This is the last of a four part series about Joe. In part one, we considered the human instinct or impulse for adventure; about how it may be cloaked or repressed; but it never completely disappears from the human spirit and personality. We considered how “People are like turtles; they don’t move forward until they stick their necks out”; and how “we never know who we are until we try”. In part two, we considered creativity and opportunity; how with every opportunity comes responsibility, self-discipline and personal exertion; a “cup and a baptism” (Matthew 20:17 – 28). In part three we considered the importance of faith, how faith is “the substance of things hoped for”, and that “without faith it is impossible” (Hebrews 11: 1-6).
Well, Joe died at the age of sixty, twenty-two months after enrolling in hospice. I ran into Joe’s ninety-year-old mother, Ella, at the grocery store shortly after Joe’s death. Ella sighed, “I miss him so much.” She told me, “I really enjoy reading your columns. Joe would be so proud of you!” I explained that Joe was an inspiration to me; that we talked extensively about the “work of writing”; and that he had encouraged me to continue journaling. Ella responded, “I know. I heard you guys talking one day.”
Ella shared that during the last few days of Joe’s life that she started staying nights to give his wife, Nancy, some much needed rest. Ella shared that she had been worried about Joe’s relationship with God, or the absence of one; “He’d always been resistant; he just wouldn’t talk about it.” She felt that his intellect had become a barrier to simple faith. After all, Joe was very intelligent; he’d worked for NASA on the Gemini space project. Ella stated, “I was hoping and praying that God would send someone to get through to him.” But little did Ella know that it would be her.
Ella reflected on the night that “someone” got through to Joe: “That night, after I prayed for Joe, I talked with Joe about his childhood, about the time I heard him praying. When Joe was around ten-years-old, I heard his younger brother, Jerry, crying. I got up to fix him a bottle and when I went by the room I heard Joe talking to someone. I wandered, ‘Who in the world is he talking to?’ Then I heard him praying, ‘Please God, don’t let my mommy leave my daddy. I love both of them; and I want them to be together.’ I stood there and listened. I knew I couldn’t do it by myself, in my own strength. So that night I asked God for help; that’s when I got saved. That’s why I’ve been a Christian all these years. It was no coincidence that that my little boy, Jerry, wanted a bottle that night. “
That night Ella shared with Joe, for the first time, how God, some fifty years earlier, had answered his prayer. Ella continued, “I asked Joe if he wanted to say ‘the sinner’s prayer’ with me. That night he was ready. He’d been thinking about all the things that had been said. It wasn’t me at all. It just came to my mind. It was God working in me. It was no coincidence.”
“…work out your own salvation; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13) “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’, whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21-22)
I believe that God wants to lead us; but the question is, “Are we willing to follow?”
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at email@example.com or at 740-356-2525