“I don’t want today to ever end!”
Katie Grace, our stinking cute seven-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, paused for a moment and studied my face, which must have had a questioning expression on it, then continued, “’cause you and Nahnee will be going home tomorrow.”
It was Sunday evening, Memorial Day weekend. Sammie and I had spent a couple of days in Wilmington with K.G. and her mom. Next day, Memorial Day, we planned to head for home, with a stop-over in Winston-Salem to check on our brother-in-law. Freeman’s health had been declining. We had talked a few times by phone but had not seen him for a while. Our visit with K.G. was our first in several months, too, and we would have preferred to stay longer. But we had to get back and take care of business.
So, next morning we got up, filled the tank with gas, grabbed some breakfast and headed out. We had only traveled a few miles from the eastern terminus of I-40 when our motor starting knocking and missing, and the “check engine” light popped on.
What do we do? With little hope for finding a mechanic on a holiday, we pulled off at the next exit - Burgaw, North Carolina.
At the first intersection, we found an Advance Auto that was open, hobbled in and had the check engine light checked. The computer said we needed a part that none of us could install, but the very helpful employee at Advance offered to call his neighbor, a professional mechanic.
Billy Jack arrived shortly and spent more than two hours helping us out. He determined we did not need the part. We had purchased some “bad gas” that morning. After pouring in some gas treatment, we limped 300 miles-plus, back to Bristol.
While Bill and I peered under the hood and talked, Sammie visited with his wife Audrey. What a wonderful couple. Early on, during our visit to Burgaw, the manager at Advance asked how our day was going. Well...
When I answered that God was in control and shared my thoughts that we had stopped at the only place where we could have been directed to the help we needed, he agreed enthusiastically, “God knows exactly what we need when nobody else does.”
Our new friends refused pay, but did agree that we could treat them to a late lunch. The restaurant was closed for Memorial Day! But they did let us buy dinner for later and agreed to meet us next time we were passing through...and Billy Jack gave me his card with these words, “If you have car trouble anywhere between Wilmington and Raleigh, call me.”
It took forever to get through Raleigh. Then we received the phone call. Freeman had passed away before we got there. When we finally got there, we loved on Sammie’s sister and family and got home around midnight.
What a day that was! In retrospect, I would agree with K.G., wishing the day before had never ended.
However, if we had not had the bad and sad experiences of this past Memorial Day, we would have missed a lot of blessings. We were able to see God’s hand as He guided us through our frustrations. Also, we were able to realize that Freeman has left a period of suffering in this life and entered a day that will never end. He enjoyed this life, but the next will be so much better. The day we went home to Bristol, he went home to Heaven.
Through faith in our Lord and the grace and love of God, we look forward to a reunion, a celebration greater than anything we can imagine, an eternity with our Savior and loved ones. What a day that will be!
--Steve Playl, columnist, college instructor, retired pastor, and chaplain, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org