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No matter where you go, God is sending you there.  Wherever you find yourself, God has a purpose in your being there.”

This is a quotation from the minister, Rev. Dr. Lee Zehmer, of First Presbyterian Church in my town.  These words are part of his benediction every Sunday.  During the week that follows, I often remind myself of those last words of every service, especially when things seem to go awry, and I pause for a deep breath and try to convince myself that there must be a reason I find myself in predicaments.  Yesterday, though, I actually had some confirmation, first with a little bit of fun, and then next as an epiphany.

I was taking my friend Shirley to have blood work done at Quest Lab, but nothing seemed to go right.  First, the lab was in a building that bore no signage to give a clue that we were in the right building.  I had to park, get out, and go inside to find out that, indeed, we were in the right place.  When we got in, there was no one at the reception desk, and the partition was closed.  The only way to sign in was to use a digital kiosk.  Unfortunately, my friend had misplaced her driver’s license ID, so she couldn’t complete the sign-in.  I tried calling the lab on my cell phone, only to be put on hold.  Frustration was mounting.  Finally, I decided to resort to archaic methods and just knock on the door.  We waited until the technician opened the door to receive the only other patient who had also been waiting.  That was when I made my move and explained the situation, whereupon the tech signed Shirley in.  Then we waited some more. 

After about fifteen more minutes, another patient entered the waiting room.  It was our good friend Will, and all of us from the same church.  There we three were in the now vacated waiting room, delighted to see one another.  I chuckled, reminding my two friends of what the pastor had said on Sunday.  We all got a good laugh; then Will was called in for his test.  Out he came almost immediately.

“Well, that was quick,” I said.

“They don’t have the doctor’s order.  The office never sent it last week,” he fumed.

“And yet here we three are, having a lovely visit,” chirped Shirley from her wheelchair.

But wait; there’s more.  After Will left, a very scruffy man came in, slightly bent under the weight of his portable oxygen tank and crouched slightly at the check-in kiosk. The gloom that surrounded him was real and palpable.  He looked to be the source of darkness itself.  What I could see of both his arms was tattooed over completely, right down to his fingernails, and he had an unkept, thick, graying beard.  I could tell he had no teeth by the Gabby Hayes-like closure of his mouth. He also had a cluster of some sort of tumors on the side of his neck.  It would be accurate to say that he was one of the most unapproachable human beings I’ve ever encountered.

I don’t remember how the conversation started between us right after Shirley was called back for her bloodwork, but I found myself deep in discourse with this gentleman.  He told me about his health conditions from which he had died twice and come back.  His description was almost identical to my own near-death experience with the enveloping light, peace, and love.  He emphatically testified, “This life is NOT all there is.”     

I wanted to tell him about my near-death experience, but he was on a roll and went on to tell me about an apparition he had seen while in the ICU.  A beautiful nurse who was not on staff came to him in the night and comforted him by telling him that he would be just fine.  He asked the next morning about her, and the staff told him that no one had been there.  And he told me about seeing his niece in a terrible car crash that killed her in the night while he was asleep.  He was there, but he had been in bed asleep, and when he woke up he knew that what he had seen was real. 

For the past few weeks, I have been struggling with a sense of emptiness.  I’m working through the grief of losing my son two years ago.   I thought I was doing pretty well with my progress, but lately all the joy has gone out of me.  I just want to get through the day and watch a movie at the end before I get to slip into the oblivion of sleep.  I have been completely out of touch with the things that gave me comfort a few months ago, like remembering the peace and love of my own NDE, the sense of my late son’s spiritual presence with me, my gratitude for my family, and little surprises in Nature, in short, my faith and surety of a world of Spirit that our five senses are inadequate to perceive.

After my brief visit with the scruffy man, I felt all that return.  Yes, I collided with “God’s purpose” in that waiting room, not once but twice.  We never know what is embedded in the moment or who a person is beneath his appearance, and we never know what gift there might be in chance encounters.

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