On Friday I had the pleasure of dining with Mr. Herman Mehling, with members of his family and mine, at the St. Augustine restaurant The Ice Plant. Unbeknownst to me, it was his 94th birthday. I have never shared a birthday with a 94 year old before so this was quite special. I had been wanting to meet him for a long time.
Herman, a.k.a. “The Jesus Man” is the father-in-law of my former Nordstrom Menswear salesman Bruce from Columbus, Ohio. How, you ask, are you having lunch with your former Nordstrom salesman, his wife, and her father? That is a story for another day. Before our “tribulations” he and his wife Judi stayed at our Florida cottage when they visited Herman on several occasions. During the last few years of my crazy life, Bruce called to check in every few months, even after he left Nordstrom. Sometimes I could not return his calls as I was in the throes of a crisis; no matter, he did not stop trying. Now that I am living in the Florida cottage with four animals and a teenager, hosting Bruce and Judi was not an option, so lunch it was.
A few years ago, as a gift for sharing our home, Bruce and Judi gave me one of Herman’s Jesus signs. This is what the sign looks like up close:
This is what the sign looks like from a distance:
Bruce and Judi, who also visited with my parents and in-laws, also gave each family one of these signs. It was this sign that greeted me at the dermatologist’s office on Valentine’s Day, the one month anniversary of my mother’s passing. When my mother died, my youngest sister, MCV asked how she could get her hands on one of those signs. My parents’ sign sits on a roll top desk by the front door, monitoring the comings and goings of all. I called Bruce and he personally delivered two (one for each sister) to my snowy back porch in Ohio. (Polly Positive whisked them inside and I eventually mailed them on).
Back to Herman. You can watch an interview of him here.
As mentioned in the interview, Herman had several careers: Police officer in the Bronx, firefighter, sheet metal machinist. As a police officer, Herman delivered two babies. It is evident that Herman is good with his hands. At age 92, Herman developed “the tremors” in his right hand. This has not stopped him from producing four signs a day, the production of which is a story in itself.
Today, since it is Memorial Day, we honor the part of Herman’s life path that was a sheet metal repairman in the U.S. Navy during World War Two in the Pacific Theater. Assigned to a repair ship, he and his fellow sailors stayed behind the lines and repaired ships damaged in battle, preparing them to go back in. One day, as Herman was on the deck of his ship, the small ship next to him exploded, killing all fifty US sailors aboard. The Navy does not know what caused the explosion: A mini Japanese submarine, an internal situation, who knows? A mystery in the line of combat. Herman did not die in combat but he watched others who did and it those young men on that ship that we honor today.
Bruce, Judi, and Herman brought me two more Jesus signs on Friday. One is sitting in our Florida cottage – our original one is either in Arkansas or in storage in Ohio. The other is being sent to a former policeman in Washington who is suffering from cancer. I had the temerity to ask for more and they gave me three more from the stash in the trunk of their car. Even Urban Meyer has one in his home. I had not yet seen the interview wherein Herman states he would like his children to pass them out to those who attend his funeral. If that is the case, Herman cannot stop making Jesus signs for a long time. It will be a big party. His 95th is already inked in on my calendar. If you NEED one of Herman’s signs, I will inquire however, as to their availability. They are not for sale – they are freely given.
In closing, I leave you with the words from verse 2 of hymn 719 in the Book of Common Prayer. Written by Katherine Lee Bates, O Beautiful for Spacious Skies, the music is set to Materna by Samuel Augustus Ward:
“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife
who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law!”
So today, fly your flag in honor of the fallen, cherish your liberty, enjoy a meal with your family, friend, or stranger, and give thanks that although flawed, America is still beautiful thanks to those who gave their lives for us.
HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MOODRINGMOMMA, FAVORITE CHILD OF THE RADISH, AND HER SON-IN-LAW, UNCA DUNC. REJOICE! On her first birthday, I saw MoodRingMomma take her first steps. XOXOXO