The hospital elevator doors opened and Mrs. Brown, my wife and I entered quickly barely noticing the middle-aged lady standing in the right corner. Occupying myself with pressing the right floor number, I was startled by an outburst from the stranger sharing the elevator with us.
“Aayyhh…” the lady exclaimed loudly rushing toward me with arms waving excitedly. I quickly recognized her from years long past just before she had me wrapped in a bear hug and began dancing up and down with me firmly in her passionate grip. Mrs. Brown, who was the mother-in-law of a deacon at the church where I was then pastor, looked on with disbelief and bewilderment. She had known me for a few years as a chaste man and minister and had never seen me in the embrace of another woman. Mrs. Brown’s eyes told of her further bewilderment as she glanced from me to my wife who, well known as “a protector of the family nest,” stood calmly by and smiled at the affectionate display of emotions.
My wife had also recognized the lady who was by that time hugging, dancing, squeezing and kissing me on the cheeks as tears rolled down her cheeks. The “stranger” from the corner of the elevator was no stranger at all. Ruby was the widow of a good friend named Buck who had passed away due to cancer years before that day. I had moved my family to another city to pastor another congregation a few months after Buck’s death. Ruby had since remarried and relocated to a town near the hospital we were in. We had not seen each other for years since the dark days of Buck’s illness and death.
Ruby had no extended family to support her during the long illness and death of her husband, Buck. My family and I became as family to Ruby during that time in addition to our normal pastoral duties. For two long, troublesome years following his diagnosis, I was not only their pastor, but also a helpful friend to Buck, Ruby and their son, Randy. A neighbor and I had stayed up night after night with Ruby and Randy during the final ‘death watch’ so that they would not be alone when Buck passed away. No jealousy was due in that elevator setting years later as an old friend was able to finally express her thankfulness for the love shown to her, her son and dying husband during their dark hours.
Mrs. Brown, my wife and I had a good laugh later upon recalling her bewilderment during my ‘surprise encounter’ in the elevator.
-Donald R. Sansbury, 2013