His presence in the doorway, caught me off guard. Normally, I observed him shuffling up and down the hallway with his walker. ” During my visits to my grandmother’s room in this assisted living facility, this elderly man and I routinely passed each other. Often, his facial expression spoke of anger and his sharp outbursts to others to “Move out of my way!” convinced me that avoidance might be best. In fact, he was known in my head as “cranky man.”
So on this particular day, I was startled when I spied him pausing in the doorway of my grandmother’s room. The door had been left open to the main hallway because my mother, sister, and I were cleaning out her room. A few hours earlier, we had laid her to rest.Her death brought an end to a deterioration of her health; culminating in a recent diagnosis of bone cancer. It was a day full of emotion, pondering and celebration.
As we focused on going through the items during what was already a long day, “cranky man” wandered in to ask how things were going. I must admit that two thoughts came into my mind upon his greeting: 1) “It’s the cranky man who tells us to be quiet” 2) “I just want to finish”.
Ironically (and probably divinely appointed), my young son came running in the room which caused the conversation to turn to the energy of a 10 year old. Being polite, I asked our visitor where he grew up. To my surprise, he answered, “Chicago.” Well, of course, that drew me in. On top of that, he had been a pastor. Who knew that we shared two common elements in our stories. For the next hour, I was engaged in conversation with this man who I merely knew as my grandma’s neighbor.
I listened as Bob (no longer the “cranky man”) shared the most amazing story of his childhood. Placed in an orphanage as an infant, he was later adopted by a couple. His parents, both followers of Christ, added two more sons through adoption. As Bob told his story, his eyes conveyed the love he had for his father; a man whose life radiated Jesus.
Bob’s father was a physician and followed God’s leading out of a potentially comfortable place in life to a small town in Illinois. The size of the town wasn’t an issue of adjustment. However, it didn’t believe in medicine! Yet, even that fact did not prevent them from moving. As a young boy, Bob wondered how the family would be treated. Would people ostracize them?
Sure enough, someone discovered his father’s occupation and in front of the church demanded that they leave. Apparently, the perception of medicine was correlated to evil. Firmly, and bravely, this physician responded that his family was staying. His eyes lit up as he shared the courage his father showed in choosing to stay despite the church praying for him to leave. (and that was before his father followed Christ!) Bob remembered his knees aching from the family’s nightly prayer ritual in which they prayed for patients. The transformation that took place in that town as a result of his father’s legacy continues to reap fruit. In fact, with tears in his eyes, Bob recounted the day his father died suddenly. The entire town shut down for the funeral.
In one hour, Bob let me into his soul. The conversation morphed into lighter substance. We laughed about his rebellious antics which resulted in being kicked out of a prominent Christian college. We agreed that we would meet up again. How could I not? I longed to be blessed more from his gleanings! It was a conversation with an old man whose childlike spirit emerged as he recalled moments of his life. In him, I saw an animated man speaking from the source of the One who breathes life into him.
Later, as I passed his room, I noticed this quote on his door:
“Well behaved women seldom make history.” Ha! Again, a nod to the mischievious spirit that lurked inside of what appeared to be a failing body with an angry soul. One that I so easily dismissed in my rush to complete an agenda.
Yet, the Holy Spirit persisted. In the form of a red haired, bearded man.
How many other times have I tuned out such an encounter? What more of God’s character and works would I know if I learned to open my eyes and my ears to the nudges of the Holy Spirit? What blessings do we miss when we don’t tread in the places resided by the “least of these?”
I would have never imagined that the most profound moment of that day would come after my Grandma’s funeral. God is Good.