Before I Let Go – Honorable Mention 16th Annual Essay Contest

By Keith Matthews

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” – Genesis 32:24-30

On July 3rd, 2014, I encountered an angel who changed my life forever. Just like Jacob, I was never told his name; indeed, I can only use the masculine pronoun for grammar’s sake, for my angel may well be female. My angel, whose identity has been shrouded in mystery, was given a Divine assignment: inspire Keith Matthews to live life to the fullest, despite the roadblocks erected before him by renal disease.

I don’t believe that this angel was given his assignment as a passive or casual thought, or a mere arbitrary fiat of an uncaring God. I am convinced that even a sparrow does not fall to the ground unnoticed. Small comfort to the unfortunate sparrow, you say? Yes, but the God that fed the sparrow is obligated to the ant and the worm as well.

I want to know his name, but that is denied me, and rightfully so. He has already blessed me; what more could I ask of him?

There is someone whose death was greeted by tears and sorrow; a gravestone that marks the place where a life was placed to rest, a hollow in the earth that we mistakenly call a tomb.

However, this angel made the choice to replace the “t” with a “w”. Yes, a womb! A place of birth and rebirth, a place where halted dreams could be healed and restored, a place where the Divine will of God, once thought diverted and prevented, could now find its fullest expression through a simple yet profound decision by my angel to donate his organs to strangers: the ultimate act of love.

I want to know his name, but that is denied me, and rightfully so. He has already blessed me; what more could I ask of him? Even if I knew, what could I say? “Thank you,” no matter how heartfelt, is a feeble response and an insult to the magnitude of the gift. My life, once seemingly lost, was restored, my Divine assignment, once placed on hold by renal disease, was placed back on track by an angel who loved a stranger enough to touch him.

What do I do now? What can I do, indeed, what must I do to give this angel’s blessing the meaning and purpose it deserves? My mission, and I choose to accept it, is to live the life I have been given honorably and well, not as merely a regimented schedule of medicines and doctor’s visits, but as a living testimony that I am more than a kidney patient. I am a husband, a father, a teacher and community leader, a man whose goal is to inspire others because he has been inspired himself by the touch of an angel.

Before I let go of this life, before I let go of this angel’s gift, I will pass the blessing forward, pouring into others what has been poured into me: the power of positive, proactive health habits, healthy diet and regular exercise, as well as keeping scheduled doctor visits. I will teach the importance of measuring vital sign and glucose levels as needed to maintain good health, along with laughter and relaxation to minimize stress. I refuse to let my angel’s gift of life be in vain. I will not leave this earth until my angel’s Divine assignment has been completed. Then, and only then, will I be able to look him in the eye, embrace him, and ask: “What is your name?”

Reverend Keith Matthews was diagnosed with ESRD approximately 15 years ago, and is working on his 4th year as a transplant recipient. Keith is an LPN and worked as a CNA Instructor for Louisiana Technical College, Acadian Campus for approximately 10 years, along with several other local health care facilities. He is pastor of Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church and founder of Ambassador Ministries Inc., both of Crowley, LA. Keith is also the author of three books available on Amazon:The Word of the Lord Came To Me—Now What? (Outskirts Press), He Wrestled With An Angel, and The Cane Creek Chronicles, Vol. I. He resides in Crowley, LA, with his wife, Annie, and his two children, Charles and Kedra.

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