I’m going to digress from talking about dyslexia, and talk about love and kindness, as epitomized by a single man, instead.
When I was a child there was a constant presence in my life who exuded love for every single person he came across. He was our church’s custodian, but to me he was a fixture, a constant reliable presence that was always happy to see me, give me a hug and ask how I was.
From as young as I can remember he was there, soaking in every word I said to him, asking me questions, laughing with me, for me, never at me. He got excited about what I shared, remembered it week to week, and would always follow up with questions on how life, challenges, school, everything was progressing.
He was the epitome of true kindness. A gentle man, soft spoken, slight in stature, but his presence loomed every so lovingly large.
When I was 12 or 13, he accompanied the youth group on our mission trip to work at a church in New Jersey. There was a large group of us and he went along to help chaperone the group. What I remember about the trip was us going to get ice cream at a place called Friends or Friendlies, I wish I could remember better, but to us Texans it was as good as Baskin Robbins and a real treat. He’d sit with us and listen, chat, laugh, and always epitomize kindness and grace.
We wanted Noah to like us, to approve of us, because he was such a good hearted man. His friendship was valuable though he never placed a price on it. His gentleness made our days better and brighter.
He never held an ounce of condescension, judgment or anger. Truly, it was always kindness.
When I was 18, for reasons I won’t go into, I ran away from that church. From the age of 16 through my early 20’s I struggled significantly with my faith. I believed in God. I knew and accepted that Christ died for my sins, but I had allowed a series of events, contrived by the sins and hubris of man, to take my relationship with God from me.
In my mid 20’s I found peace and faith with God, church and religion, but my questions still loomed over me and I stayed away for too long.
At 35 I had a child, and had made promises to myself that I intended to keep.
When our son was two, my husband traveled to the Middle East for work, and I returned to the church I had always called home with my toddler in tow. All of the familiar faces were still there and they all embraced me, the prodigal daughter, with open arms, but for me it wasn’t a return until I found Noah.
He was in his familiar spot, quite a bit older, eyes milky with age, but still the same man, the same kindness exuding from him. I approached him with my hand outstretched, and while he didn’t recognize me, he took my hand and smiled that beautiful smile.
Suddenly he said, “Ashley!! Is that really you? And you have a beautiful baby! Oh, child, I am SO happy to see you!”
I hugged his gentle frame and beamed from ear to ear because he recognized me. I introduced him to my son and we chatted as long as the toddler on my hip could stand it, which wasn’t nearly long enough for me.
Over the time I attended that church, I went to say hi to him as often as I could. I would hold his hand and look into his eyes and see the angel on Earth that he was, the friend to all of the children of the church.
Generations of us were impacted by Noah. It wasn’t just myself and my youth group that he meant so much to. Generations before and generations after had his influence on their lives. To me he was a fixture of that place, more steadfast than all others save two, sweet Samira and sweet Gina who both have the exact same gentle souls. These three were the fixtures, the examples of love and faith. They exist from the beginning of my memory.
Yet, me being me, I drifted away again, mostly because we moved and it’s a forty plus minute drive and the youth population is small now, and my child wanted and needed more engagement. We call another church home now, but, truth be told, I’m what most would call a lazy Christian. Sometimes I’m just too tired to get up and go to church. The idea of washing my hair, putting on makeup, getting dressed and going are too much after a hard week at work.
But this isn’t about me, this is about Noah.
Every time I showed up at that place of my youth, he was there with his smile, and I was anxious to say hi and drink it in.
And that was selfish. I never knew if he had children. I remember meeting his wife once one year at Christmas as our youth group drove to various peoples homes to sing to them. That was the only year I recall that we sang specifically to Noah.
It’s been a little less than four years since I saw him last, and now it will be a while before I see him again.
You see, this angel that we were so honored to know has gained his wings. He is at peace in the place he so looked forward to seeing.
People are sharing his pictures, sharing the news of his passing, and I find myself weeping uncontrollably at his loss. He was such a beautiful soul, and I, and everyone who had the fortune to know him, were all immensely blessed to have him grace our lives. I cannot find the adequate words to describe him, but we should all wish to be like him. Grace. Kindness. Faith. Love. He was a man who did not judge, and loved all who crossed his path.
I look forward to seeing his smile and holding his hands again. Until then, sweet dreams, Noah. May God bless your eternal life with immense beauty and love. I hope I can live up to even half of the example you have set for us all. God bless you, my friend. Rest In Peace.