Walking the Mile

Pastor Kevin R. Airrington
October 25, 2011

Michael Clarke Duncan - Green Mile - John Coffey - Stephen KingThis is a story about Paul Edgecombe and his encounter with a man of God who has unique healing powers and may even have some empathic ability.  John Coffey, a huge black man, 6’ 8” tall convicted of raping and murdering two small white girls.  Please understand that this took place in the South during a time when prejudice ran high.    Cell block E of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary was nicknamed “the Green Mile” because of the color of the floor.  From the moment John Coffey stepped foot on The Green Mile you could tell that Paul took a special liking to him.  I mean what was not too like?  John was a kind and gentle man.

There were several other men on The Green Mile with John Coffey and the story really does not go into the crimes of each of the men with much detail. As the supervisor of the block, Paul insisted the prisoners were treated kindly and spoken to in a calm tone.  At least one of the men, William Wharton or Billy the Kid as he liked to call himself, it was obvious that he deserved to be there.  Coffey sensed immediately that this was an evil man.  Billy the Kid played nasty tricks on the guards, including urinating on one of them.  But still, Paul wanted this man treated with respect.  With all of the kindness Paul showed to both his fellow guards and the inmates, we do not see Paul’s heart concerning his Savior until the end.

One of the men, Eduard “Del” Delacroix, seemed like a nice man despite his crimes.  He even captured a mouse, Mr. Jingles.  He named him and he taught him several tricks.  Oh how Del loved Mr. Jingles.  One of the guards, Percy Wetmore was a sadistic man who loved to antagonize the inmates, despite Paul’s insistence that he treat them in a “calm manner”.  Ol’ Percy was the nephew of the Governor’s wife and would often threaten the other guards with their jobs if they did not bend to his wishes.  Soon we would see some of Percy’s evil percolate to the surface.

From the onset of the story it was apparent that Paul had a serious bladder infection.  As he put it, it was like trying to pee razor blades.  I myself have had several urinary tract infections so I have a unique perspective into what Paul was going through.   One day John Coffey calls for Paul.  He said, “I need to see you a minute boss.”  Paul was in the middle of a painful episode and told Mr. Coffey that this was not a good time, but, Mr. Coffey was insistent.   Paul finally gave in and went down to Mr. Coffey.  Mr. Coffey asked Paul to step closer.  Del, right across the block says, “Boss you ain’t supposed to do that.”  Ignoring Del’s warning Paul stepped forward and in the blink of an eye Coffey grabs him by the privates and with his other hand he restrained Paul from removing his pistol.  Del lets out several yells for the other guards to come…but they would not hear him.  You could see John Coffey’s face as he, “took” the infection from Paul.  When John released Paul, Paul immediately made for the bathroom.  He unzipped and with a smile on his face he relieved himself without pain.  Something he had not been able to do for some time.  John, with the healing power of God, healed Paul.

One day while Paul and the boys were having a final talk with Del. The kind of talk at least with most of the men on E block you dreaded to have.  It was a discussion about your final meal, do you need a preacher, any final wishes sort of talk.  The discussion led to “a what of Mr. Jingles”.   Del agreed to let them take Mr. Jingles to a Mouseville down in Florida.  Meanwhile during the talk Del was slightly distracted by making Mr. Jingles perform some tricks for the guards.  All of sudden Mr. Jingles took off out of the cell into the corridor to fetch a spool of thread.  That mean ol’ evil Percy Wetmore STOMPED on Mr. Jingles killing him dead.

Everyone was silent and in shock except for Del who let out a scream and the guards had to restrain him from attacking Percy.  Percy was a cruel evil man no doubt.  John Coffey, standing at the front of his cell, felt the whole thing.  He slowly extended his huge black arm out between the bars.  Mr. Coffey said, “gimme the mouse while there is still time.”  Paul scooped up the mouse.  The other guards were like, “What are you doing Paul.”  Paul placed Mr. Jingles’ dead body in John’s hand’s.  John Closes his eyes…and then blows life back into Mr. Jingles.

Mr. Jingles ran back to the safety of Del.  Paul and Brutus, another guard immediately went to find Percy; intent on messing with his mind a bit for what he had done.  Percy was certain it was a trick, but in a bit of a delusional state, lost his sense and wondered too close to Billy the Kid’s cell.  Billy snatched Percy and pulled him close to the bars.  He started kissing his ear and licking his cheek telling him how pretty he was.  Fear struck Percy and finally Billy the Kid released him.

Percy quickly moved to the other side of the cell block away from Billy the Kid and still shaken by the event, Percy wet his pants.  Urine ran down his pant leg into a puddle on the floor.  Del started laughing at Percy.  Calling him a sissy and he even made up a little song about him wetting his pants.  Percy obviously upset, the guards told Del to shut up.  He obeyed.

The next day Del would take the walk down the green mile.  Percy insisted being upfront and calling the orders.  He promised Paul he would put in for transfer to the State Mental Institute if he let him be up front just once.  Paul sensing an opportunity to be rid of the evil, sadistic man on his cell block leaped at the opportunity.

