There was much pain in Uncle Ralph's heart. He had buried his 21-year-old daughter who was murdered, then his wife died of lung cancer, and another daughter died of brain cancer (you can read Hand-held Love here).
And he had done some things in his lifetime.
Yes, there truly was much pain in his heart.
Uncle Ralph was a very generous man. He always walked around with wads of hundred dollar bills in his pocket and handed them out as he saw need. Joe and I were only 22 when our first child was born. Needing to move from our tiny apartment, we started house hunting. Once we found our home, Uncle Ralph handed us $10,000 for the down payment. He never accepted a penny in payback. Yes, he truly was a very generous man.
Uncle Ralph went into the hospital for some kind of routine surgery. My mother-in-law called to let us know that something wasn't right. He got sick and sicker after the surgery and lapsed into a coma. The doctors didn't expect him to live.
I sat at Uncle Ralph's hospital bedside. Yes, he truly was in a coma. I leaned over him and spoke directly into his ear. I thanked him for the gift he gave us of our home and now I wanted to give him a gift - Jesus Christ. And so I whispered The Gospel in his ear. I shared God's Loving Forgiveness, His Grace and Mercy, and Uncle Ralph's need to seek forgiveness. With a sorrowful heart, I left the hospital. A few days later we saw him again - at the funeral home.
I began praying for a sign as to whether or not Uncle Ralph had made peace with God. Linda's brother and sister asked me to write something, as I had done for Linda's funeral. I was to read it at his funeral service. So, I needed assurance that The Holy Spirit had reached through Uncle Ralph's comatose state to his heart. I needed assurance that he had sought God's forgiveness.
When we arrived at the funeral home, it was something out of The Godfather movie. I never saw so many black cars and men wearing suits - all who came to show respect. Fear gripped my heart as we made our way through the sea of scary men to the family, to Uncle Ralph. Oh, Father, I'm terrified...how can I possibly do this?!
Joe and I took the only two seats available amongst the assemblage of wiseguys. Truly, fear had gripped my heart! Even the walls were intimidating as they were lined with huge, very Italian-looking funeral flowers. Each, I suppose, from one of those men who had to show respect and who had to outdo each other.
Trying to look everywhere but in the faces of these men, I noticed on the floor to the left of where we were sitting, was a vase of roses. The most magnificent roses I have ever seen in my life. Truly they were breath-taking. Each rose was crimson red on the outside of the petals and pure white-white on the inside. I bent over and inhaled their fragrance, which was just as glorious as their beauty. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. In that moment, I heard The Holy Spirit's whisper to my heart,
"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."I knew that was Scriputre - Isaiah 1:18 - and I knew it was my assurance!
Then I noticed the card. They were the flowers that Joe and I had ordered from our florist. Obviously, they were handpicked for this occasion by God. Truly, I knew I had my assurance! And I was elated with joy.
Because of the blessed assurance I now had, The Holy Spirit empowered me to boldly proclaim The Gospel that night and to share of Uncle Ralph's salvation and entrance into Heaven. At some point, I stopped reading what I wrote, as the "preach" came on me. By the time I was done, almost the whole sea of wiseguys were wiping their tears. As soon as I finished, one by one, these movie-typical men exited the funeral home. Seeds were planted.
Truly seeds were planted. Uncle Ralph's "gumbada" - his life-long friend and confidant - whispered to me as he wiped his tears, "I think I need to do the same thing that Ralphie did."
Don't ever be afraid to share The Truth of God's Love to someone who is dying or even in a coma. God's Spirit transcends any condition the body might be in. And if you need assurance, seek it. For our God is The God Who Answers.
Truly, He is The God Who Answers!
Because of Him and Unto Him,