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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Steven ODell on 10 April 2009 - 11:02pm. | | | |

Comes The Night
Steven G. O'Dell © 2009

--The one thing money cannot buy is more time...or can it?--

The news had not been good. And the method of delivery had been worse, if that were possible. It had been given with as much detachment as if the words had been, 'Looks like we're gonna get some rain.' They were not that benign to Solomon Jacovich. They hit like a brick thrown with full force just before the assailant left the room to tend to other patients.

“'You have cancer, Mr. Jacovich. There's nothing that can be done for you. I give you about 6 months to a year.' And then he just left the room!”

“What are you going to do, Sol?”

“I don't know. What can I do?”

“Pray, Sol. Pray like you have never prayed before.”

The advice was good, but didn't penetrate to the heart as it should have. This good friend from childhood to adulthood had been with Solomon since he could recall, through thick and thin. He and Jehuda had been in and out of trouble, in and out of business and a few times, in and out of friendship; but they always were there for one another when the chips were down.

“Pray? My prayers are not famous for being heard. Should they now suddenly become express trains to God's ear?”

“This is no laughing matter, Sol.”

“Do you see me laughing?”

It was true; he hadn't so much as smiled since he got the news. What would life be like for the next six months to a year if he could not smile? He'd taken so much pleasure in his business dealings and his financial accomplishments. And he had watched with pride as his own sons had learned the trades that would make them rich and powerful in their own right. Now, it seemed as if everything he had worked for was to come crashing down upon his head and would leave him buried beneath the pile of rubble. Nothing but a legacy left behind him and for who knew how long.

“Still, you are not dead yet, Sol. Make your peace with God before you go. Perhaps He has a blessing in store for you still. I will pray with you.”

“You can pray for me. I don't feel much like praying, my friend.”

So Jehuda did just that. He began to pray with a fervency that had been unrivaled in his life or in that of Solomon. He prayed with a depth of sincerity and passion that could not help but reach the ears of God. He asked for a sign that God was aware of Solomon and that there was a greater purpose to life than just to live a few odd years and then die. And when he finished, he felt certain that something extraordinary was soon to take place.

It had been three weeks since Solomon had been given his death sentence by the doctor with no bedside manner. He walked through his daily routine with none of the passion he'd had before. There was no fire or spirit in him; just a hollow shell of a man making the motions of life without the conviction to enjoy it. He was on auto-pilot, as detached as had been the doctor bearing the bad news.

A knock came at his office door and Solomon Jacovich was inclined to ignore it and continue to sit staring at his shoes, as he had been for quite some time already. Again the knock came and the door inched open slightly. It was his secretary.

“Mr. Jacovich, there's a man here to see you. He says it's urgent and he refuses to speak with anyone but you.”

“I have no wish to see anyone right now.” He never so much as lifted his eyes from the floor as he spoke the passionless words.

“He says it's a matter of life and death, sir. I don't know what to make of it. He seems quite sincere about it.”

“Life and death? Now, that I know something about.” He lifted his gaze to meet hers and waved his hand to motion the man in.

She disappeared for a moment and when the door opened fully, a tall, pleasant looking man entered and waited for her to close the door behind him when she left. Then, without hesitation, he approached Solomon and offered his hand, which was taken more by conditioning than by desire.

“My name is John Servant. I thank you for allowing me this audience with you. I trust it shall be as important to you in a few moments as anything you have ever discussed.”

He spoke in a strange manner, with an assurance and a seeming authority unlike any man Solomon had ever met. It commanded attention, even in the severely depressed state Solomon found himself in.

“Won't you have a seat, Mr. Servant?” He waved his hand to the chair along the wall. “Feel free to bring it closer if you like.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, what might I do for you?”

“It is what I might do for you that brings me here.”

“I don't understand.”

“Mr. Jacovich, you have been given some news of a rather distressing nature, I understand. I wish to make your remaining time far more enjoyable and productive than you could have imagined possible.”

“Perhaps I misunderstood my secretary, but I believe she told me you were here to speak of a matter of life and death, not just about making my remaining time more pleasant.”

“It is a matter of life and death. Not just yours alone, but that of many others.”
“I'm sorry; you will need to be more clear in your meaning than that.” Solomon was beginning to appear irritated; the most emotion he had shown for many days.

“Alright, let me be perfectly blunt with you. You are dieing from cancer and have been given six months to one year to live. Up to now in life, you have lived for yourself alone and now you see all you have accomplished about to...I believe your words were, 'come crashing down upon your head and burying you in a pile of rubble.'”

