He worked for an electrical company. He climbed high wires when fierce storms knocked out electricity throughout the city. He sometimes worked down in rain-flooded sewers as well. But mainly he worked high in the sky during and after electrical storms. He was known by his coworkers as The Bull.
I remember when his wife said to me, "I can't get John to have anything to do with church. He is adamant." I listened and didn't know what to say. "Why not get one of the men to talk to him. One of the men he respects."
She did. She asked a man who worked at a similar job for the telephone company. Their conversation didn't seem to make any difference, for we never saw him in church. Except for Cub and Boy Scout activities where he was obviously a real leader.
Through the years the friendship between his wife and I continued. I went to see her when she was ill; I always came home from their home with my arms piled high with garden produce. She and John shared the fruits of their garden with many others. As she and I visited, he often times joined in the conversation.
When she died, he clung to me. I felt his grief, but how could I, a woman, console him? I didn't feel comfortable about stopping in to look in on him, either. Perhaps Women's Lib will liberate enough so women won't feel awkward about showing their care and concern for men who are ill or alone.
And then John had a stroke which left him somewhat weak, but didn't affect his spunk! The last time I saw him was when he came to vote at a general election, where I worked the polls. We chatted briefly and eft. I imagine that someone had given him a ride to the polls, and that he had to leave when they did.
Following a second stroke he was hospitalized. Through John's family the chaplain found that John had a Christian background, or at least his wife had, so a pastor of her faith was invited to talk to him. John told the Pastor that his own church had failed him. He also told him that he had a recurring vision in which he was climbing a high ladder towards a bright light, but, always, when he was almost to the top, something tugged at him telling him to go back, as though there was something he'd forgotten. As he talked about he came to realize what it was he'd left undone.
Years earlier feelings of resentment had magnified, and had caused him to turn away from the church. The same stubbornness which kept him plugging along through electrical storms fixing high lines which fierce winds had blown over, kept him from forgiving, or seeking forgiveness. When his wife passed on, and he lived all alone, her words kept coming back. He kept hearing her voice, her pleading, her chiding.
Her words tugged at him. Finally in his weariness with life his stubborn mind relaxed and he could hear the words, "Come to me, you who are troubled..."
Before John died, he asked the chaplain to give him communion. He died in the faith; the light at the end of the tunnel leading him home. That "small as a mustard seed" faith was there, certainly, and so were the prayers of his wife and family, who "held up the light," and expressed their faith in words and deeds.