Merle didn't waste time, he used every moment wisely. I believe it was during our first conversation with Merle that he asked us if we knew Jesus. His face lit up when we told him yes. He didn't stop there though. He wanted to be sure, so he asked about our walk, and our understanding of what salvation meant. He cared. He loved our Lord so very much, and was never ashamed, never afraid to share Him with anyone.
Shortly after we moved in, we had a large garage sale. We were combining two households, so you know this was a doozy. It drew in almost everyone in the neighborhood. From every person that lived on our street, we heard stories about the cantankerous old man that had lived in our house before we bought it, Mr. Burns. He was said to be an angry, grouchy, unkind, just plain ole mean man.
Everyone had something bad to say about Mr. Burns...everyone except for Merle. You see Merle came by once a week and took Mr. Burns out to lunch, he cared about Mr. Burns, and his main objective was to lead him to the foot of the cross. Merle relayed some things about Mr. Burns' 'personalilty', but he shared it with such humility and love that it was clear he was more concerned about this mans eternity than his here-and-now. Mr. Burns died, and I don't know if he ever accepted Jesus as his Lord. Merle planted those seeds. He hoped against hope. He saw no change, but he still came each week to pick him up and take him out to lunch. He still came by to help him with things that needed fixing around his house. He still chatted with him, and smiled. Only Jesus and Mr. Burns know for sure what happened with those seeds,...well, I suppose Merle knows too.
Merle was like that, always gentle, always loving, always kind. As the years passed by Merle took fewer walks, we would go down and visit him and Cathy every now and again. With a twinkle in his eye and chuckle in his voice he'd tell of how he'd broken his thigh bone by simply turning around. He didn't complain about the pain, he just smiled. We'd often see him with bandaged covering large areas of his bald head, or his ears. He'd relay to us how the Doctors had found more cancerous parts on his skin and had to cut them off, all the while, smiling and asking how WE were. He smiled and light heartedly told us of how half his body was purple from lack of circulation and the Dr. had to cut off a couple of toes. It was all in a days work to Merle...they way he saw it, the more time he spent in the Doctors office, the more opportunities he had to witness.
Merle was a joy to be around, a joy to talk to, I didn't want him to go, but I knew that it would happen. He wasn't only quite old, but his body was giving out, time and health weren't on his side. My heart broke for Cathy, they were so precious together and so obviously in love. She was slow moving, but she didn't have his health issues.
A few years ago Merle passed away. When I found out that he had died, I cried. I mostly cried for Cathy, for her loss, and her lonliness. However, when I thought of Merle, I smiled through my tears. I imagined him running to Jesus...RUNNING! I could see him in my mind (I still can when I close my eyes), and I see him laughing, singing and dancing with all his might before the Lord, praising with a strong voice. I can't wait to see him again someday, and the beautiful thing about that is that I KNOW I will. Merle didn't waste a moment of his life...he used it all to the glory of the Lord. Oh, if only I would use my life like Merle did...that's something to strive for.
Cathy still lives down the street. She has a wonderful family and someone is always there each day to visit her, shop with her, mow her lawn, cook, clean...they are there for her, and that makes me happy...but I just know she misses her man, and that makes my heart ache.
Merle wrote this poem. He gave us a copy of it, as I'm sure he gave one to every person he met. I came across it the other day, and wanted to share it with you...
~Time Passes By~
Seconds are swiftly passing by
Minutes and hours we cannot deny
Days and weeks we cannot retrieve
Jesus' salvation you must receive
Months and years they do not wait
Your soul will soon meet its fate
Three score and ten is now at hand
Saved or not your soul God demands
Time passes on if you are here or not
Separation day is coming in case you forgot
The goats on his left, the sheep on his right
Heaven will be all day for there is no night
Be sure you accept Jesus so I'll see you my friend
For this will be eternity where there is no end.