Signs of Jesus

by Ron McDonald

“And, lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the ages.” —Matthew 28:20

As my father was dying in 2012 I drove to North Little Rock, Arkansas, to visit him and my mother for what I knew would be the last time. Dad still had his wits about him and was facing death with courage, humor, and love for all who visited him. That last day with him and Mother was wonderful. We shared memories, laughter and tears, and sat in reverent silence, love and warmth.

That evening we got a call from the front desk of the assisted living home they lived in. A strange man wanted to visit us but they could not understand his connection with us. “If it’s okay with you we’ll bring him down, and if you don’t know him, we’ll escort him back out.” Nervously, we consented to the mysterious visitor.

They arrived and we quickly recognized that the visitor was deaf. Since my older brother works with many deaf people, my mother asked him, “Are you a friend of David’s?” Having read her lips, he nodded “Yes!” Then for about 20 minutes we had a broken conversation—his name was Jim—of notes, signs, and his lip reading. We made simple connections from all sorts of surprising places. It was a conversation filled with smiles and appreciation. Then when it was time for him to leave, he turned to Dad and made the sign for “I love you”—the little finger, forefinger, and thumb extended. Dad returned the sign and Jim came over, smiling, and entangled his “I love you” into Dad’s hand, a kind of hug goodbye. Then I escorted Jim outside.

As I walked back to the room I kept thinking I had met Jim before, and when I returned I said to Mother and Dad, “Do you remember when I was roofing my own home a few years ago and having trouble with some of the steepest pitches?” They nodded and I continued. “A rainstorm was on its way. That was when my young neighbor came over and told me he used to be a roofer and needed work. Well, I may be stupid, but I know Jesus when I see him, and I knew my neighbor was Jesus come to save me.” They laughed, and I added, “I think Jim was Jesus: a strange man who speaks another language, who brought light into our home, then blessed us with his ‘I love you,’ letting us know all would be okay.”

“Yes!” Dad exclaimed, “And did you see what he did with my hand?” We talked and talked about the visit, including the next morning before I was to leave.

Then the time came for me to say goodbye. As I hugged Dad, I was so choked up that not a word could come out of my mouth. Dad was crying, too, also without words. Our love and grief was beyond words. Tearfully, I let go and walked out the door, turning around just before the door shut. There was my dad, weeping and holding up his left hand, signing “I love you.”

After he died a couple of days later I told my son, Jesse, of that last view of Dad, and as we parted ways, Jesse raised his hand to me, signing “I love you.”

That sign will be with me until the end of the ages.

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