One of the joys of my life is caring for my 2 grandsons Brody and Braxton. They both had a little bug so my son asked me to watch them Monday and, of course, I jumped at the opportunity (figuratively) because literally jumping is out of the question these days. Normally I would get to their house at 7:00AM but today he didn’t need me until 9:45. That gave me some time to run a few errands. I got to the post office and it was pretty much devoid of customers. That meant I had enough time, if I hit all the green lights, to go down to CVS and pick up some glue sticks and glue.
Glue, you ask? I had been diligently Spring cleaning out closets to donate to a friend’s daughter’s garage sale. She is going on a mission trip this summer and is hoping to raise enough money through this endeavor. I was glad to oblige since Mother Hubbard’s cupboard was far from bare! While going through our entry way closet I found my long missing scrapbooking box. Granted, I had been all gung ho for a time, filling scrapbooks with photographs with rounded corners and cute kitchy sayings. Acid free stickers and paper with designs were the order of the day and, believe you me, I had plenty to go around. As I sat musing over the Disney, Suzy’s Zoo and Mary Engelbreit wonderland in the plastic box I had a brilliant idea. It was kind of like in the cartoons when the light bulb goes off over the character’s head. Since I would be with 2 little boys who liked not only playing ball and eating popsicles, they also LOVED stickers. Grandma points would rack up. I could hear “CA-CHING” in my head already! Gathering more paper and those scissors with scalloped edges I went scrounging for glue. Nerry even an old dried up glue stick was found and I was down to my last vestage of Scotch tape.
So, back to timing the green lights right and making it to CVS. Dang it! My car ended up in the left turn lane but all was not lost. Walgreens was right there on the corner. As I entered the store directly to my right was the row of greeting cards. Aha! Our 38th wedding anniversary is this week and I was there and the cards were there plus the lights had been green so I thought, “why not?” . The selection wasn’t the best but I knew I would not really have another chance to buy a card since we were to leave for our default anniversary destination, Disneyland, on Wednesday evening. Tuesday’s calendar was full and Wednesday was filling up so this was my window of opportunity.
As I had picked up the third card to read a man caught the corner of my eye. He was a nice looking man just a tad taller than me with salt and pepper hair and well trimmed beard. In his arms he had a giant box of Whitman’s Sampler candy. I always love Whitman’s Sampler. It gives you a map on the inside cover that tells you what candy is where. That way you won’t take a bite or stick your finger in a nugget only to discover it has cherry filling and not divinity!
He saw me reaching for anniversary cards and pointed to the 25th anniversary selection. “This is mine coming up”, he said. I congratulated him and mused that they didn’t make a card for a 38th anniversary. We introduced ourselves and exchanged some pleasantries then he told me his story. His name was Miguel. As he spoke I detected a hispanic accent. He told me he was from Mexico but had been here for 30 years.
I don’t remember how the subject came up but he told me that he was blessed by God to have that anniversary. You see, his namesake Miguel Jr., had died of cancer at age 10. He said it just killed him. His faith in God failed and he shut down. His story included reassuring me that the wonderful doctors and nurses at Children’s hospital had done everything they could but Miguel Jr.’s body could no longer fight. This had been 9 years ago. Listening attentively, I wanted to give this hurting dad a big hug as I saw him smile through tears. He said it was because of his persistent wife that they were still married. He told me that after Miguel died he could no longer be a husband and dad to his 3 younger children. How could he? He couldn’t save his son so he left his family thinking they would be better off without him. Now remember, we are standing in the greeting card isle of my neighborhood Walgreens. Time stopped for me and not a soul came in that store!
Miguel went on to tell me that his wife found him after a few months. He was one broken man. The grief had over taken him to the point of him loosing his faith. He struggled to tell me in English what his wife said but he said it was something like “do you want to get back in this boat?”. She told him they needed him. The family had too much loss and they needed their dad at the helm of the ship! I let him know that I really understood what he meant. Sharing with him what I learned at a marriage conference early on in my marriage resonated with him. I learned that marriage was 100% 100 %. Both parties are to give it all every day. He agreed, even if your child dies. Well, that put me in tears right there. He then pulled out his phone and showed me his other 3 beautiful children and his amazing wife. We both marveled at the sovereignty and faithfulness of a loving God Who loves us and gives us second, third and more chances then we ever deserve.
I was reminded of the verse in Hebrews 13 that talks about entertaining strangers for you could be entertaining angels unaware. Most certainly I was listening to a precious man who needed to share his story and probably had dozens of times. Right there in the card isle I was entertaining a man’s life defining narrative. I was listening with my mommy heart, trying to put myself in his place, a place we as parents never want to go. Before I left I asked about the candy. He told me he was a roofer and had broken his arm. Physical therapy had just ended for him and he was taking it to the PT office as a thank you to all who helped him recover. He told me he and his family took treats to the Children’s hospital cancer ward often. When he has to take any of his children to the ER they are treated like VIPs. He had nothing but the highest praise, even all these years later, for everything that was done to save his son. He gives God all of the glory every day for saving his marriage and not giving up on him. My heart was totally and entirely blessed as we said goodbye and I went off to get what I originally came for, glue.
The entire day and through the night I thought about the appointment God had for me at the Walgreens card isle. Mainly I am a CVS girl and would have gone there but for some weird reason my car made a left turn and I ended up there. So glad God had control of that 2000 gold Accord that day. My life was richly blessed because I took the time to listen. You never know who you might encounter. It may be an angel unaware disguised as a smiling man with a big box of candy under his arm. Leaving there with time to spare I praised God all the way to my son’s house. When I arrived I was greeted by two happy little boys. Today I pray for Miguel and his family and glory in the fact that one day their family will be complete again when they meet Miguel Jr. in heaven. Those were his closing words to me, “I will see him again in heaven where he is whole and new, where cancer doesn’t live.” What a mighty God we serve.