From Life to Life
He looked a lot like my son, sitting there on the bench by the park – mid-twenties, handsome, thin, dirty, backpack by his side. And when he spoke, ducking his head in either shyness or nervousness, my heart was pierced with the similarities.
“Do you have some change so I could get something to eat?” he asked.
Shaken, I mumbled something ridiculous like, “No, thank you”, and walked on with my husband.
We were from out-of-town; my husband was attending a continuing education course, while I stayed at the hotel and quilted. The evening had promised to be fun - swimming in the hotel pool, maybe watching a movie. But the encounter with this young man hung like a dark cloud of grief around my spirit, and I found myself dwelling on the four years of pain and anguish we’d experienced with our prodigal son, who had himself chosen to live homeless at one point in his journey into the “distant land”.
Back at our hotel, I stopped to use the hotel’s guest computer to check our e-mail. My husband went on to our room and I settled into the chair in front of one of the computers. An older woman, probably in her seventies, sat at the other computer. She looked over at me and smiled. We struck up a conversation about our trips, our hometowns, etc. She had just gotten back from a trip with her daughter to the Grand Canyon, and said she could not wait to go back and white water raft down the Colorado. Said she’d already rafted a level two trip, and was anxious to try level three! She’d wanted to try skydiving this year, but due to knee replacement surgery, thought she should wait awhile! I began to feel like a slug, a very tired old slug.
She told me about losing her husband the past year, and when I expressed how sorry I was, she said, “Oh honey, it was a wonderful home-going for him!” She told me about her ministry with the youth group at her church in Texas, her one daughter who was bipolar, and two sons – one a West Point graduate, the other a soldier serving in Afghanistan. The second son had been shot, came back to the states for rehab and the doctors said it was unlikely he’d ever walk normally again. The mother said, with a twinkle in her eye, “But God worked a miracle. He recovered, learned to walk, and went back to serve overseas again with his buddies.”
Feeling a connection with this woman, I asked, “So you’re a Christian?”
“Oh yes!” she said, with a Texas drawl that reminded me so much of my mom. “Do you have any children?”
“Yes, we have a twenty-three year old daughter; she’s a ray of sunshine. We also have a son who’s twenty-five.”
At the mention of my son, my eyes filled with tears and I blurted out, “He’s very lost right now. In fact, just this evening I saw a homeless kid at the park who reminded me a lot of him.” A fresh wave of grief hit me and I started to cry, looking into the compassionate tear-filled eyes of this stranger. She got up out of her seat, walked over, and put her arms around me.
“My name is Janice Kay, honey,” she said. “If you need to talk any time tonight, I am in room 234, okay? And I want you to know there will be a church in Wichita Falls, Texas, that will be praying for your son.”
I hugged her even closer, and in that brief moment, I thought I smelled the most beautiful aroma – the scent of my Savior, swirling around my grieving heart - healing, comforting, upholding.
“I think God knew I needed a mom tonight, Janice,” I said. “Thank you so much.”
My tears of pain transformed into tears of gratefulness for a God who is faithful to “show up” in our toughest moments, when we just need a hug … or a mom. I think of 2 Corinthians 2:15, 16 when I recall this precious woman, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved…a fragrance from life to life.”
Janice Kay was the aroma of Christ to me that night – a sweet, comforting, beautiful fragrance, which imparted life to my soul. I will never forget it.
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