At the beginning of June, Chris and I entered the sanctuary at church to find an elderly gentleman (with his cane) sitting all alone in our pew. Not that we have assigned seats or anything, but we do sit in the same place week after week. In the 4th pew, just in front of JoBeth and Lew. We like it there. We didn't know if he was waiting for someone, so, we sat in front of him. I turned around, shook his hand and introduced myself. He was very nice, greeted me back and told me how excited he was to be visiting our church. And then the service began and I stopped chit chatting.
We typically run out after church to pick Q up from the nursery, which is just what we did on that particular Sunday. After rounding up all of our kids and herding them out to the parking lot to load them into the van, we noticed that the elderly gentleman was parked next to us. He remained by himself and slowly crossed the lot using his quad footed cane. He wore a full suit which hung on his thin and frail frame.
I called to him and thanked him for visiting. I asked if he enjoyed the service. He stopped to talk to us. We stood there in the parking lot, the Georgia heat rising off the black asphalt, making us glow with sweat. He shared with us that he had been a professor for 40 years at the University. His home backed up to Memorial Park. He had been married for 69 years and lost his wife in April. They had been wanting to visit our church, for they both enjoyed our pastor's column in the local paper, but she died before they had the opportunity. He told us about her memorial service and that she had donated her body to Emory. His son also lives in Athens and is a Yoga instructor. He spent some time in a wheel chair earlier in the year and was glad to be walking again. We spoke with him for almost half an hour and then we parted ways and drove home.
I couldn't stop talking about him after that initial meeting. He was so fascinating and kind. I was worried about him and how he was dealing with his wife's passing. I felt like God had led him to us and that we needed to do something. He had been a professor of religion...with no church home. I can't explain it in any other way than that I felt he belonged to us and that we were meant to be his church family.
I called JoBeth when we got home to see if she had his visitor's information. She emailed it to me and I sent him a card letting him know that we enjoyed meeting him and that I hoped to see him again. Part of me wanted to hunt him down and force him into joining us for dinner. I worried that we might never see him again and that our thirty minutes in the parking lot would haunt me forever and I would wonder what ever happened to him.
We already knew that we would not be a church for the following two weeks due to prior engagements (recital...trip to Chicago). And so each Sunday evening I called my mother-in-law or Frankie to ask if my friend had been there. And he had. My heart was joyful and relieved.
In July, he became a member of our church.
Today, when Chris and I sat down next to him in the pew that we now share, he announced that he was treating our family to lunch and following lunch we were to come over to his home for dessert. It was one of the best afternoons that I have ever had. Seriously. The girls were wonderful...he turned on music at his house and the three of them danced together, he laughed and clapped his hands. He gave me a copy of the eulogy that he had written for his wife. He also gave me a print out from Amazon of the books that he has published and jokingly told me that I am supposed to buy 10 of each of them.
Tonight, as I wrote out my thank you note to him, I thanked God for bringing this man into our lives. I don't know what the future holds for us, but I am sure that this man is supposed to be a part of it.