(The day I said my last goodbye to Nick jpg)

God can and will show up in the most unusual places.  Today, He did just that for me.

Today, April 25th is the fifteenth anniversary of the last day I looked into my youngest son, Nick’s eyes had a conversation with him, hugged him and heard for the last time the words “I Love You.” We said our goodbyes, I left for Colorado and his brother Tim left for Florida. I have to admit I don’t normally focus on this date. We (parents that have suffered the devastating loss of a child) have all those trigger dates.  Birthdays, Mothers Day, Christmas and the worst one the day they left this earth. I am not sure why this day was so heavy on me this year.  Yesterday as I was doing some reorganizing I came across pictures of Nick at his graduation, with his best friend, with my mother and one of him, his brother and me.  Memories, good memories. This morning I felt a nagging to post the last picture of Nick alive with his brother along with some touching words.  I never got around to it until late tonight. So I will tell you a story, not my story but the story of a young man Jerry and I had an encounter with tonight.

Don’t ever think that timing isn’t everything.  This all started with a bookcase that we decided to get rid of this afternoon or should I say Jerry decided to get rid of. We went back and forth about it and I finally gave in.  We were going to take it to goodwill and then I remembered that the Republican headquarters was redecorating and wanted some bookcases. We arrived downtown only to find all the parking places full, circled the block and found a spot down the road a bit.  Superman (Jerry) unloaded it and carried it down the block.  As I was coming back out the door a young man and I crossed paths.  We have a lot of homeless in our town and I just saw him as another one of the homeless.  He was carrying a guitar and a backpack.  As he walked by me he turned asked, Do you have a story? I thought he said do you have a store? I answered no I don’t.  He then said on your shirt it says I have a story, so I thought you had a story.  Then he asked, “I have a story do you want to hear it?” I curtly dismissed him and blew him off.  Jerry walked up and we left.

One of the attributes of the Holy Spirit is He is quick to correct and convict you. The key is, are we discerning enough to listen.  We came home and I proceeded to make dinner all the while shaking off what just happened.  I could no longer hold it in and shared with Jerry about my conversation with the young man that transpired earlier.  I was crying and feeling like such a failure.  I mean this morning I prayed for God to give us opportunities to interact with others and ” be the light of Jesus to the world.”  Ha, did I have an epic fail! I told Jerry I feel like I need to go find him and apologize.  Any of you that know Jerry understands his undying passion for the lost and the broken. The next thing I know we are canvasing main street looking for him.  We even drove out by the homeless shelter. To my dismay, we couldn’t find him anywhere and headed back toward our home.  We were driving back down Main street when suddenly there he was walking toward us. We both yelled with excitement there he is!  We turned the car around and parked.  I apologized to him for how terrible I felt for ignoring him earlier and let him know I wanted to hear his story.  He asked can we go sit somewhere? Well, there was Wendy’s right around the corner.

We bought him dinner and sat down at the table, exchanged names and shared some small talk.  He then looked at me and said, ” I saw you earlier and felt I was supposed to ask about the shirt you have on that says I have a story.”  He then began sharing with us. I have a brain injury.  When I was nine I was in a car accident.  I was unrestrained in the car.  I was in the hospital for two months in a coma. I had to learn to walk, talk and eat all over again. I need you to know I am not angry at what has happened to me.  You want to know why?  Because I get to share my story and what God has done for me with others.  I give the hopeless hope again. I play my guitar, I am active in  Shorinkan karate, I walk everywhere I go. God has been so good to me. By this time I have tears streaming down my face and I am in complete shock.  He continued to share the details about his life with us. Then it was my turn,  I  let him know about Nick’s accident. How parallel his story was except Nick didn’t survive. He told me how sorry he was that I had to suffer the loss of my son. I shared what day it was and questioned why today? Why not the day of Nick’s accident or the day Nick died? He replied I was sent to tell you this today because those days are too painful and you would have had a block and not received my words.  I am literally sitting there thinking about all the brain injuries of his level that I have cared for during my healthcare career and have never seen someone recover to his level.  One of the statements he made during our conversation really resonated within me. “I am always learning,  A man who continues to learn has a purpose and a reason to live, a man who assumes he knows everything is already dead.”  I had to ask him to repeat it three times and shared with him, since the tragic loss of Nick and my husband to suicide, I have a difficult time remembering things.  His response was well Bev your brain doesn’t want anything to take you back into those horrible memories so it basically deflects all the new input and that in turn affects your memory. By this time I am thinking, am I sitting here face to face with an angel unaware or maybe even Jesus?? How can a kid with that level of brain injury have such intellect and profound wisdom? My tears were still streaming down my face and I said I can’t stop crying.  He said Bev, those are not tears of pain and sadness but tears of Joy.  God is so good.  I have so much joy because He is my life, he healed me, saved me and I get to tell everyone about Him. Then right there in the middle of Wendy’s the three of us prayed together, hugged and said goodbye.

So, as I sit here and reflect on my interaction tonight I have to think what if I wouldn’t have gone back to find him? What if I wouldn’t have listened to the conviction of the Holy Spirit? The bible says He is the helper, the comforter, He heals the brokenhearted, binds their wounds, and sets the captives free. I think about all the men and women in the military I have ministered to with TBI.  How many feel like their purpose in life is over and they listen to the lies of the enemy (Satan) and sadly choose to end their lives?  What if they were to see how much this young man is able to accomplish now because he never stops learning.  He knows his purpose is to share his story and the truth of the gospel.  To restore hope to others.  That God loves us so much He sent His son so we could one day live eternally in His presence, in the Heaven where my dear son Nick is.  Oh and by the way earlier today, as it always seems to happen in the deepest times of pain I heard the song played at Nick’s funeral by Mercy Me, I can only imagine.

I am here tonight typing these memories of my encounter to tell you this was no coincidence,  God is real and He shows up in the most inconspicuous places at exactly the right time. My advice, be careful you might miss His miracle. I am thankful I didn’t miss mine.

And earlier while under conviction and in my scattered thoughts at home, I thought I was going to witness to this young man!


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