Sometimes our lives are affected by unexpected and unlikely encounters. For Rich Frischkorn, one of these encounters occurred when he was a young man.
Rich patrolled a neighborhood where a couple in their late 90s lived. He regularly parked his cruiser under a massive ficus tree growing at the corner of the elderly couple’s property. With its huge spread of branches, the tree provided welcome shade as he sat in his patrol car and completed his daily reports. If the elderly couple were out in their yard, they’d walk over to him and talk.
As time passed, he noticed there was something very different about the aging husband and wife—the way they looked at one another and smiled … the way they worked in their yard together … the way their hands interlocked on their evening strolls.
One day the young deputy sheriff observed the elderly man mowing a neighbor’s yard. Almost 100 years of age, he later told Rich that he was helping because the woman was “too old” to mow her own grass.
Rich watched the couple pick up mail for neighbors who were out of town. He saw them drive friends to a store or doctor’s office. He anticipated their offers of cold lemonade or tea on hot afternoons.
In Christ’s name
He wondered about the source of the couple’s love and care. Over time he learned the answer: All was done in Christ’s name.
Their curiosity about Rich’s spiritual condition touched him. They’d often comment that he was in a dangerous job and ask, “Do you know where you will spend eternity?”
He’d answer that he’d probably end up in hell. And they would say that he could avoid that.
One day when Rich was filling out reports, the elderly woman tapped on the window of his cruiser. She held a vase with freshly picked flowers.
She told him to look at the flowers—really look. Then she asked if he thought the flowers could have been created by chance. “No,” she told the young officer. “God made these for us to look at, marvel at, and wonder.”
All Rich could do was gaze at the woman with the lined face and say that she was right.
Day after day Rich patrolled the neighborhood. He watched the aging couple pull weeds together in their flowerbeds, never more than an arm’s length apart. One would reach out and touch the other. They’d look at each other … smile and nod … and then go back to pulling weeds. Rich thought, How much in love.
Rich and the couple became more than friends. They treated him as part of their family. He joined 200-300 people at their eighty-first, eighty-second, and eighty-third anniversary celebrations.
He laughed to himself when he realized that their children were in their 60s and 70s and some of their grandchildren were in their early 50s.
The phone call he didn’t want to receive
As the years went by, Rich feared that the couple’s time on earth was short. He dreaded the day when one of them would pass away. At that time in Florida, if someone died at home a deputy had to come and do a report.
Sure enough, one evening Rich received a phone call saying there had been a death at the elderly couple’s house. Wanting to be anywhere but their home, he pulled into the driveway.
He knocked on the door of their two-story house with cedar siding. “Who is it?” the wife asked.
“It’s the Sheriff’s Department.”
“Rich, is that you?”
“Yes, it is,” he answered.
“Oh, praise the Lord; I’ve been praying a friend would come.”
Rich stepped into the house and saw the elderly couple sitting side by side on the couch. She wore a faded, swirled-patterned dress and her husband had on work pants and a checkered, short-sleeved shirt. His hands were folded in his lap, his chin was on his chest, and he had a pleasant look on his face—as though he were in the middle of a good dream.
“Can you tell me what happened?” Rich asked.
She said her husband had been sick the last couple of weeks. That evening they were watching the news and he started having a little trouble breathing. She asked if he wanted her to phone the doctor and he replied, “No, everything is going to be fine.”
But it wasn’t fine—his breathing got worse. She rose to call an ambulance, and he grabbed her hand with unusual strength.
“You may not believe me, Rich,” she continued, “but he was a young man again. And his face was just glowing and he was smiling and he said, ‘Don’t go—sit here next to me.’”
So she sat back down and she heard these final words from her husband: “In all these years together, I’ve never once stopped loving you. And I love you more today than all of the days gone by. But my Father is calling now and I have to go home. But we’ll be together again soon, and until then know that I’m waiting for you and know that I love you. Good bye.”
With that, his head dropped onto his chest and he was gone.
“He’s in heaven with our Lord and Savior and I will be, too,” she told Rich. “And one day you can be there.”
The ambulance crew arrived shortly after their conversation. Rich remembers her telling them, “He’s home with the Lord. He’s home with Jesus.”
Although more than 30 years have passed since Rich’s life intersected with the elderly couple, their example was stamped in living color on his heart. Rich eventually gave his life over to the Lord and became a Christian. “They planted the seeds [of faith] in my heart,” he says.
Whenever he talks about the elderly couple, he mentions their rock-solid faith and how they lived it day after day. “They were always witnessing and reaching out to others,” he says, “and yet they were never preachy, never pushy, it was just something I wanted to emulate.”
The last time Rich saw the old woman she was more than 100 years old. She was on her hands and knees pulling weeds in her flowerbeds.
“Every once in a while,” Rich says, “she’d reach out with her arm … smile and nod … and then go back to pulling weeds.”
© 2008 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.