Who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:25-37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

3 years ago Dec. 8 2014, it happened to be a Monday morning. Lindsey and I had had an amazing weekend together at the little neighborhood resort on Cozumel. Lindsey stretched beside me in bed and asked if we could just stay in bed all day and cuddle and gave me a sweet kiss and embrace. I said ‘baby that would be nice but we have to move to another cabana in this resort as this one is rented for later today, besides we both know we are going diving’. Still it was a sweet moment.
About this same time I hear the bell ringing at the gate. I go and discover it is Jorge and he is excitedly wondering why we were not prepared already. We had slept too long and he was anxious to leave! I let him in and hurriedly told Lindsey that Jorge was ready to take us to the boat. We made a plan. When we had to do something that was very hard to do one of us would say to the other “Let’s Rally”!!
I would stall Jorge while she “rallied” and packed all of our suitcases while I discussed us getting our Nitrox training and certification since we had another whole week of diving ahead of us. Lindsey was totally on board with learning more and growing as a diver. Nitrox is a mixture of gases that when used properly allows recreational divers to complete many more dives in a day than on normal compressed air that we all breathe.

As I discussed these ideas with Jorge he lightened up and was excited. We wanted to get this training. Lindsey somehow heroically did the seemingly impossible. She packed all of our stuff, and we had a Lot of stuff, scattered all over the house into our suitcases and brought them to the door of the main house so that our hostess could put them in our new room while we were on our dive trip.
Jorge and I were still discussing things and she disappeared and then returned a couple minutes later with a quick breakfast of eggs and veggies wrapped in tortillas. I still marvel at how she got all these things done and the joyful manner in which she did them.

What began as a typical day ended for her that morning at about 10:45am. Still, even three years later, seems so impossible to me. When I finally got back to the place we were staying I arrived back to find all our bags outside the door of our little cabana. She left this world and her bags were already packed before she passed away that morning.

I write now to share what happened to me just about an hour or so after we made it to the clinic with Lindsey. Truthfully I feel there is no hospital in the USA that would have even worked on Lindsey. They would have just pronounced her DOA. But this little clinic seeing my need for any hope at all and the improbability of someone so young gone so suddenly was willing to do anything. Two very small male Mexican nurses taking turns for over an hour giving CPR and sweating profusely and calling to each other to change places as they grew tired. I spoke with the Doctor outside the ER many times as he would exit to visit me and finally he said the words none of us can bear, “there is nothing we can do”. I asked if I could be with her for some time and went back into the room. I thanked everyone in there and asked the nurses to cease their CPR efforts. They were exhausted, but they were also so forlorn. They had given all they could and it was not enough. Every head was low as they shuffled out into the hallway. It was just me and Lindsey and a nurse on a bag, allowing at least the facade of life by putting air into her lungs, while I said my prayers over her and my goodbyes.

I took off the necklace with the James Avery cross that my mom gave to her on the day of our secret wedding and kissed her one last time.

I was escorted into the office of the head of the hospital. I was still in my wetsuit and shivering and then discovered my toes and foot were turning black and blue. I had fractured a toe while running on the coral beach with the gurney. I was also covered in sand and shivering with cold. I was in shock, it felt so surreal.
I hear a small knock on the door and a man dressed in casual island clothing came and seated himself in a chair across from me. He said, “My name is Emilio, I know this will sound strange but I had a feeling that someone needed prayer desperately in this office”.
I told him the story as I understood it at the time and he came closer and we took each others hands and he prayed and wept with me. Within a few moments after this his phone rang and I heard him say, “please hold all my calls and cancel my appointments this week, only call if there is something that is urgent”. After he hung up he said ,”you are going to need help and I have set aside this whole week to give it to you. What can I do for you right now?” I said I needed some different clothes as I was shivering cold in my wetsuit. He immediately went out to the market and returned with a gym suit he purchased for me.

If I told of all he did for me those 4 days it would be a very long story, but I want to share a couple things to tell how amazing his help really was.
He introduced himself as someone who was working in Cozumel helping this clinic broaden its association with other hospitals. He also said he was there because of a recent break up of a relationship that ended abruptly and his heart was still broken. The island was always a healing place for him. He also told me that he had also been a Diplomat in Vancouver. His experience and also being a native Spanish speaker would prove invaluable in the days ahead.

Emilio never left my side that day and wherever I needed to be he was with me. To say I was lost, vulnerable and clueless on how to move forward would be a huge understatement. I had to sign so many documents at the clinic. I was making dreaded phone calls to our families. I was informed that the autopsy was to begin that day. I was told that the police would come by later to take my statement.
Initially I was informed the police would come by in the afternoon, and then this got pushed back till the evening and then was informed that they had brought in a second medical examiner and would not be able to talk to me until the following morning.
When someone dies, there is always an immense load of details that have to be handled. When that tragedy happens in a foreign country as fraught with corruption as Mexico then there are hazards everywhere. I was hopelessly unprepared for the days ahead.

