Almost too good to be true

I recently attended a funeral service somewhere in Ontario. The diseased man had suffered from Alzheimer’s and had gradually sunk deeper into his own restricted reality as the years went by. His marriage, earnestly begun under the sun of hope and friendship, had collapsed. Who could understand and who dared judge the couple? As far as we knew they were both positive and caring individuals. But, even in spite of having befriended them, we did not know about the stress and suffering that eventually crept into their family life. Sometimes one has to stand aside and watch the unraveling of a relationship that cracks from within.

My friend’s wife was at his funeral. I could see that the service was hard on her. But she persisted and no doubt benefitted from the genuine words of comfort offered to her and others. After the service we were given an opportunity to offer words of encouragement and comfort to the family.

As I approached my friend’s wife to offer my sympathies, she, instead, immediately offered her apologies to me for how our working relationship had soured years ago. I was floored by her sincere and frank admission. I had not expected this outcome and felt a wave of grace flow between us. I had not come to the funeral to be justified. I had in a way set this whole episode aside years ago, but to have her openly seek reconciliation at this mournful event was for me an unexpected experience of love.

One more unfolding
The following morning, it being Sunday, Alice and I prepared to go to church here in St. Catharines. I still felt a strong sense of peace inside me after what I had experienced at my friend’s funeral the day before. It felt good to be going to church with that sense of fullness.

As Alice and I parked our car on the church parking lot, we saw a somewhat middle-aged man and younger woman walking from their car to the front entrance of our church. Alice and I immediately recognized the man, although he was not a member of a Reformed community. He was someone who years ago had come to our church asking us to help him deal with a very painful separation. His wife had accused him of sexually molesting his daughters, and he was devastated by what he considered to be false accusations. His wife left him, taking their three daughters with her. Our friend spent the following years seeking counsel and professing his innocence. He eventually shifted his focus to helping people in Cuba. He would try to visit that country every year and decided to help out a few families he got to know by sending out money on a regular basis.

Until a change took place this April. It happened that one of his daughters started looking for him and decided to visit him. She was about 30 by this time. She had kept a diary of herself and her family, including the years that her Dad was still in the picture. She let her Dad read that diary when she met him, and she in turn read her Dad’s diary of the years that he was with them. She discovered to her amazement that her own reflections were similar to her Dad’s accounting. She had not trusted her mother’s stories and now she found that her own reflections totally matched her Dad’s account.

Our friend explained in tears to some of us at Jubilee that getting one of his daughters back and spending time with her after the first visit totally restored their relationship. He had even taken her to Cuba to meet his new friends there. And on this Sunday morning, after the service, he wanted his daughter to meet some of our church members who had helped and trusted him throughout the years. When we heard his wonderful story, we rejoiced with him and his daughter, hugging them with tears in our eyes.

Wow! As I recount these two stories, I can still hardly absorb the unfolding of these events. Within the span of 24 hours, God had revealed to me that his love does ultimately triumph. I still have to pinch myself from time to time to believe it. I’m glad it was not three unravelings of the past in a row. I probably would not have dared to write this editorial had God lifted his curtain one more time!

  • Bert Witvoet is a former educator and editor of various magazines, including the Christian Courier, who lives with his wife, Alice, in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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