For over a year now, I’ve been praying Deuteronomy 33:25, one of Moses’ blessings, for both Earl and me.
“The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days.”
God answered that prayer for Earl, and for that I am thankful.
Earl had been through a rough patch for months with A-fib and said he didn’t want to live like that. He tried all the meds available before insurance would approve an ablation procedure to correct it. The procedure worked beautifully, and Earl enjoyed his active life again and looked forward to getting off the clot-preventing blood thinners so he could resume his motorcycle rides. He’d been riding for six weeks when he and Mitchell planned a trip to Florida for a motorcycle show.
The morning he left, our conversation was different from the usual. In the past, he always told me his itinerary, where they had reservations, and when I reminded him to be careful he always responded, “That’s the plan.” But he didn’t have this trip mapped out; he had not made reservations anywhere; and I don’t remember his saying, “That’s the plan” when I told him to be careful. He seemed distracted when I reminded him to call me when they settled in the first night. He didn’t respond with even an, “Okay,” so I said, “Call me tonight.” Still no response.
Two hours later when the Tennessee Highway Patrol car parked in my front yard and the sheriff pulled into my driveway, the expression on their faces told me that they were not bringing glad tidings of great joy. They simply said, “There’s been an accident.”
I’ve been told many times that I don’t respond to situations the way most people do. This time my mind fast-forwarded beyond the overwhelming sadness of Earl’s death to my concern for Mitchell, his riding buddy, and for the two officers who had to deliver the bad news. That couldn’t be an easy job, but they were so helpful and said Mitchell was not involved in the accident.
I’m so thankful for the many kindnesses shown me by the law enforcement officers. They called the hospital and put me in touch with the medical examiner who saw Earl when he was brought in; made arrangements with a local funeral home to bring Earl’s body back home; and even called to find out where Earl’s motorcycle was taken.
I’m so thankful for the kind medical examiner who answered all my questions and comforted me with the information that Earl had a massive heart attack before the crash, and there wasn’t a scratch on him. The medical examiner even called to check on me later that afternoon.
I’m so thankful that my dear friend Teresa arrived while the officers were still here and stayed with me all week until my family came.
I’m so thankful for Mitchell who had to ride back home alone after seeing Earl go down on the Interstate; and I’m so thankful for his visit that afternoon when he shared what he knew and his later phone calls to check on me.
I’m so thankful for Earl’s good buddy Timer, who came as soon as he heard and continues to call and check on me.
I’m so thankful for Jeff and Mitchell who drove 60 miles to retrieve Earl’s motorcycle and bring it back to Jeff’s shop to repair and resell.
I’m so thankful for my brunch bunch friends who fed my entire family the whole time they were here.
I’m so thankful for my church family, Earl’s church family, his long lost cousin, and all his motorcycle buddies who roared in to his memorial service on their motorcycles to pay tribute to their friend.
I’m so thankful for good neighbors and men friends who continue to meet my needs before I even know that I have them. They’ve reminded me to close the vents under the house, cover the outdoor spigots, and check the antifreeze in the car before the big chill hits. They’ve recommended getting AAA roadside assistance, flashlights for all rooms, and jumper cables for the car.
I’m so thankful that Earl sat me down two months earlier to tell me where all our important documents are and to make a list of things to do when he died.
I’m so thankful that God gave Earl strength for the number of his days and was merciful in the way He took him home. In doing so, He was merciful to me, too.
I’m so thankful to know that to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord.
I’m so thankful to know Earl’s spirit was in heaven before his head hit the highway.
I’m so thankful that I’ve learned to give thanks at all times and in all circumstances.
And I’m so thankful to You, Father, for the life and the love of Earl Winn.