He stood in the long hallway halfway to my apartment, in front of his front door. Ralph was taking out his keys, getting ready to enter his unit. I walked out of the elevator, saw my neighbor and said “Hi.”
That’s all it took for me and Ralph to begin a casual conversation that soon grew serious.
“How is Nancy doing?” I asked
Ralph’s wife had been sick. This I knew from brief hello’s exchanged with Nancy over the past few months.
“She’s dying.” Ralph said. “4th stage metastasized breast cancer, it’s a matter of time. Probably soon.”
“Is she ready for it?” I asked
“She’s ready – but stubborn. Won’t let hospice in, suffering every day like a martyr.”
Then casually Ralph said, “I died thirty years ago.” I didn’t have a chance to respond when he continued. “Electrocuted.”
He told me it was a day when he was in a basement doing a plumbing repair for a customer. Nancy was there too, though he didn’t know her yet. She was bringing a suitcase to her storage shed. Ralph had a soldering iron in one hand and he reached up and touched the water pipe. The cord from his tool wasn’t grounded.
“I felt no pain only bliss. I saw Jesus.”
He said God’s kingdom was as beautiful as anything you could never imagine. Even the flowers sang. The river held flowing crystals.
“Then I felt a hard tug at my right leg. It was Nancy pulling me down from heaven. I came to when I dropped the iron. From that day forward I knew the reward is in the next life not this one. It’s too hard here.”
Soon after his visit to God’s kingdom Ralph met an angel.
He was doing some plumbing work for a nice lady who owned an antique shop. She also owned an empty storefront next to it. Out of the blue, she offered him a deal. She would give him a line of credit (he had $179 to his name at the time) and he could buy what he needed to open a new business. She thought a flower shop might do nicely in that location. Ralph knew nothing about flowers except that he liked them, but he’d had crazier business ideas on his own and he figured he didn’t have much to lose. He said, “Sure, why not?”
Ralph made a call to Nancy who he had been seeing since his “death”. He told her about the opportunity and told her he wanted her to be his 50-50 partner in the new business. Nancy saved his life, he felt he owed everything to her. It took some persuading but Nancy left her good paying job and agreed to work with Ralph. They had a deal. They both believed God had plotted out their destiny and the flower shop was where they belonged.
Angela the landlord was a gift that didn’t stop giving. She let them furnish the shop with some antiques she had in storage. “I’ll give you 30% if you sell any” she told the two new flower shop owners.
On the second day of business, an elderly lady came to the shop for some flowers. She admired the antiques and wanted to buy some pieces to furnish her new home. Ralph took her around the store and she started pointing, “I’ll take that. And that. And that.” Nancy made the delivery arrangements for the next day. They rented a truck and delivered the antiques and most of their floral stock. She wrote a check for $380,000. After expenses they netted $80,000. The flower shop was a success. They never had to worry about money or material possessions again. Ralph and Nancy married and have lived happily together all these years.
And now, their life together was coming to an end. Yet, neither Ralph, nor Nancy, was disappointed. Neither one was sad. They were happy and content, even excited. Nancy was ready to enjoy the splendor of God’s Kingdom.
As for me, after talking to Ralph, I walked the remaining steps to my apartment with a vision of the after-life firmly planted in my soul. And to this day, I take every “casual conversation” as a chance to capture the holiness of someone’s special story.
By Susan Diamond
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