That changed the day he wrote a story about the death of a local sports figure that moved me to tears, not because of my devotion to the person who had passed but because he told the man’s story in a way that touched my heart. A big bear of a man physically, his real power was exhibited in the way he arranged words on a page, a craft that to that point I had simply admired from afar. But the next time he happened to come through my line to pay for his purchases I took courage in hand and told him how moved I was by that particular piece he wrote. He accepted my praise as unassumingly as he lived his life, simply thanking me for telling him so. And thus our friendship was born.
I talked to him often after that, especially when he became a father late in life and was seen pushing a shopping cart or stroller with his babies inside. His love for his daughters evident in the way he spoke of their most recent accomplishments, as they grew before my eyes I noticed that they had inherited the gentle spirit that emanated from their dad.
Surprisingly it was the sight of his picture in the paper once more, this time on the front page rather than hidden in the sports section somewhere, that notified me of his death. A victim of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that affects the muscles and nervous system, causing paralysis and in this case, death, he died with his spirit apparently undaunted by his disease, ever planning to recover and resume the life he loved that his illness had interrupted. The people who spoke about him mentioned that while never angry himself, he had a special ability to turn the frustration of others into a surprisingly friendly accord.
It was not the name of the man who had passed that I remember from the story that initially caught my attention, nor the details of the life he lived, but rather the glimpse into the heart of the one who wrote about him so movingly. Perhaps Pete's greatest byline came not from well-crafted words so much as living his life in such a way that it left its mark on all those he left behind.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath…”
(Proverbs 15:1 NIV)
(Proverbs 15:1 NIV)