The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.
This past winter my wife [Roe] and I visited friends just outside of Manchester, Vermont. We arrived late on a Friday evening, tired and hungry. Our friends greeted us warmly, fed us soup and delicious bread, then we walked over to the fireplace and sat peacefully on the couch.
We began talking about the weekend, the different things we might like to do. "Lots of antique stores," Ellen suggested. "You could just spend the day hiking," Jerry added. Our host and hostess suggested good restaurants, the best skiing, "and you could visit Weston," Ellen remembered. "They have a terrific general store with everything you can imagine."
"Weston?" I asked. "How far are we from Weston?"
"Oh, only fifteen or twenty minutes."
How could I not have realized that we were so close to Weston? I was a bit puzzled, although I should have known. Weston. I hadn't been to Weston, Vermont, in fifteen years since the Benedictine monks buried my brother Oliver in the Priory's cemetery just beyond the pond over a small hill.
"I'd like to go to Weston."
The next morning Roe, our friend Ellen, and I drove through the winding roads of middle Vermont at the foot of the mountains. We passed quick-moving streams with loaves of snow risen on opposite banks and a man on a sleigh being pulled by a brown workhorse. Smoke bloomed from a distant chimney. Vermont. All that we imagined it to be, all that we pretend it is: maple syrup, pine trees, steeples watching over us.
After our short drive, after browsing in the Weston General Store, we continued our trip to the Priory.
When we pulled in the driveway and drove past the parking lot, I realized that the monks were probably gone, on their winter retreat. I was right. We spoke with a kind woman in the bookstore, sat in the chapel for a moment, then I said, "I'd like to go to Oliver's grave."
Roe and Ellen walked to the parking lot to fetch the car while I turned left after we walked from the chapel. I jumped a small fence and began to run across a field of white snow.
No one, obviously, had crossed this field since the most recent storm. My boots broke the silence as I stepped into the snow. Crunch, Crunch, Crunch. I had fed Oliver his dinner since I was eight years old. Crunch, Crunch, Crunch. Oliver was blind. Crunch. Oliver was crippled. Crunch. Oliver sustained severe brain damage before birth. Crunch, Crunch, Crunch. Oliver lived in my parent's home for thirty-two years. Crunch, Crunch. I hadn't been to Oliver's grave since his funeral in the spring of 1980.
I stopped running toward the cemetery for a moment. I turned around to check on Roe and Ellen. Roe had driven the car to the far side of the field and waited. Obviously they had decided not to walk through the deep snow and join me.
I turned and began to run again. I felt so alone. Running. Running. Past the pond. Running. Up the small hill. I stood still on the top of the hill and looked down into the cemetery. I had forgotten, of course, that the flat tombstones would be covered with snow. I turned and waved to Roe and Ellen. Roe beeped the car horn as I disappeared down the side of the hill and into the cemetery.
The only thing Oliver could do for thirty-two years was laugh. He could not speak. He never cried.
The closer I approached the gravesite, the more I noticed small indentations in the snow. Then I realized that in each spot where there was a tombstone, there was a small depression in the snow. There are perhaps thirty or forty graves in the little cemetery.
I leaned over and brushed the snow from a grave in about the spot where I thought Oliver was buried. Oliver liked ice cream.
I stepped down the line and brushed the snow from the next stone. Wrong name. Oliver had convulsions about once a month.
I stepped down the line and brushed the snow from the next stone. Wrong name. Oliver died in his mother's arms.
I stepped down the line and brushed the snow from the next stone:
Oliver de Vinck
April 22, 1948 March 12, 1980
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
And I cried in the snow. And I wanted to be eight years old again, carrying Oliver's dinner bowl up to him. I pressed my hand on his tombstone and remembered what my mother always said to me: "Oliver will be waiting for you in heaven. He will run to you, embrace you, and say, `Thank you, Christopher for feeding me all those delicious dinners.' "
I stood up, brushed the snow from my knees and began to run. I ran back up the little hill. I ran down the other side. I ran back across the open field, waving my arms to Roe and Ellen.
When John the Baptist sent two messengers to Jesus to ask if he is, indeed, the Messiah, Jesus said, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (Luke 7:22-23)
My mother was the messenger when I was a child. She told me what Jesus said. Oliver will receive sight. Oliver will walk. Oliver will hear. Oliver will be risen from the dead. Lord, how I look forward to that dance and jig with my brother at the gates of paradise.
Look for the weak people in your life today and see if you can discover what makes them strong, for then you will understand God's power.
Taken from Threads of Paradise by Christopher de Vinck. Copyright © 1996 by Christopher de Vinck. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. Available at your local bookstore or by calling 800-727-3480.