|My brother Sanford's home|
My original plan had been to depart for the Roanoke airport early on Thursday to catch my 8:30 am American flight to San Jose (via Charlotte, where our son Brad was scheduled to meet me from Pittsburgh). Then just days before I learned that my sister Lovina's condition was worsening following a recent stroke, which had me debating whether I should even go. After some conversations with my wife and other family members, I decided to leave the afternoon before and spend the evening by Lovina's bed at their home in rural Campbell County, just south of Lynchburg, and then leave for Roanoke early the next morning.
A Setback on I-64
Just before getting to the Fishersville exit on the interstate my left front tire went royally flat. I knew the tread on the front tires of my little pickup was low, but after having the tires checked the day before I decided to go ahead with plans to take the Nissan anyway, against my good wife's advice, so she could have our car to use while I was gone. I also wanted to listen to a tape recorded interview I had done with my father back in 1984 that I wanted to share excerpts of with my brother (our car doesn't have a tape deck).
Bad news: I had never changed a tire on my 1996 pickup, and even finding a way to get the spare from under the truck looked like a daunting task. Besides, I felt an urgent need to get to my sister's place.
Good news: Only minutes after pulling off the highway and dialing #77 (the police emergency hotline), I saw one of their Safety Service trucks, lights flashing, in my rear view mirror. It had just stopped a couple of hundred yards behind me to tag a motorcycle that was stranded because it had run out of gas.
What are the odds of such a thing happening, I marveled? In all of my interstate travels, I don't remember even seeing such a vehicle, much less needing help from one, so I was already prepared to wait forever for one to come to my aid. But in a very short time this angel visitor in disguise had me on my way to nearby Eavers Tire Service on Tinkling Springs Road where I had some new tires installed just before their closing time. Another great example of what I call "Mercy's Law".
And had I not decided to go see my dying sister Wednesday and left at 4:30 am Thursday instead for Roanoke, I may have had my flat along I-81 at a time when I could not been able to get the help I needed in time to make my flight.
Sad News and Sweet Consolation
After landing near the capitol city in early afternoon, we were greeted by my nephew Philip and escorted through busy traffic and mountainous roads for a two-hour drive across the country's Continental Divide and through its "cloud forest" (a high altitude rain forest-like area with abundant moisture brought in from the Atlantic) and down the other side to the tiny village of La Merced and my brother's home.
We enjoyed a near perfect evening, and took time for a memorable stop at a rustic roadside restaurant, plus another one by one of the many waterfalls in the area, all of which added to the feeling that we were in an earthly paradise, one in which temperatures are almost always somewhere between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sadly, among my brother's first words when we arrived at 7 pm were, "We just got word that Lovina passed away at 4 this afternoon."
Bittersweet emotions run deep at a time like this, with grief at her parting mixed with joy at reuniting with family members. Plus my realizing that with our youngest sister and now our three oldest ones gone, there were only three of us brothers and two sisters left. I was ever so glad I had been able to spend time at Lovina's bedside the night before to tell her how much I loved her and to experience my prayerful goodbye.
A Four-Day Taste of Promised Land
|Yoder family "choir" at the reunion|
And did I mention singing? The community center where we met rang with laughter and song, wonderful a cappella music in heavenly four-part harmony, all a sacred taste of the life to come.
Sunday proved to be more of the same, with a morning worship service in one of the ten indigenous churches my brother and some of his ordained sons helped establish, and one in which one of the native pastors spoke. A fellow pastor interpreted for a couple of us.
|Arenal Lake and Volcano|
I brought home with me a taste of an earthly paradise, memories of a haven for exotic birds and other wildlife and a heaven of fellowship with some of the people closest to my heart.
I felt I could have settled down at such a place forever, and my faith boldly claims that some day we will, enjoying a new and unpolluted heavens and an earth restored to its Creator's perfection. And one in which wolf will lie down with lamb and none will study war any more.
I know there may still be plenty of potholes on the way, not unlike those encountered in the last five miles of our journey to La Merced, with one of the roughest, rockiest rides imaginable. But it's all a part of the journey.
Our son Brad sang the following words from the New Testament letter to the Philippians as a kind of benediction on one of our last nights together in Costa Rica: