Archive | July 2, 2012

Comfort in Unusual Places

I want to share a little creature  comfort that found me about 10 years ago when I lived in Kansas City.  Bear with me; it can seem silly or superstitious, unless you just “go with it”.

 It was late spring when we moved into a brand new house, where I settled into a comfortable routine of planting and tending flower beds, new shrubs, all the plantings that help to make a house homey and inviting.  Just before dusk the grass was already dew-laden and shadows were lengthening.   I finished planting some lilies between the azaleas and straightened up, when a little brown bundle moved near my foot.  I sat perfectly still, and a tiny brown baby bunny slowly hopped by me, totally absorbed in his snacking.

 When he hopped away, I went inside and  told Michael, my husband, about the little guy when he just nodded, “Yeah, he’s been popping in and out around the shrubs for a week or so”.  We grew to expect our busy little visitor, and missed him whenever he didn’t appear for a few days.

 Turn the page in this story book to a sunny spring morning a little more than six years later.  Our house was sold and we were moving into a small apartment across the street from the local hospital to be near Michael’s chemo appointments.    The smile on his emaciated, lined face  when he noticed the furry little guy scooting across the sidewalk in front of his wheelchair is one I still remember.  No one could convince him that this wasn’t the same little rabbit.  And no one tried.

 Time wasn’t kind to us. Fall found me lugging boxes by myself into a tiny studio apartment down in Fort Worth, Texas, FMLA over and ready to return to work at American Airlines, a widow at 49 years old.  The complex of Spanish-style pink buildings was shade-covered with mature trees and in place of grass was a wandering carpet of English ivy.  Somehow when I saw little cotton-tail scamper across the sidewalk about 10 feet in front of me I wasn’t surprised.  It was as if Michael was still there, telling me he was watching over me.  I found comfort in the nearness of that little rabbit.

 It was almost six months afterward that I found a duplex to buy in Arlington and moved once again.  This time I expected that I’d find a furry brown presence somewhere around my door.  He was there, sure enough.  I didn’t see him as often then, but just enough to know he was still around.

 Turn another page to find me sometime later, reminiscing old times with my youngest daughter by telephone.  I had just laughed as I recounted the story of my little buddy, and she gasped.  She said, “Mom, listen.”

 She harkened back to when her stepfather was still alive.  She was plowing in the fields on her farm in North Dakota, frustrated that she couldn’t travel just then to be with us–we both knew his time was growing short.  She turned at the end of a furrow when something told her she needed to call me to check on him.  She noticed movement off to her right and turned to see a small brown rabbit just sitting in the middle of the road, watching her.  Not hopping.  Not running away.  Just watching.  He stayed there with her until she finished plowing, and then slowly hopped away.

 She drove on to the farmhouse and called me, only to discover that her Stepdad had just passed away.

 Now, all this is true; it actually happened.  Coincidence? Vivid, overactive imaginations?  Well, I know one thing:  it was a little comfort here and there, just when we needed it.

A Very Special Kind of Man

Today an old and dear friend of mine met Jesus.  I mean, literally. Face to face.

You see, he was enjoying Sunday dinner with his beautiful wife and close friends, and apparently a piece of his lunch put up a battle and some people might say that Ray lost.  But if you ask me, since he’s there with Jesus and I’m still here, I think Ray won.

My heart is broken, as are those of hundreds who know and love him.  His East Texas humor never stops.  His love for the Lord is boundless; his concern for friends bottomless; and he left so many wonderful, witty sayings, most of which are true, of course.

I moved away from Texas a while back, and haven’t seen Ray since then.  But his presence is eternal; his influence long-lasting, his laugh infectious enough to ring down through the years.  I hear that rich, delighted voice as he teased his friends, spreading a pure joy in living to all he knew.

Ray knew his talents, and wasn’t shy about telling you…he was a salesman and excellent at his trade.  He loved to tell you, “I can sell ice to Eskimoes.”  And if you’ve ever met Mr. Ray Bowling, even one time, you’ll agree with him.

I used to cook delicious (and terribly fattening) dishes for our church, and for our two families whenever we got together for fellowship, laughter, prayer, tears, whatever life brought our way.  Ray always enjoyed my cooking–the guys turned it into a contest sometimes, racing to see who got the last piece of pie.

Often I would hear Ray repeat the rich East Texas one-liners that I loved to hear, and even today I can hear him saying it one more time.   And in my imagination there was a ripple of laughter ringing across the halls of heaven, as Ray first laid eyes on heaven.  I can hear him saying,

“Now, that’ll set you free!”

Godspeed, Ray.  Save a place for me.