambler’s storyWritten by Deborah Anderson
"Wow, Bill, how many tickets do you think are here?" I asked.
My brother shook his head. "I don’t know. Hundreds at the very least."
Bill and I looked in Allen’s car and found lottery tickets everywhere. They were under the seats, stuffed in the glove compartment and crammed above the visors. We knew that our brother bought lottery tickets, but we never realized how many.
Later in the evening, Bill and I went to Allen’s "home." After his divorce, he couldn’t afford a down payment for a place of his own, so he rented a room at a hotel.
The room was barren, except for a photograph of Allen’s daughter, which lay on the nightstand. I picked up the snapshot and tears filled my eyes. "She was his life," I said. Bill nodded, too choked up to speak.
I opened the closet door and looked inside. Several of Al’s shirts, along with a couple of pairs of jeans, hung neatly on the hangers. A duffel bag and a small cardboard box, full of Allen’s personal documents, sat on the floor.
My heart sank and my mind whirled. My brother, age fifty-four, had no more than this to his name. Did Allen lose everything he had, hoping to hit the "big one?"
Bill and I gathered Allen’s belongings and carried them to the car. Everything fit into the trunk, with room to spare.
As we drove home, I stared out the window and cried. I still cry when I think about my brother's life.
Allen was a good man who worked very hard. He spoke often of his dreams. "One day I’m going to buy a new house, a new car and a motorcycle," he once said. But he always ran out of money, and could barely make ends meet. Now I know that Allen was not alone.
Millions hide this subtle form of gambling. They buy numerous lottery tickets, hoping to strike it rich. Some spend large amounts of their weekly paycheque to play numbers using birthdays and anniversaries, thinking it will bring them luck. These people deserve more. My brother deserved more.
When Allen finished high school, he joined the army and served in Vietnam. The war took its toll and he was never the same after he returned home.
He accepted a job with a big retail department chain where he met and married his wife. Allen worked at the store for over 25 years. Then, when he was in his early fifties, the company offered him an early retirement, along with a large sum of money. Allen took their offer, but the money was gone in less than two years. I could never understand why – until we found the tickets.
After months of searching for another job without success, Allen relocated his family and took a minimum wage position as a cook for a retirement centre. I knew it had to be difficult for him but I admired his stamina. I couldn't imagine having to start my whole life over again at his age.
Even though Allen had lost nearly everything, and was physically tired and sick at heart, he still kept trying – until he got the news.
Allen went to see a physician on a Wednesday when he thought he had bronchitis. The following Friday, the doctor told him that he had lung cancer. By Saturday morning, Allen was in the hospital on life support.
As I talked with the doctor, my heart broke. "How could this have happened so fast?" I said. "He just found out about his illness yesterday."
"Truthfully, I think he's already given up," the doctor replied. "This happens sometimes." He said it was Allen's choice to remain on life support and endure the treatments for his condition, or he could decide to have them turn off the machines.
Allen chose the latter.
After he made his choice, my husband, Tom, and I stood by Allen's bedside. We knew there wasn't much time. My husband spoke for both of us.
"Al, do you want to make things right with God and ask His forgiveness?" Allen gave an affirmative nod. His tears fell like rain.
Soon after, with the family around Allen's bed, the nurse disconnected the tubes. I cradled him and cried.
I wept because I wanted to keep Allen with me. I wept because he had so many unfulfilled dreams, and I cried tears of joy because I knew he was going to be with God.
I wonder what Allen would say now that he’s in Heaven? I don't know for sure, but I sometimes imagine he might tell me, "Make sure others know not do what I did – waste their talents. Don't invest in the lottery; invest in things of real value like God, family and friends. I didn't realize what I was doing."
Even though I still grieve, I’m comforted. I now realize that Allen finally got his winning ticket – paid in full by Jesus Christ. He didn't have to waste his hard-earned money on lottery tickets to get what he desired in the end. Everything he ever wanted or dreamed of is now in his possession. God had Allen's ticket reserved all along. All he had to do was ask for it. All any of us have to do is ask.
I'm glad that Allen made his reservation in time.
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