Solomon came to full attention at this. He had indeed used those words, but had never once spoken them aloud. He had only thought them privately. Now, this stranger comes into his office and repeats the very thoughts of his mind. What trick of nature was this? What manner of man could know such things?

“Mr. Jacovich...Solomon...I know what you are thinking. You wonder if you are imagining this. You wonder if I am playing tricks on you. I assure you that this is real—as real as it gets—and that there are no tricks involved. Your good friend, Jehuda, prayed for you, did he not?”

Solomon nodded his head almost automatically. He was completely focused now.

“And may I say that seldom have men prayed with such sincerity for the life of another. He must not just hold you in very high regard, but must love you dearly as a brother. You are quite blessed to have such a friend. I hope you know that.”

Again Solomon nodded mechanically. There were now tears forming in his eyes.

“Of course, one should not be surprised that a lifetime of such practice would allow him to be heard so well. And I am here in answer to that prayer. Perhaps you should offer a prayer of thanksgiving yourself...for friends such as Jehuda.”

Solomon could make no answer, so overcome was he with emotion. He simply sobbed quietly.

“Solomon, you have no idea how many times in your life the prayers of that dear friend have helped you to avoid trouble. So often when you were about to make decisions that would have hurt you or others, he prayed to put you back on the right path. And now he has asked for one final thing. You were not aware of it, but he asked that he be taken in death instead of you.”

Solomon now broke down and cried in great heaving sobs. As the door to his office sprung open, he waved the startled secretary away with a hand. She retreated only reluctantly, staring wide-eyed all the while as she did, from Solomon to the stranger.

“Have no fear, Solomon. As selfless as his offer was, that will not be done. Instead, God has another plan in mind for you and your friend. Would you like to hear it?”

A simple nod was all that could be mustered, but it was sufficient.

Solomon told his secretary to go home for the day and for the next several hours John Servant opened the scriptures to Solomon, in a manner the Rabbis had never done nor could hope to. Solomon suddenly had his eyes opened, as though he had been effectively blind all his life. And he understood for the first time that the Messiah had in fact already come, and that his own dear friend, Jehuda, in the similitude of the Messiah, had selflessly offered his own life in exchange for that of another.
Solomon was overwhelmed by the experience and began to sink into his chair as the energy was sapped from his weakened body. John stood to touch him and suddenly it was as if new life had been poured into him. It was indeed a miracle. He had heard of them, read of them and even secretly hoped they were real, but had never expected in his life to ever experience one. And yet a simple touch had restored his strength in an instant. There was no other explanation to be had.

“Solomon, in the time you have left, you have opportunity to change your own legacy and the lives of many others. Now you know why it should be done. The question that remains is this—are you willing to do whatever it takes to put yourself on the right path to God or do you want to continue as before, until you experience that 'night wherein no labor may be done?'”

“Mr. Servant, I have done many foolish things, but that does make me a complete fool. What do you have in mind?”

John smiled with delight and reached across the desk to take Solomon's hand. And even Solomon smiled a bit for the first time in weeks.

“Jehuda, we have work to do, my closest and dearest friend. My secretary has prepared several packages and letters to be personally delivered and has arranged for us to meet a few people who will be quite delighted to see us. Are you in the mood for an adventure today?” The smile on Solomon's face seemed to outshine the sun itself today.

“Sol, what has happened to you? You are not the same man I talked to a few days ago. You refuse to see anyone and then suddenly you are happier than I have seen you in ages.”

“What happened? Your prayer was answered, that's what happened. My dear, sweet friend...,” Solomon placed his hands lovingly on each side of Jehuda's face and the tears in his eyes showed more deeply than ever before his love for his lifelong friend. “I know what you prayed and I can never repay you for such selfless love. I owe you everything.”

Jehuda smiled uncertainly, but embraced his friend in a strong hug, then released him and gripped his shoulders. “What is that you have in mind, Sol? You know I will be with you in all you do. Have I ever been apart from you for long?”

“Alright, then. Help me grab the packages and letters and the list of names and we will be on our way. I will drive.”

Jehuda grinned and shook his head in amazement toward heaven. Was this the 'something extraordinary' that he had felt coming? It certainly seemed to be an adventure that was even now beginning.

“Sol, I don't mean to question your sanity, but...have you taken leave of your senses?”

Solomon laughed out loud at the question. “Do you know how that question sounds?”

“Keep your eyes on the road, Sol! Yes, I know how it sounds. Do you know how it looks to be giving away nearly everything you have ever worked for in your life? It looks to be the act of a man insane.”

