1927-2011

This past April, I was reading a book at the park when an elderly gentleman sat down on the bench next to me. He was very distinguished looking, dressed in a navy suit, white shirt, and navy tie. Since he was sitting alone, I decided to strike up a conversation. Soon I discovered his name was José and that he had lived in Montijo all 84 years of his life. I asked Senhor José about what kind of work he had done, what the town was like back when he was young, and his thoughts about society today.

He was a wonderful conversationalist. I discovered that even though he had worked in a hospital most of his life, his real love was poetry. He said with a flourish, “I am a poet at heart… To me anything can become poetry.” He told me how he had written poetry for special occasions in the town, and how he had even written a song for one of the town festivals. At one point, he became so enthused about his work that he excused himself, walked across the street to his house, and returned minutes later with a copy of one of his books of poetry that he had written.

“Here, I would like to give you my book.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that. That is very kind of you.” I replied.

“Do you have a pen?” He asked, “So I can sign it for you.”

I handed him a blue pen, and on the front page he wrote,

“For my friend David Both (sp). With a warm embrace from your friend.” April 20, 2011

I was touched by this act of kindness and was hopeful that I could talk with him again.

I saw Senhor José again a couple of weeks later. This time, he wasn’t feeling very well. Dressed in the same suit, he still looked distinguished, but he seemed confused and disoriented as we chatted. Soon, he said he needed to leave. He got up, shook my hand, and walked across the street to his house.

For the next couple of months, I returned to the park and always looked for Senhor José but with no success. I wondered how he was doing and prayed that I would have an opportunity to see him again.

Finally, one day about a month ago, as I was walking out of the library, I saw a glass case holding an exhibition of books. I recognized one of them as the book Senhor José had given me. For a moment, I was excited as I thought, “How neat! The library put his books of poetry on display.” Then, my heart sank. At the bottom of the the case, his full name was written out and below that was:

1927-2011

I lingered for a moment, read the obituary which spoke highly of his contributions to the community, and then slowly walked out of the library and down the street to my car.

This bothered me on so many levels.

“Where was he now?” Even though he was a “good” man, it was doubtful that he had trusted Christ alone as Savior.

“What should I have done differently?”

“I should have been more forceful about sharing the gospel with him.” 

All of these thoughts raced through my head and a deep sense of sadness moved my heart. From this experience, I concluded two things:

1. Every single person I meet will someday have a birth date and a date of death under his or her name. While I have always known this theoretically, my moments with Senhor José made me understand on a whole new level that the task I have is an urgent one.

2. I don’t ever want to have a friend or acquaintance that dies without me at least having tried to tell them about Jesus. Never again do I want to have that feeling. Never.

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