September 6, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
For over 14 years my friendship with Morris flourished. In both subtle and direct ways I shared Jesus Christ with him. But he still insisted he could not turn away from his revered Jewish grandmother’s religion. I prayed for my friend often, asking God to speak to his heart and bring him to faith in the Lord Jesus. I knew God’s promises included Romans 10:9-13:
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that
God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one
believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.
For the scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all
is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls upon the name of the
Lord shall be saved.”
One possession Morris treasured above all else. He carried in his pocket a gold wristwatch his grandmother gave him when he went away to serve in the army during World War II. She was not a wealthy woman, and had scrimped and saved to purchase this gold watch. As she strapped it on his wrist, she gave him her blessing, and told him to always wear it, and it would keep him from harm. The leather strap was broken when he showed the watch to me, and it had long ago stopped keeping time. But, in Morris’ mind, his grandmother’s blessing still rested upon that watch.
Morris was hospitalized more than once due to diabetic complications. Once when I visited him in the hospital, he shared with me some of his war experiences. He said he had never told anyone about some of the horrors of war, but he credited the watch and the blessing of his grandmother with saving his life more than once. With shaking voice and tears rolling down his cheeks, Morris told me of his infantry unit advancing toward German lines under heavy fire. “My buddy on my right was blown away. The guy on my left was hit and fell dead. Why was I spared? It must have been my grandmother’s blessing protecting me!” I tried to tell him that God had kept him alive and injury free for a purpose – a purpose that maybe only God knew.
It was a few weeks before Christmas about a year later – a very busy time for a pastor – when I received a call from Morris. He was in the hospital again and he needed me to come out to see him – a trip of 200 miles. “Morris, I am so busy in my church with Christmas approaching. I can’t come out right now. How about after Christmas?” But he insisted, “No, you have got to come out now. I have something very important for you, and it can’t wait.” I promised him I would make the trip.
Two days later I was at the hospital front desk, making inquiry for his room number. I was informed that he had undergone a heart catherization procedure, and was in the recovery room. He had left instructions with the doctor and nurses that, should I arrive, he wanted to see me immediately. So I was ushered into the recovery room where a nurse was applying pressure to the thigh incision. Morris told me to open the drawer of the bedside stand and retrieve a wrapped package. Then he told me to open it. Inside this oblong package was a watch case – and inside a gold watch, specially ordered from the Philadelphia mint just for me! But before Morris strapped it on my wrist, he took the watch and rubbed it back and forth against the watch his grandmother had given him. “Now you have my grandmother’s blessing,” he said. Then he lovingly put it on my wrist. I felt I had just been adopted into a Jewish family!!!
About a year later Morris was very sick. Charlie, his son, called and told me his dad was nearing the end. Would I conduct his funeral, and would I also be willing to bring my Model A out to be part of the funeral procession? By this time I was the proud owner of a 1930 four door sedan, and the procession was to be all Model A’s
I drove out and arrived about nine o’clock at night. Morris was then in a nursing home, and his family was just coming out as I was walking in the front door. They came back to Morris’ room with me, but warned, “Don’t expect too much. Dad has been in a coma for three days. He hasn’t spoken, eaten or drank anything.”
Morris was lying on his side with his hand resting through the raised bed railing. I knelt down and took his hand. I said, “Morris, it’s Chip.” He opened one eye and looked at me. Then he said, “Chip Norton, it’s good to see you!” Then he closed his eye. I said, “Morris, I have to ask you something. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?” He took a big breath, and said, “Ummm-hmmm!” I then asked, “Do you know your sins are forgiven and that you are going to heaven?” Again, a deep breath, and another, “Ummm-hmmm!” That was the last thing Morris ever said! He died a couple of hours later.
Two days later I officiated at his funeral, and Morris was wearing his gold watch, now repaired and with a new leather strap. One surprising thing about this Jewish man’s family of six children – five of them were strong Christians!!! The funeral was a celebration of an old man graduating to glory! I can hardly wait to see Morris in heaven!