What's In Your Wallet?
Michael was an outstanding chiropractor, a great father and husband, remarkable son and brother, and a deep believer in Christ. He was also a highly-respected fifth degree black-belt. To say the least, he was an amazing man.
I realize I have been using the past tense in speaking about Michael and there is a reason for that. About ten years ago, with little warning, he suffered a massive heart attack as he slept on his couch after watching late night news. It was his birthday.
Hundreds gathered for the funeral, which was a mixture of deep hope and yet an unspoken sadness that defied words. The night before the burial, a beautiful wake was conducted by Michael's brother who is a priest. His words were perfect and soothing, the piano music enchanting and comforting. After the Scripture readings and the priest's reflection, there was an open invitation for anyone to come forward and render testimony about Michael and his impact upon their lives.
As you can imagine, there were many who did just that. One after the other offered beautiful accounts describing encounters they had experienced with the deceased. But one man, in particular, stood out among the many. His story I don't think I will ever forget.
He seemed to be in his late 40's, sad for the occasion but clearly a man who had been through quite a lot in his life. As he walked up to the altar to the pulpit to speak, I saw how he passed Michael's coffin and with a gesture of pure faith, whispered something to him and with a simple, peaceful smile on his face, began to speak.
He told us about a very dark time in his life when, because of his demons and addictions, had lost everything and was on the verge of taking his own life in a lonely hotel room. He had just finished writing his epitaph and letter of remorse to anyone who might find it later. It would have been a cruel end to a
lost life had it not been for that one phone call. He let the phone buzz away, then stop, then there he was again, calling. It was Michael.
"Hey, man!" he told us was his opening line. "We're having a karate competition over here, and, I haven't seen you for a while, so why don't you just get over here? We can go out afterwards for waffles at the Pancake House. I'm starving!" Needless to say, his plans to cut short his life were thwarted by the friendly insistence of his karate-brother, Michael. He made it down to the competition, ran into many old friends who expressed concern for him since he seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth, and cheered and laughed and felt "alive" again.
Later, as promised, the two went out to eat. While they waited for their order, he would go on to explain to Michael that his phone-call literally saved his life, that he had reached the end of his rope and just couldn't go on any more. "I don't know how to ever repay you for this, Michael."
True to form, Michael surprised the lights out of him: "Show me your wallet." The man at the pulpit that evening truly had us all enthralled about where he could be going with all this.
Michael took the man's wallet, opened it up, and from one of the folds there, pulled out three items: a credit card, a holy card with the image of St. Michael the Archangel, and a picture of his family--in that specific order. "Here's your problem, Buddy! Your Priorities. You got them all turned around. Here, let me show you."
And with that, Michael re-shuffled the man's wallet, placing the holy card first, then the family photo, then the credit card and said, "See, you put God first, then your family, then money---after that, things should start looking up."
And they did.