An Unmistakable Moment

Complimentary Story

   His name was Robert Shaffer.  He and his wife, Margie -- who were also my in-laws -- became our upper tenants back when my first wife and I owned a duplex in Milwaukee in 1982 and they lost their home in Pennsylvania.  We lived in the lower half.
   Through the course of six years of them living there I spent many evenings talking with “Bob.”  Margie passed away in 1985 and he was happy to have our conversations fill the void that was left.  He was a severe diabetic and rarely left his apartment.  My interaction with him was probably appreciated to a great degree, as most conversations with my wife, his daughter and a Registered Nurse by profession, were more about his medical needs than anything else.  Their relationship was not a close, loving one.
   He liked to reminisce about the time when he was a Corporal stationed in London and was assigned to be the driver for an American general during World War II.  We also talked a lot about politics and a little bit about the family.  On occasion, I was able to swing the conversation to spiritual matters.
   Bob had a reputation for being quite stubborn and it showed during those exchanges about “religious stuff,” as he liked to put it.  Fortunately, his version of stubbornness was a determination to get his opposing point of view across, rather than a refusal to discuss the matter.  With communication, the Gospel goes forth and he was at least willing to hear me, though he stayed firm in his opinion that “doing the best you can” is what mattered in life.
   The discussions in which I reminded him of my personal testimony, and that accepting Christ as Savior and Lord, usually ended with a shrug of his shoulders and a refuting wave of his hand; then he’d give me a wry, know-it-all kind of smile as he winked with his left eye and said, “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
   In early spring of 1988 Bob went into hospice.  His systems were slowly shutting down and we could no longer give him the amount of attention he needed.  A few weeks after being placed there he went into a coma that he never came out of.  Robert Edward Shaffer passed away in August of that year.
   Ten days before his passing, I went to visit him.  As I sat on the chair against the wall, facing him from the far side of his bed, I spoke to him one more time, telling him that I hoped he had heard me and that it would matter before he died.  I then simply prayed, “Lord, if there’s any way You could let me know that, in the end, my times with Bob made a difference, please show me somehow.”  I was looking for some kind of sign.
   Often in these kinds of situations people detect a twitch of a finger, a slight sound, a slight position shift, etc., and would like to think that it was a sign…an affirming response…but the sound or movement are often so slight that there is no way to truly know if they were out of the ordinary or not.
   This time it was different.  As I came out of my prayer and spent a few minutes just looking across the bed at Bob’s face, the upper half of his body bolted up, he gave me a familiar smile as he winked with his left eye, and then his body dropped down again into his coma!
   Needless to say, I leaped out of my chair in momentary shock, then knelt next to the chair and began praising the Lord for the answer to my prayer as tears fell.
   Ironically, when I got home and shared what happened with my wife, she didn’t believe me -- and the same was true when I shared it with my pastor that following Sunday -- because often in those kinds of situations…well, you know…

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