Percy had gone through the rehearsal like a professional executioner.   However, Percy deliberately avoided soaking a sponge in water that is supposed to be tucked inside the electrode cap to ensure a quick death in the electric chair.  As one guard put it, “it’s like a bullet straight to the brain.”   About 3 seconds before the switch is thrown Paul notices that there is no water on the floor and no water dripping on the way up to Del’s head.  But it was too late…

The switch is thrown!   Electricity passed through Del’s body in an agonizing, tormenting jolt.  It seemed like the clock ticked on forever; Del did not receive a quick death, the “bullet to the head”.  Del’s head caught on fire and the witnesses screamed in horror and complained of the smell of burning flesh.  Vomit stained the floor of the execution hall as Percy tried to look away but Paul forced him to watch and then extinguish Del’s burning torso and head.

One night the guards put Percy in a strait jacket and locked him in a padded room.  They drugged Billy the Kid so he would sleep and they took Mr. Coffey for a ride.  The Warden’s wife was nearly dead with a brain tumor the size of a lemon.  Doctors said there was nothing that could be done.   Once again, with the gift of healing the Holy Spirit had given John Coffey, he heals her of the tumor.  This makes John Coffey very sick himself.  Which later he passes to Percy and Percy shoots Billy the Kid dead and he himself ends up in a comatose trance.  Paul asked John what he had done and he said that he had to punish both those evil men.

Paul continued to have this simmering suspicion that John Coffey is innocent of his crime of raping and murdering these two girls.  Later, Paul learns the awful truth that John did not kill the twin girls; he was actually trying to revive them when he was found with them.

Paul confides in his wife what he has learned about his innocents.  She asks, “Have you spoken to the warden, does he have the power to save John Coffey.”  Paul tells her that no the warden does not have the power to save john Coffey.  Very wisely she tells her husband that he must never know then.  With a look of sorrow and his own torment Paul looks to his wife and says, “I have done many wrongs in my life and never have I been as concerned about Hell as I am now.”  His wife, again, filled with wisdom tells her husband to go and speak with Mr. Coffey.

The next day at work, Paul opens John Coffey’s cell.  Pulls a stool up close to his bunk, second in command and friend Brutus Howell close by.  Paul tells John he knows he is innocent and he asks John what he wants him to do.  John looks at him, “Boss, what you mean.”  Paul said, “John, one day I will stand before God’s judgment seat and I will have to give an account for killing one of His children.  Should I open the door and let you run?”  John Coffey tells Paul that he is ready to die to escape the cruelty of this world.  Paul tells John that he understands but he has a look on his face that perhaps he is still not doing the right thing.

The day comes.  John has to duck his head as he steps out of his cell.  Today, John will walk the green mile.  John senses the sadness of Paul, Brutus and the other guards.  John says, “Fellas, this here is the hard part.  In a few minutes I will be ok.”  His words were meant to comfort but only brought agony of the moments to come.

At the execution, John could feel the hatred of the witnesses and Brutus encourages him to feel them…that they love him.  This comforts John.  As the executioner begins to put the black hood over John’s head he asks Paul if he can leave it off as he is afraid of the dark.  Paul obliges.  The moment arrived for Paul to give the order to throw the switch.  Paul hesitates almost paralyzed.  Brutus whispers, “Paul you must give the order.”  Paul steps forward and shakes John’s hand, steps back and gives the order, “roll on two.”

What strikes me about this story is Paul, knew one day he would give an account for the decision he made concerning John Coffey’s life.  This troubled him so that he had to face John to try and clear his soul and do what John Coffey wanted.  Would Paul have let John Coffey go?  I think yes, he would have.  Damn the job, damn his life, damn his freedom.  Why?  Because Paul Edgecombe believed in an all-powerful God, a God that created heaven and earth, a God that was outside of time and a God that made revenge on anyone who harmed one of His children.  In life, too many of us give little or no thought of the after-life.  We are concerned with the here and now…what pleases me now.  What makes me happy, what will satisfy me?  If it feel’s good do it.  Beyond this life is another life, a life where we live out eternity in Heaven or in Hell.

The average human today lives about 70 years and then you are dead.  You get an itty bitty dash between two dates on a rock.  Eternity is a long time.  Maybe we should be more concerned about what happens after this life ends and less about now.

Have you considered Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?  Have you asked Him to forgive your sins and take you to Heaven?  If you have, what are you doing for Him for heaven’s sake?  If you call yourself Christian, are you living for Him?  Are you showing His children love and Kindness?  1 Corinthians 13 has come to be known as the “LOVE CHAPTER”.  We can easily see the attributes of Jesus in this chapter simply by removing the word Love or Charity and replacing it with Jesus.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not JESUS, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not JESUS, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not JESUS, it profiteth me nothing.

JESUS suffereth long, and is kind; JESUS envieth not; JESUS vaunteth not itself, JESUS is not puffed up,

He doth not behave Himself unseemly, He seeketh not HIS own, JESUS is not easily provoked, He thinketh no evil; He rejoiceth not in iniquity, but He rejoiceth in the truth; He beareth all things, He believeth all things, He hopeth all things, He endureth all things.   JESUS never faileth…”

What attributes do you have? What attribute do you have the most trouble with?  Are you living your life in the example of Christ or Lord?  Each decision we make should be made as if it had eternal consequences, because it does.

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