“Jehuda, my good friend; you prayed for a miracle and now you have one. Will you refuse it now that it is given? I have not told you what happened to me that made such a great change. I will tell you now. When I was at my lowest point ever in my life, into my office came a man on a mission from God. He came to lift me up and to make my remaining time fruitful. I can help others and in the process help myself. I must do some good in this world, something for others, if I am to be redeemed in the eyes of God.”

“Sol, I don't know what this man told you, but....”

“He told me your prayer, my friend. I know what you tried to bargain in exchange for my life.”

Jehuda snapped his entire body about so quickly that he nearly fell off the car seat. The look on his face was indescribable. It registered shock, disbelief and wonder, all at the same time. Solomon had moist eyes as he continued.

“Yes, Jehuda. I know that you offered your life for mine. How else could I know this unless the man who told me was a messenger from God? What you have done is beyond comparison among men. There is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. I know this now.”

“I never meant for you to know this, Sol.” Jehuda, too, had tears in his eyes.

“I had to know or I never would have softened my heart. Many times have you prevented me from making huge blunders. This time you have outdone yourself, my friend.” He reached his hand across and squeezed the hand of his friend, who was now closer than a blood related brother. “We are on a mission of our own now, Jehuda. A mission for God. I have much to tell you, but we will do this deed first.”

The balance of the day was spent in traveling to those whom Solomon Jacovich felt he had in any way hurt in his business dealings. He gave them verbal, as well as written apologies and in many instances, gave them monetary recompense above and beyond what they felt he owed them. The two men also visited several children in hospitals and orphanages, leaving money to pay for much of their needs, whether medical or day to day needs. Last, but not least, they visited each of Sol's children in turn and charged them to use their wealth to aid the less fortunate and not to make their money an object of worship in and of itself. To each was given a written and signed testimony of the events of the most important day in the life of Solomon Jacovich—the day that John Servant had come to see him and opened up the true meaning of the writings of the prophets to him—the day he discovered the true Messiah of Israel and understood for himself the plan of God for mankind.

As Solomon and Jehuda left to return to the car, Sol took his friend's hand and carefully placed an envelope into it and squeezed Jehuda's fingers over it. Looking him squarely in the eye, he pledged his undieing friendship and gratitude forever.

“Jehuda, you will not understand this until you read what is written there, but you and I will see one another again, beyond this life. This is not the end, my friend..., my brother. No disrespect meant, but the Rabbis do not know everything.”
“Sol, I will read it and consider it carefully. What you say seems to dispute what the Rabbis teach, but they also seem to think the time of miracles is over. After what I saw today, I might argue that point. I have never seen you so happy.” He held fast to Sol's hand and smiled with a satisfaction he hadn't felt in such a long time.

When Solomon unlocked the door to his home that night, he was stunned for a moment when he saw John Servant sitting in his own easy chair in his main room. His shock quickly turned to pleasure.

“I hoped you wouldn't mind a new friend visiting you unannounced.”

“Not at all. You are most welcome any time you will grace my home with your presence. Let me get you some refreshment. Have you eaten?”

“That won't be necessary, Solomon. I am here to tell you that you have made many people very happy today. In all your life, did you ever think you would please so many people in one day?” He smiled as he asked the question.

“I had begun to think, until today, that the only way to please so many would be with my passing. I have to admit that today brought me more pleasure than I can recall in quite some time. Thank you for opening my eyes.”

“My pleasure, Sol. I was only doing the Father's will. Now, I have something more for you. You have accepted so quickly and been so readily obedient in doing what was asked of you, and you gave with such a glad heart, that you are now ready for the next step.” He held out a package that looked as if it could be a book.

“What is it?” Sol asked as he reached for the offering.

“The story of some of your relatives, Sol. And more concerning the mission of the Messiah to the lost sheep of Israel.”

Sol's eyes lit up as he hurriedly tore off the wrapping. The Book of Mormon, it read. Another witness of Jesus Christ. He had already set his mind on reading what the Christians called the New Testament, to get some insight into the life of the Messiah and to understand his sacrifice, but he felt something special emanating from this volume. There was some intangible thing that reached out to him; some peace of the soul that said without words, 'This is what your soul craves.'

“I believe you referred to this when you told me that Israel had been spread to all corners of the earth. Until you explained that it wasn't a punishment, but a means to preserve the blood lines, I never understood it. No wonder we Jews are such a cynical lot.”

“Sol, there are many more records to come forth in God's own time and from many corners of the world. What they will show is a consistency that the nay-sayers cannot ignore. And the love of God for his children will be evident to all. Get to know this book and your soul will fly. You will see your people in it and know that God does not forget his promises, though we may soon give up hope and lose the vision he has in mind for us.”