I know it sounds crazy but one of the EMT at the clinic who of course also drives an ambulance, is also someone who will “assist” you if someone you love happens to die on the island. It is a side job. He makes money of course helping to save lives at the clinic, but he makes more if you are not so lucky. Just another of the quirks of Mexico. I admit to being somewhat taken aback by this seeming conflict but Julio was a big help for the most part thanks to careful oversight by Emilio.
When a person dies in Mexico from a foreign country, by law an autopsy Must be preformed. The reason the appointment with the police was changed 3 times was that an additional Medical Examiner was brought in to check over everything that was happening in the autopsy. A very young woman had died and we initially thought it may be dive related. I had a sense that they of course thought perhaps some sort of foul play might be involved. The overwhelming issue was a young woman had died who had no signs of trauma and no history of serious physical issues. In fact, Lindsey had never been in better shape in her entire life.

So mid day Tuesday I was interviewed by the Policia, Emilio picked me up with Jorge and drove me to the Police Station. I was met there by a State Department representative who had just arrived from the mainland that morning. She was delayed the previous day and that caused some issues that added a lot of stress to the situation. For an hour and a half I was asked all kind of questions about what had happened. The preliminary look at the medical findings stated that inside Lindsey looked as though she had been in a bad car accident. Her liver looked like it had exploded.
When the State Department person arrived Emilio in no uncertain terms told her that she should have been there the day before and should have spoken to me before I spoke to the Police. Again he was watching out for me and understood things as a Diplomat that were beyond my scope and ability to process during this difficult time.

A bunch of paperwork had to be taken care of and signed and thank God that Tracy my pastor in Texas who married us earlier in the summer had taken a picture of the Marriage License because since Lindsey had not changed her name on her drivers license or passport they questioned whether we were actually married! So many hurdles.

Julio from the clinic; I chose him to be my liaison between the Mexican Government and its requirements and laws and the USA requirements and laws about getting Lindsey out of Mexico and back to Green Bay for the funeral.

I had to choose a Mexican funeral home and had to choose the clothes she was to be “buried” in. I said I wanted her to be placed in the special casket (one approved for transport in a commercial airliner) with the dress she had worn Sunday evening and that she was to wear her new cowboy boots.

Emilio and Jorge drove me to the funeral home where the casket was open for me to visit her. They waited in the car while I went into a completely empty chapel lit with nothing but naked bulbs making garish shadows everywhere. The gravity and shock really hit me hard. I was thinking this has to be a bad dream.

I could have saved some money trying to book the flights and the arraignments between the funeral homes in Mexico and the US but there was so many things to sort thru that I trusted Julio to make the right decisions. He was being paid by a third party to assist me and I felt so vulnerable and truthfully I was and Emilio was there to cover my butt again.

Julio arrived late in the evening with some paperwork that needed my signature and also to collect nearly 10k to get her out of Mexico and on to the US. He handed me some things to sign and some documents about how much they were charging me and was asked to present my credit card. Emilio came by my side and took this paperwork and anger flashed across his face. He turned and exclaimed to me saying, “this is Not proper factura!” Over and over he expressed to Julio that there was no way I was going to pay for such shoddy and likely insufficient documentation. Again I had no idea, it looked proper to me, but of course I had no idea that it should look different. Julio was caught in the middle. He did not produce the paperwork he only carried it to me, but he got the message loud and clear.

I handed Julio a good bit of money in cash and told him, ‘you are working for ME’, go get this paperwork and make it stand up to Emilio’s scrutiny”. When he returned even later that evening with the new paperwork including a watermarking and raised seal and real amounts and itemized costs it was made clear how improper the earlier documents had been.

For more than 3 days Emilio watched over every decision I made. Stayed deep into the night with me and was there early in the morning. He listened earnestly as I told him of Lindsey and our Love and our amazing story. He prayed with me and cried tears with me. He had mercy on me.

Emilio. I will never forget those days and your love amigo. I love you.

He continues to change lives for good all over the world. Lung cancer from indoor cooking fires in undeveloped countries contributes to early death to millions of people a year. It mainly afflicts poor mothers who do the cooking and also their little children exposed to the soot from the charcoal and the open wood flames. Emilio represents Envirofit and they supply a high efficiency , simple to use , near smokeless stove for cooking to indigenous people and others not connected to natural or propane gas sources.

In this Christmas season make time to be a Good Samaritan, make space for vulnerable people, marginalized people. People who cannot offer you anything.

Emilio, me, Julio and Jorge


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