The Gift of Tulips ©

“I serve a risen Savior. He’s in the world today. I know that He is living; whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy. I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him. He’s always near.”

These precious words written in 1933 by Rev. Alfred Ackley are from the great Easter hymn, He Lives. These are the words of hope for the entire world to hear. They are as true today as when passionately written. As true as when Christ died and rose for us.

I serve. I serve a living king. A living King.

May 2007. I am in a small Southern town to help move my octogenarian mother to Western Canada. It was a daunting task and the move was to take place on Friday. It was Tuesday and nothing of significance had taken place to get the process in action.

Wednesday found me at a Church healing service where I mentioned my situation. Time was of the essence. And God responded with His impeccable timing.

Steve the painter, found at this early morning healing service, knew my mother and said he would do anything requested. You see, as I was to find out, my mother had provided loving care to Steve the painter when his wife was dying of breast cancer a few years earlier. Steve talked of Frances, my mother, as an unselfish angel who prayed, baked, drove, and did all those things needed when someone’s dear loved one is dying. He, it now turned out, would be the driver of all of my mother’s earthly possessions wherever they were meant to go. Work would be canceled and plans would be made, Steve assured me. I see His hand of mercy. I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him. He’s always near.”

So, I had a devoted driver. A step in the right direction. But, there were so many questions of arrangements to be made that I realized I was totally inept at the whole procedure. Therefore, I made a determined decision to lean on the Lord for everything regarding this precarious move. And lean I did. “I serve a risen Savior. He’s in the world today.”

A new real estate office had opened in this quaint town over the past year. Since I worked in Canada for the same company, I decided to pay them a visit. I did not know; but maybe they could help, as help seemed in short supply. When I entered the office, I asked the receptionist to call the agent on duty for that day. This front desk gal mentioned that the agent was new.

“My Lord always works through the best avenues available,” I thought. “I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him. He’s always near.”

She escorted me into a large modern office where a fellow in his late twenties or early thirties sat behind a large walnut desk and greeted me with a very warm, kind smile. I got right to the point with my situation of moving my elderly mother to a province in Canada 3,000 miles away. Could he assist in anyway? Why would I think he could help? This request, in itself, was a bit out of the ordinary. What this young agent said next stunned me. And I am sure the reaction was mutual. You see, he had just moved his bride down from an adjacent province in Canada the previous weekend, and he knew exactly what to do to offer practical advice. “I see His hand of mercy. I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him. He’s always near.”

“Interesting”, I thought. This seemed much more than a mere coincidence. “I serve a risen Savior. He’s in the world today. I know that He is living; whatever men may say.”

I now had a list of helpful things to do from this gracious realtor and appropriately thanked him. Before leaving the office, we spent a few minutes chatting about Western Canada, the Rockies, and a few US-Canadian connections. Then, I was off armed with much to do.

Once in the parking lot I felt a tug at my heart. Silly. Oh well. I have learned that my God never fails. And sometimes the silliest of tugs turn into momentous gifts of one sort or the other. So, I turned around and marched right back into the building where my new friend was still standing at the front desk where I’d left him.
“You know” I said, “I was just wondering if, by any chance, you had met my uncle.” And I named his name. “The attorney in town”, I said. “He passed away in ’93. He was the blind attorney.” I added the last statement as there were, surprisingly enough, two attorneys with the same sounding name, though only one was blind.

Now, this was a long shot if I had ever heard one. Not many people on the street probably remembered my uncle. Over the years, a new breed had arrived making this a vibrant town.

A look of puzzled amazement turning to stunned appreciation appeared on this young man’s face. Oh, my God is near. It was some time before he actually spoke. And when he spoke it was with a calm, measured demeanor, as if what he was about to say was of utmost importance.

“I did know your uncle. I knew him very well. And I had all but forgotten. Thank you for bringing him to mind. I was a little boy and lived in the house on the street directly behind and below his house. I would go up to the hill and talk with him. Do you remember his tulips?”

“Oh, I remember well the tulips he planted.” I replied.

Crouching on his knees in the dirt of a high, sloping hill under the late sun and into the early evening, this blind attorney tilled the earth with his bare hands as he placed each bulb precisely where it needed to be to successfully bloom. Earth embedded his fingernails and sweat pored off his brow. Oh, yes. I remember the tulips.

My uncle, who was blinded in WW11, had lost much of his hearing as well. However, with his ‘good’ ear he was one of the best listeners I have met up to this point in my life. He was one of those rare persons who truly listened with a whole heart. The hill was where my uncle planted 1,000 tulip bulbs, of which all came to bloom. Growing up on a farm in the Midwest was not wasted on this remarkable gentleman gardener. ‘He served a risen Savoir.’

The agent continued. “I came in the late afternoon before dinner and squatted on the ground next to my friend, this amazing man, as he tended his tulips. Before I left, I had talked about my day at school, learned about all things ‘earth’, and grew a little bit wiser. Each time, as I got up to run home to dinner, this truly compassionate, down-to-earth neighbor handed me a bunch of tulips and told me to “take these back to your mother, son”. Thank you. Thank you for reminding me of this.”

Once again, he stated, “I’d all but forgotten.”

A look of sincerity overlapping thoughtful sadness swept across his face. A memorable look. . “He’s in the world today. I know that He is living; whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy.”

It wasn’t until Friday, the day the van was being packed and driven, that I really came to understand this poignant look. Not that I had given it much thought. Actually, it was but a mere slip of the tongue. I mentioned to a neighbor, who’d come over to ‘kibitz’, that I was lucky to have found this particular realtor who located the truck, among other things.

“It’s just so sad his mother committed suicide”, she said.

I almost dropped the box I was carrying. A sudden wave of sadness washed over me. Instantly, my mind raced back to the image of a little boy running down the hill with a handful of tulips. Tulips for his mom.

“I serve a risen Savior. He’s in the world today. I know that He is living; whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy. I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him. He’s always near.”

In retrospect, perhaps this young man needed a memory to grasp unto and hold close to his heart. Now, at this given time. It leads me to wonder. Here was a child who gave the gift of meaningful ‘company’ to a man of dignity, a man who ‘was handed a lemon and made lemonade’. And, now the tables were turned. This young man accepted the gift of a fond and most-likely much-needed memory, the memory of bringing flowers to his mother. Timeless, divine blessings back and forth. Tulips for his mom. Tulips from heaven.

“I serve a risen Savior. He’s in the world today. I know that He is living; whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy. I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him. He’s always near.”

18 January 2010 by DRaborn, BA SDG

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