“Did you pay that bloodwork bill?” Linford asked.
“No, not yet,” I said, resisting the urge to make a face. Or maybe I did make a face. Sometimes I don’t resist the urge.
Linford normally paid the bills, an arrangement that suited me. Bookkeeping bored me enough that I tended to put it off, and procrastination and bill paying do not peacefully coexist. But medical bills required at least one phone call to negotiate our self-pay discount. Linford was on the road all day with his job as an appliance repairman, in and out of cell service, in and out of customers’ homes. Since he could not easily make the calls during business hours, the responsibility became reluctantly mine.
“Just put it on a credit card,” Linford said. “I’ll figure something out by the time the bill is due.”
We had grown accustomed to bloodwork bills for two and three hundred dollars. Tarica’s anti-epilepsy drugs required periodic blood tests to ensure that the drugs were not damaging her body. But Tarica had recently been put on Depakote, which required more extensive testing. This last bill of $856.05 had dropped both our jaws.
The discount would bring it to $599.24. Not much, compared to a hospital stay, but we didn’t have an extra $600 sitting in the checking account. We aren’t poor—anyone with enough food to eat, enough clothes to wear, and a solid roof overhead has abundant wealth. What we don’t have is a lot of extra cash. However, each month we paid our credit card balances in full, and somehow, surprisingly, we always had enough to cover the additional medical bills.
Once more, we would charge it in faith.
* * *
Linford looked at his paperwork before jumping out of his truck. This job was an LG dishwasher that wasn’t draining. He grabbed his tool bag and clipboard and followed the sidewalk curving up to the rancher’s recessed front door. A fluffy white dog rushed at him across the lawn, yapping hysterically.
A grey-haired man in his 60s or 70s came to the door. He stooped to hush the dog, saying as he straightened, “I don’t want my wife to wake up.”
Wife? Linford looked around and saw a woman sleeping in a hospital bed in the middle of the living room.
“She has Alzheimer’s,” the homeowner, whose name was Gregory, said as he led the way to the kitchen. “Diagnosed sixteen years ago, and she’s been dying one cell at a time the last six.” His voice was matter-of-fact in the manner of one who has long ago stopped looking for pity.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Linford said. “May God bless you as you care for her.”
The dishwasher was complicated. Linford had to uninstall it to reach the drain pump, and as he worked, the two men talked. A younger woman and her daughter stopped by briefly. After they left, Gregory said, “That was my daughter-in-law. Between her and my other daughter-in-law, there is a crisis every day, a flat tire, a headache, and I tell them to calm down, it’s not Alzheimer’s, it’s not cancer.” He paused before explaining. “Two years ago, I had cancer, the scariest kind, and I should be dead. But the Lord healed me, and here I am.”
“I needed to hear this right now,” Linford said as he did something unexplainable in the guts of the dishwasher. “Our five-year-old daughter has epilepsy. Her seizures aren’t controlled by medication, and she might be going for brain surgery in the future.” He looked up at Gregory standing by the kitchen counter. “It’s good to know that someone else is facing difficulties with courage.”
The job took nearly three-quarters of an hour. The two of them continued talking, exchanging pieces of their lives as strangers do when thrown together in close quarters. When the dishwasher was finally reinstalled, it hummed and drained as a well-behaved dishwasher should. Linford filled out the paperwork and handed the bill to Gregory.
When Gregory returned to the kitchen, he held a check and a bank envelope in his hand. He held out both to Linford. “Jesus of Nazareth is a healer. I feel like I’m supposed to give this to you.”
Linford looked at the envelope, at the money inside it, and said, “This is not why I told you my story.”
“I know it isn’t. Take it and use it and God bless you.”
Back in his truck, Linford pulled out the money and counted the bills unsteadily. Twenty-five twenties. Five hundred dollars.
Through the hands of a stranger, the Lord had provided.
* * *
This gift left $99.24 for us to cover. We could do it.
Except the windows of heaven were still flung open. God wasn’t yet finished pouring out His grace.
I’ll tell you more tomorrow.