When we moved into our home seventeen years ago, the first people we met were our neighbors to the east - Pastor Al and Tessie Aleson. Pastor Al was a recently retired Methodist minister and Tessie was his wife of over 50 years. Over the next seven years, this couple were true examples of graciousness, godliness and generosity to us and our family.
I never heard them complain or speak a critical word about anyone - but I always heard plenty about the goodness and greatness of God. When we were with them, we knew that we had their full attention and that they truly, and I mean truly, cared about us. Through the years, they told us often that they prayed for us - and we knew that they meant it. "Christianity" was not just an "outward" thing for them but an inward personal lifestyle that came from having a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Al & Tessie were not the way they were because Al was a pastor. They were the way they were because they were passionate about Christ and that was reflected in everything they did and said.
In 1998, after much prayer and a long 8 year wait, we found out that I was pregnant with our second child. Unfortunately, we had started a disastrous remodeling project on the second floor of our home where the nursery was going to be. With a major gaping hole in the side of our house and a partially missing roof, we had to fire the contractor that started the project when it became obvious he had no idea what he was doing! I was an emotional and hormonal mess and we were completely overwhelmed. Pastor Al came to the rescue by finding us a new contractor to finish the work and by the time I was 8 months pregnant, most of the room was finished except for the trim.
Pastor Al, who was also a carpenter, offered to help me trim out the one window in the nursery. Keep in mind, I was 8 months pregnant and Pastor Al was 76 years old and struggled with an anemia type blood disorder that caused him to fatigue quite easily. So our project went something like this:
Up the stairs (almost two flights). Stop: pant - deep breath - rest...
Go down the stairs. Stop: pant - deep breath - rest...
Go up the stairs. Stop: pant - deep breath - rest...
Check wood for fit.
Go back down stairs. Stop: pant - deep breath - rest...
Adjust cut of wood.
Go back up stairs. Repeat previous steps. (You get the picture...)
That one window took us all day but it will forever be the squarest, most perfectly trimmed window in our whole house. And every time I look at it, I think of Pastor Al and his care and diligence; his patience and compassion.
Pastor Al died not even two months after our Isaac was born. When he died, there was definitely a sense of emptiness - we knew there would be no more chats over the back fence or helpful advice about parenting, marriage, our Christian walk or our endless remodeling projects. And my heart grieved the fact that Isaac would never know the man who prayed for him before he was born - or even conceived.
Pastor Al's funeral was packed. People came from all around to celebrate the life of a man who gave so much for so many. Tessie died almost exactly 8 years later and her funeral was the same way. And although there were tears of grief, the over all sense at both events was of joy and celebration. Everyone that was there had nothing but wonderful memories of Al and Tess. They had lived full and honorable lives and everyone that knew them could, and did, testify to that. And most importantly, there were no doubts that both Al and Tessie were dancing on streets of gold - we were all assured of that.
While on this earth, Pastor Al & Tessie were not rich but I don't think they or anyone else would have ever noticed - because they were blessed. Their lives overflowed with joy and peace and life. And they passed down that legacy to their children and their children's children and even to their 17+ great-grandchildren.
For those of us that were not related by blood, we were still family to them. And I know that in some ways, we share in that legacy also. And for that, I am eternally grateful. I will never forget the example they set for us and I can only hope that someday my name will be held in the same high and precious regard as that of Pastor Al and Tessie Aleson: Children of God. People of Faith. Bearers of Christ. Compassionate Friends. And the best neighbors...ever.
"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." (Proverbs 22:9)
"He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend."(Proverbs 22:11)