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Chance Encounters


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I sat down in the normal spot at church on a Sunday morning, but this week, my husband was now my ex-husband. I was truly alone. I'd been alone in church for months now, but since my ex-husband now had a girlfriend—a much younger girlfriend—I needed the support of my church family. Many people had stopped by to see if I was okay, and surprisingly, I was. Actually, I was better than okay. I didn't have the divorce proceedings to worry about any more. He was gone, his stuff was history, and our house was sold. I was in an apartment with very friendly neighbors.

As much as I couldn't ask for anything more, I was alone, even though I was surrounded by people. But these people weren't the 'daily grind' types. They were more the superficial 'how are you doing' types, who wanted a 'fine' answer. They didn't want to hear that I'd cried myself to sleep or worried if I'd have enough money for groceries. They didn't know how to handle the problems with our grown children, one of whom was also going through a divorce. And at my job, the patient's needs came above the nurse's needs, so many days, I'd hear complaints about pain. But the people whining about their pain had no idea I was going through pain as well—emotional pain.

So I sat in the pew, a few seats from the left end, in case someone came in after me. A young mother with four children sat on my right, trying to get her children settled. The husband walked in, sat on the end, and the children calmed down and folded their hands in their laps. It reminded me of the way we'd raised our children. George ruled with an iron fist. Our kids toted the line with him, then would come to me for real help. And now, the kids refused to even talk to their father, after how he'd treated me.

The service started and a man dressed in a suit sat on my left. I inched closer to the mother with the children, but the man ignored me. I checked out his ring finger, thinking maybe his wife was coming, since he left an empty seat on his left. No ring. If someone saw me sitting next to a single man, I'd be the talk of the town and George would certainly be upset, probably thinking I was cheating behind his back. But I'd never seen this man before.

As the first hymn began to play, I noticed the man's face turn to a grimace and his hand fly to his chest. He moaned under his breath as the congregation stood to sing. I didn't move, but leaned closer to the man. "Are you okay?"

"No. My chest just started to hurt."

"I'm a nurse. Can you make it to the foyer?"

He nodded, then stood up. I grabbed my purse and jacket and followed right along. As soon as we got out of the sanctuary, I grabbed his arm and guided him to the seats along the windows. Fortunately, these seats were set up like a bench. "Lie down," I said, and pulled out my cell phone, dialing emergency.

He took a few steps closer to the bench, clutching at his shirt. I practically dragged him to the seats and helped him sit down.

"Emergency," the woman said over the phone.

"I need an ambulance at Hope Eternal Church, on Lakeside Street. A man's possibly having a heart attack. My name's Nancy Wentworth and I'm a nurse."

"Yes, ma'am. We have someone coming right now. They should be there in about four minutes."

"Thank you." As I ended the call, I looked up to the man's ashen face, reached up, and undid his tie. "What's your name?"

"Harold Bilson."

My eyebrows careened skyward. "The atheist billionaire?"

"Yes."

If this man died, I'd be in trouble. That was the first thing that flew through my head. And if he died in a church…the social fabric of the town would never be the same. I couldn't say a word, because it was obvious this man was in pain. I grabbed his wrist, checking his pulse. Not good.

I looked up at the man's pained face, noticing he looked terrified. "Am I going to die?" he whispered.

"Not if I can help it. I know the pain's horrible, but the ambulance is on the way. Do you know where you are?"

"I'm at a church. I was driving by, heading for work, and something told me to come in here. I figured why not, since my wife just died. Besides, work is lonely on Sundays. I just wanted to be around people for some reason."

"It's a good thing you did come in here. I consider this God's will that you made it in here."

"Tell me about your religion?"

I grinned. God was at work in this man's life, but I didn't know He was also working on me at the same time. I told Harold about God and the love of Jesus, and in that four minutes while waiting for the ambulance, I truly think Harold believed that Jesus would save his soul. Other people from the lobby stood nearby, but my mind was on Harold. I had him pray with me—just a short prayer—to save his life, because he had a lot of living yet to do.

The doors flew open and the EMTs ran inside, got Harold on a gurney after taking vitals and whisked him off to the hospital. I returned to my seat in the sanctuary, where they were just finished with the first set of songs. I felt sorry for Harold and as soon as church was over, I went home, grabbed something to eat, and drove to the hospital to started my shift in the ICU at three in the afternoon. I grabbed the charts of my patients and began going over the notes, to familiarize myself with the cases. When I got to the last one, I smiled. Harold was still alive and in room 3-C. I had to introduce myself and see if he was okay. I didn't care about his money, but did care that he'd received Jesus into his heart. That was worth gold to me.

"Good afternoon," I said, walking into his room. He was lying in his bed, with tubes and monitors everywhere.

He looked at me, at first uncertain, then a smile broke out on his face. "You. You're the one who saved my life."

I waved him off. "Well, not really. I waited with you until the ambulance got there. I didn't do CPR or anything like that, because you didn't need it."

"No. You truly saved my life and my soul. I died on the way here and I saw the light. I was headed for heaven and it's all thanks to you." He reached out his hand and shook my hand. "Thank you. Now what's your name?"

