Every now and then a great blessing lands, and you know it’s not only for you—it’s for others. Mike Vavras became a hero to me in three meetings. On the first, I learned that he cut down trees for free so long as he could take the timber home as logs to burn to heat his home in the winter. We met in the fall and made the arrangement for this spring: he would to take down two trees that were causing major damage to my lawn, year after year, as the hickory nuts would be broken into by the squirrels and the acid would turn grass into remains that only strange, transient, and minor plants would ever take over.
6’3” about 63 years old, handsome, soft-spoken, and rugged, he immediately struck me as a Nordic hero. I think he had Finnish ancestors. Last week, the second time I saw him, with a cigarette in his lips alongside his great jaw and white beard, he looked less heroic. But his rustic tools and (it seemed to me) elemental methods of woodcutting impressed me with enthusiasm for this relic of a man. He drove his car into the backyard to carry off the logs he cut for burning—and I noticed that the frame around his front license plate had the words “Tea Party.” I grew up with a libertarian father; I understood. We had a lunch that beloved Hagiko made, got to know him a little better, and enjoyed him tremendously. He made a passing mention of his church. That day he suffered in the heat, and he mentioned the fatigue, especially in his legs, which had not done this kind of work for many months. But he had taken down most of the first hickory tree and cut a lot of wood; he took a big load home.
This past Tuesday he came back to finish the job. Quiet as always, unnoticed, not announcing himself, asking for no help, he arrived, drove his vehicle into our back yard, went to work again and soon brought down the top thirty feet of the second tall hickory. I was working in my office on the other side of the house.
Going for a drink of water, I chanced to see him from my window as he came down the tree after felling the canopy. I could see him struggle a bit, part way down, to adjust his harness so that he could slide down the rest of the way. Unusual, it seemed to me, but in my ignorance of woodcutting technique, I suspected nothing. Once he had gotten nearly to the ground, I saw him propped up on a branch of what had fallen, breathing heavily. After watching him for a minute, I decided to go out to see if he needed help.
The treetop in falling had not come clean away from the trunk, and had stripped a layer of the trunk down about four feet. As Mike explained, this action caught his harness, slamming him into the tree.
He also complained of leg cramps, and remarked that this time they were lasting longer than usual. I gave some massage, which he liked very much. I suggested an ambulance, but he refused. We talked a little longer, and I said that this seems like more than leg cramps, and he agreed that I should call 9-1-1.
A friend of Hagiko’s who lives a block away is a retired nurse, and she happened to be walking over our way. When I saw Mike out the window she was coming into the back yard, walking toward him. As we were waiting for the Stow Fire Department squad to arrive, she examined his legs. Noticing their lack of color, she asked whether he had diabetes. Yes.
When the Fire Department squad arrived, they spoke with Mike, examined him a bit, discovered that his right leg had become numb, discussed the situation, and decided which hospital to take him to.
That night, as I feel asleep, I prayed for him and felt a large assurance that he was fine.
The next morning his sons arrived with the news that he had died the previous night. Surgery had been attempted to restore circulation to the problematic leg, but to no avail; toxins had accumulated spread, and there was nothing they could do.
After some conversation with the sons, after turning over the keys to his vehicle, and after a while of being somewhat upset, I felt a huge, cosmic, enormous assurance that Mike was fine–beyond the mortal life and in the awesome care of a loving and merciful God. This strong and gentle and all-encompassing assurance stayed with me for hours. I was so happy for Mike. His sons had said that, as I surmised, he was a guy who took self-reliance to extremes. In that sense, he had died perfectly, living as he wanted to do.
There are various lines of reasoning and kinds of evidence that confirm a believer’s faith in life after death, but this kind of “evidence” was totally new to me, and I thought I should share it with you. This revelation of the love and mercy of the infinite Upholder is a truth for everyone who does not destroy his or her own relation with spiritual meaning, value, and Personality. This overcare is for us all, and it surrounds us now as well as in our last hours and afterward. Every revelation of Deity has a universality with implications that go far beyond the moment of its dawning in the experience of a human being.
The mighty treetop lies across our yard. Our plan is to have the workman who finishes the job not cut the tree down to the ground, let alone grind the stump. We want the bottom of the trunk made into a chair on which a person can sit and watch the sunset. Mike Vavras is still a hero to me, and he is loved in our home.