OK God, There You Go Again.


I have been pondering this story for just over a week now, trying to decide how much to tell and how much might be better left on the editing room floor?

Pondering if anyone else would be able to see the Divine intervention that I saw in experiencing it?

Pondering whether anyone would care?

To those who do not personally know me, please allow me to lead in with a story I wrote back in January of 2019,  God, Was That You?  Reading that story first might make it easier to understand why I am telling the current story.

So, for better or worse, here is the next entry in the series,  “OK God, There You Go Again”

***

I can’t exactly recall when this story began, but it was probably in 2007 or 2008.   Our church offered daily Mass at 7:30 in the morning, which was a convenient time for me, especially since my office was just 2 blocks away. I went often, but not every day.

One morning after Mass, a man came up to me, introduced himself as Ron and handed me a copy of an article….”Read this. You’ll like it” was all he said and walked away.

The next afternoon, Ron showed up at the funeral home (my office) and asked me if I had read the article?  I replied that I had.  He stayed and we visited awhile and quickly learned we were philosophically congruent in matters of politics and The Church.


From that starting point, we became friends.  Not casual acquaintances, but friends, counting on and coming through for each other when it mattered.  His family, like ours, all lived far away.  One could say we used the occasion to socially “adopt” each other, filling in for those miles away.

Ron was retired and living alone but was very active in the neighborhood, social activities.  Before suffering a minor stroke a few years before we met, he was a competitive tennis player. It was something else we had in common… we were both “tennis has-beens.”

We lived at opposite ends of the same development, so it was only about a five-minute drive between houses. I began stopping by, one or two afternoons a week for a glass of wine and some lively conversation on current events.  Like most fun habits, it wasn’t long before I was stopping by almost daily. It became part of our routines. One grumpy, old man and one in training, sipping wine, nibbling on cheese and solving the world’s problems.

Often on weekends, Ron would come to our house for dinner and my wife Alicia always enjoyed his company and welcomed him in our home.

We shared, over many glasses of wine, the challenges of our lives, past and present, and neither ever passed judgment on the other. We were the kind of friends that could sit quietly for an hour, not a word spoken, but then walk away noting what a great visit it was.

Over time, I started to notice that his age was getting the best of him and some of his decisions were beginning to concern me.  I shared my observations with Ron’s daughter, Margot and occasionally, Tom, one of his two sons, both of whom lived hours away. I became their eyes and ears.

It wasn’t long before my daily visits for wine and conversation became caregiving visits, checking on Ron’s safety and helping where needed. While he still demanded his independence, there came a day, when an incident involving his car provided “us” with the excuse we needed to keep his Camry in the garage. . . permanently.  He then began to take advantage of the local, senior citizens transport and some friends who offered to drive him around.

After several months of his children and I reasoning with him to not live alone, the decision was made for all of us. One Sunday afternoon, I went over to pick Ron up to bring him over for dinner.  As we were walking up the four, brick steps leading to our front door, Ron collapsed and fell backward, landing hard.  As a retired EMT, I was pretty sure that my friend just died on my front porch, but that was not the case and he started breathing on his own and he was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

As he recovered, and some underlying medical conditions were identified (Ron, like me, was a medical minimalist), it was decided that he could no longer live safely on his own and plans were made to move him to Southeastern Pennsylvania to a very nice independent living facility, nearby his daughter and her family.

He was not happy, but he did get used to it and some might even say that in time, he flourished in that setting.

In 2016, Alicia and I sold our home and moved to another state, thinking we would be there for many years.  At the same time, our oldest daughter had been living with us and because of her nursing job, she was not leaving.   Ron’s family, with his blessing, allowed our daughter to live in his house, rent-free.  The house, while on the market, was likely to be so for a while and the general feeling was that someone living in the house will keep an eye on it and it will always show better with furniture than being vacant.

Ron & me, in front of Nudy’s, October 2018

When my excursion into the world of consulting didn’t work out  (an understatement) as planned, Alicia and I decided to return to Aiken and without having to ask, we were offered the opportunity to move into the house also.  It was described to me as a small way for Ron’s family to show their gratitude for the care and friendship that I shared with their father. That was a lifesaver for us and we stayed there for almost 4 months before finding a home to move to.  In the meantime, our daughter earned a new position and moved to Columbia, SC.

During each trip to NJ to visit my parents, I would always notify Ron’s daughter and let her know my schedule so we could arrange to meet for an hour or so at Nudy’s as I began my journey back to Aiken.  I never missed a visit and it was always my treat as I will always be grateful for their great kindness to my family and me.

Now, here is where it gets interesting.

I had planned to spend a week with my mother because March 22nd was her birthday.  It was only six months since my father died and I didn’t want her to be alone after being married to him for 65 years. Additionally, she needed a little assistance preparing her taxes and wanted to trade her car in for a smaller model.