"Nancy Wentworth, but just call me Nancy. I'm so happy you came to church this morning, Harold. You have no idea how happy that made me. I'm also glad I could share the love of Jesus with you."

"Thank you. God is real, and He's here for you, too. You're going to think I'm crazy, but He told me that, I think. When I was going to the light, God told me to find you. He told me to tell you you're not alone. How weird is that?"

"Not weird at all." Feeling the tears in my eyes, I reached up and wiped them away. "You're a blessing." The tears came faster.

"Have a seat," he said. "I want to talk to you."

I sat down and sucked up my tears. "What about?"

"Are you lonely?"

I could only nod. "But I don't want you to worry about me. You worry about yourself and get better. That would mean the world to me." I looked down at his chart. "As a matter of fact, I'm to give you—"

"No." He reached out and put his hand on the chart. "Talk to me. Why are you lonely?"

"I just got divorced this week," I said. "But it's not your problem."

"Why did you get divorced?"

"My husband is dating his secretary, because I'm too old."

Harold grinned. "You're not old at all, in my mind. I'm going to prove it to you, too." We chatted for a few minutes longer, because I had to keep to the schedule. For the next two weeks, I talked and laughed with Harold, and I shared Bible stories with him, even after he was moved out of Intensive Care.

When he finally got out of the hospital, he invited me to his huge home, to help him get acclimated to his new routine of exercise and a special diet. I didn't know it at the time, but he considered us dating then, even though I'd sworn off men. Harold was just my friend, but nothing more. I helped him for over six months, until it became more of a social visit with watching movies, laughing, reading the Bible and praying, and eating popcorn. I had to admit, he truly was my friend, and I wasn't alone any longer.

One night, after getting home from work close to midnight, the phone rang. I figured it was one of my kids needing something, so grabbed the phone and put it to my ear. "I just got home, so if you need something, it had better be worth it."

"Oh, it's worth it."

"Harold?" I asked. "I thought you were one of my kids."

He chuckled. "I guess I'm one of the family now, huh?"

"Sure." It was an odd statement, but I let it go. "So why are you up this late?"

"I need…I mean, I want to ask you out."

I swallowed hard. What was he saying? "Out?"

"Like a formal date. We've been dating informally for a long time now, and I want to make it more formal. I have a problem, though, and had to wait until it was resolved until I could ask you out."

"A problem. What sort of problem?"

"Your hours. I went to your boss a few months ago and asked him to switch you to the day shift, so we could date at night. He laughed at me and I had to go over his head. The board finally have put you on the day shift and you'll find out tomorrow."

"The day shift?" That had been my dream for a long time. Working the second shift was tough on me.

"Yes. So Friday night, I'm picking you up and we're going on a date. Dinner and a movie?"

I smiled. "I'd love to."

"And it's a date," he said. "So all bets are off."

"What are you talking about?"

He chuckled. "I'll be over at six. Dress casually—jeans would be great."

I worried for the next few days, trying to figure him out. At six on Friday night, the doorbell rang and I ran to get it. I stopped myself inches from the doorknob and offered up a prayer to God, asking for a great time with Harold. I knew it would be fun, but a date's different than just hanging out.

I opened the door and saw Harold holding a huge bouquet of roses in front of his face, making me bite my lips so I wouldn't cry. I loved roses. "Oh, they're beautiful," I said.

"Just like you."

I ushered him in with a chuckle and walked with him to the kitchen. He looked around, as if he were judging me. "How tied are you to this place?"

"It's home." He handed me the flowers and I took them to the kitchen table. "Thank you for the flowers." I turned, watching him approach me. He put his hand on my cheek and brushed his lips over mine.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

He studied my eyes with a grin, then pulled me in for a kiss. I'd never felt so comfortable in my life, as if I were truly loved for the first time.

He put his forehead on mine and looked into my eyes. "Nancy, I love you. I prayed that I would find a true love in that ambulance after they brought be back from the brink of death. I want to share my life with you, and I want to go to church with you every week, like we've been doing since I got home from the hospital. I look forward to meeting you on Sunday morning, but I'd like to go together."

"I can drive to your place and meet you, if you want."

He grinned, reached into his pocket and got down on one knee. "I'd like it to be more than that." He pulled out a navy blue velvet box and opened it, revealing the most beautiful diamond ring I'd ever seen. "Marry me? Make me happy and marry me?"

"But you're a billionaire. How could I ever make you happy?"

He chuckled. "The money is only worldly. You've given me the gift of life and the gift of knowing my Savior. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and hope you can find it in your heart to accept a new believer."

I smiled. "Only if you keep your money out of it. I don't want your money. I only love you for you."

He laughed. "That's so unlike most people, but coming from you, I understand it. You're a giving person, and I admire you. So will you marry me?"

"I'd love to."

He stood up and gave me a kiss, then we both said a prayer for the future. Six months later, we were married and to this day, are the happiest couple, thanks to God steering Harold into my church that Sunday morning when he died and came back again…just for me.


 




Copyright © 2008- Eryn Grace
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