It has been 25 years since you moved away, yet I still think of you often. I figure you and Ken to be about 70 now, and pray that you are both healthy. No matter how long it's been since we parted, your faces are forever etched in my thoughts like your love imprints my heart.
Long after you moved away, I missed our Bible studies and coffee at your kitchen table. You always had time for me. I had so many questions about Jesus back then, and you knew where to find the answers. Your faith was rock solid and it gave me confidence to accept what I could not see. Your smile lit up the church the day of my baptism.
Every week, I watched you work in your beautiful garden with those perfect red and yellow roses sweeping along your pearl-white picket fence. Ken worked nights, so you didn't want him doing "yard duty" on his day off. You were always thinking of others. I saw the visits you made to "shut-ins" from church, and the hams you cooked for wakes. If you were blessed, you always gave something away. I admired the way you made blouses bought at garage sales look new, even the ones you gave me. You believed in nurturing everything God put in your care. I'm sure you never dreamed that I noticed these things.
I remember how safe I felt with you living across the street. Heartsick and alone when my husband abandoned our family, each night I peeked out of my window to find comfort in your porch light shining brightly. Life seemed dark back then, but you reminded me how much God loves me. After working two jobs all week to support my three babies, you couldn't stand to see me out mowing the overgrown yard in the middle of summer. You brought me ice cold sweet tea and insisted on mowing while I took a break.
I don't know how many times Ken came across the street to help me start my old lawn mower with a screw driver. He was always coming to our rescue. Do you remember the time when the kids discovered a huge wood beetle in the garage and Ken took it away in a quart jar? We still laugh about that sometimes. That was the biggest, ugliest bug we had ever seen.
You would be pleased at how the boys turned out, Opie. They're men now with families of their own. They are all hard workers and good fathers. Back when my husband left, I didn't think I was strong enough to raise them alone. You reminded me to turn to God for my strength, that he would never leave me or forsake me. You were right.
Sometimes I wonder if the ten years that I knew you served as a training ground for the rest of my life. As if my growth had developed in a Christian version of "The Karate Kid" your departure signified that I had conquered my fears, excelled in my training, and stood ready for the next level in God's plan.
It's true that I felt lonely, even disjointed when you and Ken moved out-of-state, but because of you, I knew where to find my comfort. I didn't realize it then, but I now understand that you were modeling for me the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. You loved me like he loved them. You prepared me for your departure, as he prepared them for his.
In your humble ways, I'm sure you have never given a second thought to your influence on me. You may have wondered occasionally what became of me and if I am still following the Lord. One of the reasons that I'm writing this letter is to let you know that I still love you and miss you, but more than anything, I want you to know that your influence in my life has been profound and long-lasting. Through your love, you led me to the cross and into the arms of our amazing God. Twenty-five years later, there is no place that I would rather be.
Dear Opie, I hope this letter finds its way to you. If you receive it, I would love to hear back from you.
Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied, “‘you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
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