I left Aiken, early on the morning of Monday, March 16th and as I made my way up I-77 in North Carolina, the radio reports were disheartening and I thought about turning around and going home out of concern for my wife, but she reminded me that my mother was alone and that I needed to go and help her.  Thus, the journey continued and I arrived on Monday evening, not knowing when I would be able to return to SC.  I stayed for ten days before returning. (I had hoped my mother would return with me and spend a few weeks in SC with us. She would not hear of it, but that is another story).

Pretty much everything was closing down and plans to meet with friends and family during my visit were crumbling, and understandably so.  On Tuesday, just before noon, I thought to send a text to Ron’s daughter, telling her I was in NJ, but that because of the virus and lockdowns, I doubt that I would be able to visit but to please give her dad my regards. I didn’t call Ron because he almost never answered his phone or checked vm. It had always been a “thing” with him. He didn’t like talking on the phone to anyone.  Margot responded back that she was with him, that he had taken a “sharp turn for the worse” and could they call me?

The answer was “Absolutely” and she called my cell a few moments later. Margot filled me in and it did seem that the end was near and he could barely grunt, but she told me he was smiling when he heard my voice.  It was difficult to say goodbye to a man who for several years, probably knew me better than I knew myself, but what choice did I have?

Just a few minutes and a few tears later, I wondered if in the moment, anyone thought to call a priest to come and provide Ron the Anointing of the Sick, as prescribed by our faith?  I texted Margot and asked, adding that it would be important for her father.

Around 3pm, I texted and asked how he was doing and if she had been able to get a priest to come?

A short while later, she texted me a photo of the priest blessing Ron as he lay in bed and she then said that he died shortly after the priest left.

In the last minutes of Ron’s life,  I had the opportunity to assist my friend and was virtually present and able to do so.  I’ll refer to that as a miracle and thank God for using me in that role.

What made me think to reach out at the moment I did?

Why not three hours later?

What made me think to call back to ask about a priest?

Was it a coincidence that Ron’s funeral, private for his family because of the virus, was held in Nesquehoning, PA, only an hour or so from my mother’s?  Was it by chance that I was invited to represent all of Ron’s friends from Aiken and our church?

As I drove through the hills and valleys of Monroe and Carbon County’s, PA, I marveled in the beautiful landscape that God carved out over the centuries and how much I had loved living in the PA mountains.

Standing in that cold, (41 F) church cemetery on the side of a hill, with six relatives, a priest, a deacon and the 3-member honor guard from the US Air Force (their last funeral before being removed from that duty), I was thankful for knowing Ron and being able to be there as he was laid to rest.

In the Hebrew faith, it is considered the highest mitzvah (deed) to care for the dead. It is a deed done, knowing that it can never be repaid.  The motive is pure. I closed the circuit on Ron and I helping each other.

Throughout the 60 years I have been on earth, my faith has been tested again and again.  I often whisper to myself, the words of Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

Stories such as this, and the finding of my birth mother, have no logical explanation, at least to me.  I have come to believe that God does give us direction. The problem and I include myself, is that we just don’t listen often enough.

May I suggest that we all open our hearts and ears to God’s voice and then act accordingly?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Ray V.

Living between Aiken & Charleston,, South Carolina, USA, I like to share what I am looking at, thinking about or listening to. I refer to this as the view out my window. Thanks for stopping by.
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14 Responses to OK God, There You Go Again.

  1. Candice says:

    It’s a wonderful thing to be used by God when you can see the result of answering His call to action. It’s an act of faith to answer the call, even when we can’t witness the result. Either way, being open to the call of God on our lives is a privilege. I’m glad you were able to hear, act, and see.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, be available and listening.

    Like

  3. P & J says:

    The Lord works in mysterious ways. God bless Ron and God bless you for making the call!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Trudy Ortner says:

    What a great story Ray. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. joyce hoffmann says:

    God has chosen you for a special journey in this life and we are blessed to be part of that journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing your friendship with Ron, and your faith, and the miracles that do exist.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jim Borden says:

    a beautiful story of friendship and faith. I a sorry for your loss, but what a wonderful tribute you have given him. I am sure his family is grateful for all that you have done over the years, and that you were able to be there for his funeral.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Osyth says:

    Ray, this story has moved me beyond belief. May Ron rest peacefully and his family and friends know that he will find himself into all the hearts of those that loved him and that he loved to ride along with you all through the rest of your lives and to greet you when you cross to whatever awaits after death. I have tears. And I am grateful to ‘know’ you through this place

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank you for sharing Ray. I do believe that God places us each where we need to be, when we need to be and that IF we are tuned in to Him and are obedient, He can and will use us to honor Him. Thank you for being obedient to the “God nudge” and showing us what true service is.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. blmaluso says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of faith, love and friendship! Wow…the Holy Spirit works through all of us…what a blessing that the Lord reached out through you to your friend:-)

    Liked by 1 person

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