“Thank you, John. This is very special indeed.”

A few weeks went by, with Sol reading every day, over and over, the Book of Mormon. Just as John had promised, he saw in it his people and their practices and rites, their weaknesses and their strengths, their hopes and failings. He saw the promise of a new land when God was obeyed and the loss of freedom when evil reigned. The pages came alive for him and he blessed the day that John had come into his life and restored his vision and purpose.

One day, again unannounced, John came to him at home.

“Sol, you are ready to share what you have learned and to learn more from others.”

John directed him to the church that published the book. As before, Sol willingly did as he was bid. The experience was edifying for Sol and those with whom he came in contact. He offered to them a unique view of the writings of the prophets and they taught him to know the Redeemer of Israel. Sol felt as if he had found a home and continued to attend even when the Rabbi chastened him. In fact, he took opportunity to teach the Rabbi all that he had been made to know of the matter. Surprisingly, the Rabbi was more open minded than was previously thought and he listened intently to the new insights, for Sol did a remarkably good job of relating them. He confessed, however, that he could never publicly admit any validity to them and Sol simply asked him whether it was wisdom to serve God or man.

Many months had passed without challenge or change when John came again to Sol. This time he did not smile. Sol saw the difference immediately and wondered if he had done something wrong.

“Do not worry, Sol. You have done nothing wrong. I have news for you. Jehuda is ill and needs you.”

Sol did not hesitate a second. “Where is he?”

John told him the hospital and Sol prepared to straight to him.

“Wait, Sol. I have other news, of a more happy nature. You have done so well with what God has asked of you that your cancer has been healed. You will no longer need to concern yourself with a shortened life.”

“I am grateful, certainly, but pardon me if I must go to my friend.”

Sol left immediately to see Jehuda. He found him pale and bedridden, attached to monitors and intravenous tubes. Jehuda turned to see him and reached out to bid him come closer. Sol took his hand and knelt beside the bed.

“What is it, my friend and brother?”

“It's cancer, Sol. It seems I will be coming with you soon. You won't have to go alone.”

Sol began to cry in great heaving sobs and squeezed Jehuda's hand more tightly.

“Sol, it's alright. I have led a good life and you have been a wonderful friend. No man could ask for better. We spent all our lives as friends and companions. It's only fitting that we should share this, too, is it not?”
Sol couldn't tell him that his own cancer had disappeared. It was too heartbreaking to relate at a time like this. It didn't seem fair somehow. When finally he could catch his breath again, he nodded and spoke.

“Yes, it's only right. We have always been there for one another, so why not this new adventure?”

“It will be over soon. I can't wait for the pain to stop. The only regret I have is that I cannot follow in your footsteps once more before I go. You inspired me, you know. You seemed so happy giving away all your worldly wealth that I began to feel jealous of you. And now, there is no time left to give of myself to others.” He chuckled softly with all the vigor he could muster. Sol smiled as best he could and squeezed his hand again.

Sol felt lower than at any point in his life, except for when he thought he was going to die and had no hope of the resurrection. This new sorrow was not the same. He felt helpless to do anything and hated himself for it. He felt obligated to do something...anything. And so he prayed. Sol prayed like never before. He gave thanks for all he had been given in life, he confessed his unworthiness for the blessings and he begged for his friend's life to be spared. Sol even offered his own life for that of his friend. It was then that marvelous thing happened.

The room Sol was in began to fill with light and a spirit of peace overwhelmed him to the very depths. A voice, but not a voice, spoke comfort to his soul. Sol knew that this was God. Finally he had drawn closer to God.

Sol went to visit Jehuda in the hospital again. A newly revived and invigorated Jehuda sat upright to greet him. Both arms were extended to welcome Sol in an embrace.

“Sol, I don't know how or why it happened, but the cancer is gone! It's just a preliminary result. They want to keep me until they can verify it, but I do feel so much better. I know something has changed for the better. I just know it and feel it in my bones. Isn't it wonderful?”

Sol wept for joy and hugged Jehuda tightly.

“Yes, my dear brother, it is wonderful. I am so happy for you. Now you can go out and spend all your wealth making others happy.” He laughed at the thought and so did Jehuda.

“If there is anything left after the doctors are paid, I will do just that. After all, I can always make more and spend it on others, too. If there is no money, I will give of myself.”

Sol was happier than ever. It made no sense in some ways, considering the bargain he had made. His cancer was back and he was on track to pass away within the predicted time, but he was prepared for his rest in 'that night wherein no labors may be performed.' His soul was at peace with God and man, at last. He knew, because his prayers had been answered.

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