Two days ago, on September 16th, my dad would have been 93, but he died in 2016. Nevertheless, I suggested to my brother that we get some Brunswick stew and coconut pie (dad's favorites) from Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur and meet at Rhodes Ferry Park for an impromptu picnic in his memory. (Our sister lives in Birmingham and couldn't make it this time). You might recall that North Alabama was experiencing the effects of Hurricane Sally on September 16th. It was rainy, breezy, and somewhat chilly, but we decided to proceed with our plans. Andy, his wife Linda, and I met at 11:30, got a little soggy carrying our lunch to the pavilion, but soon settled in for a fun meal and great conversation.
(With our dad on his 80th birthday)
About an hour into our time together, an elderly gentleman walked up to our table and started talking to us. (Elderly, of course, is a relative term since I am 70 and my brother is 66, but let's just say that we could tell this man was older than we were). He was looking around the park because he had reserved the larger pavilion for an upcoming family reunion/92nd birthday celebration for himself and was thinking that the smaller pavilion where we were would probably work out better.
We noticed he was wearing a jacket with a Michigan logo and asked if that was where he was from. He mentioned living for a number of years in Dearborn, which is where our great uncle had lived until he died at the age of 99. When we mentioned our uncle's former street address, this man immediately knew where it was. The conversation flowed freely from that point -- mostly consisting of a monologue from him. At first, I confess that I was hoping he would find out what he needed to know and then move on along so we could get back to our previous conversation. Once he started talking, though, it was obvious he had a lot of words he needed to use up. He was clear-eyed with an engaging personality and a positive outlook.
Then the interesting parts started showing up.
He talked of going to college and becoming a teacher, then a principal (just as our dad had done). He mentioned how much he had enjoyed spending time in his motorhome at Point Mallard Campground through the years (also something our dad had done many times). He mentioned the brand of motorhome he had, and we recognized it as one our dad had wished for but never thought he could afford. He talked of his love for University of Alabama football, even when he lived in Michigan. My brother grinned at that since he is a UA alum, while I added that Santa Claus wouldn't be coming to see either one of them. :) Our dad had been more of an Alabama fan than an Auburn fan, in spite of sending some of his money there when I was a student. And then there was the fact that this man was having a birthday (which was the occasion we had gathered to acknowledge) and that he was 92 (only a year younger than dad). Hmmmmm.
(My attractive parents on their wedding day, June 19, 1949).
(Dad with his 2nd wife June in front of their house in Troy, AL).
He didn't ask our names, and regrettably, we didn't ask for his. But, there was just something about the encounter. Was dad sending us a message? Was he assuring us that he was doing just fine and that he had lived a full, happy life?
(Dad cutting up with his great-grandson, Nathan).
I wish I knew more about angels. I do know that many times in scripture God used them as His messengers. One of these days, I'll understand all I need to know. But, for now, it was just a sweet affirmation that it was good to spend time with my brother and talk a bit about our dad.
Psalm 91:11 - "For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."
Psalm 34:7 - "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them."
Hebrews 13:2 - "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."