Sunday, October 21, 2007

Terminally ill man talks about special friendship

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

The unknown never was something for him to fear.
For more than 35 years, Chuck Tredway was a truck driver, forever pulling in some new city. Every face he saw was a stranger's.
But it didn't bother him. Every road led home to his wife.
Now, Tredway is 54 and attached to a tube that feeds him his breathing air. He's on hospice care - living while dying.
It's been a year since Tredway's doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer and chronic heart failure.
'There's tightness in my chest, shortness of breath and dizziness,' Tredway said, his voice strong but crackly. 'And here recently, my short-term memory has started to go.'
The broad-shouldered man paused a moment to take a breath. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the hand towel on his lap.
'I know I'm dying. I could die tonight - or I could die next month. There's no way to tell,' Tredway said matter-of-factly, explaining his death depends on when the blood flow to his brain stops. 'It's all set up for when it happens. A nurse will come to administer the morphine drip. I imagine when the brain and heart stop at the same time, it hurts pretty bad.'
Tredway laughed. He says he has no desire to confirm his assumption.
'The only thing I'm afraid of now is not being on the right side of the track when I do die,' Tredway said, smiling.
It's not a fear that nags at his every thought, though.
It's a fear he's faced. One Tredway said he has come to understand. 'I came to know the Lord about four years ago,' Tredway said. 'Because I wanted to, not because I was in trouble. Once all this started, I knew I had to be right with Him. And my hope is that I've done enough good to be good in His eyes.'
He didn't come to his conclusion alone. A friend he found in Rodney Kruse - a chaplain with Scott and White Hospice - was with him every step of the way.
'With this guy,' Tredway said, pointing to Kruse, 'I've talked about everything.'
The two gentlemen were visiting Oct. 16 at the Temple house Tredway shares with his wife, Sonja, and two dogs, Baby and Tiki.
'He just called me up one day,' Tredway said, describing how his relationship with Kruse began. 'He wanted to know if it would be OK for him to come over and talk. 'Sure,' I said.'
As soon as a person enters the Scott and White Hospice program, Kruse said that person will get a phone call from one of the program's chaplains. It's the program's way of offering a relationship, the chaplain said, that has the potential of making one's last days less lonely and less frightening.
Kruse's summer 2006 phone call to Tredway triggered a relationship that is now more than a year old. Kruse comes to Tredway's house twice a week to talk about whatever is on Tredway's mind.
'I usually have a cold beer,' Tredway said. 'The good pastor here only has water. And we talk about the Dallas Cowboys. And that magician fellow.'
Kruse laughed. He said Tredway was referring to illusionist Chris Angel, a TV personality who, apparently, is a source of frequent frustration for both men.
'That guy really turns my crank,' Tredway said.
Laughs aren't all the two buddies share, though. The men said they have 'deep conversations' as well.
'We've talked about Heaven and God,' Tredway said. 'Not in a preachy way. In a way that helped.'
However thankful Tredway is to Kruse for his companionship, Kruse said he is just as thankful if not doubly so.
'This guy,' Kruse said, laughing, 'Is the only man who has ever invited me to the whorehouses in Vegas.'
Though the happily married chaplain didn't take Tredway up on his invitation, Kruse said the invitation was an honor to receive.
'(Tredway) was being himself when he said that,' Kruse said. 'You very rarely get to see people without their day-to-day masks on. This man has made his peace with God and isn't ashamed. How wonderful to have the privilege to see that.'
Talking, laughing and joking, plus a little prayer here and there, Tredway said, 'is all it takes to get things sized up right.'
'For anybody who sits and waits like me,' Tredway said, 'I recommend a good dog, a pastor with a sense of humor and a pretty grandbaby to look at.'
His words seemed to give little Sierra Goodrich the permission she needed to run from the kitchen and join Kruse and Tredway in the living room. The 2 ½ year-old girl jumped into her 'PawPaw's' lap.
'Sweet little girl. A few more days with her, and I'll be all right,' Tredway said, still unafraid.'

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