She wrote and asked if we could talk. Meredith’s¹ father, William, had died six months before. Though we had never met and I had no idea who she was, I replied, “Sure.” We set a time to Skype the following week.
Eighteen years earlier, William had decided suddenly to make aliyah. One day, he announced that he and Meredith’s stepmother were leaving, and the next moment they were gone － off to the Holy Land.
For 18 years, Meredith was crushed and confused. She had a 3-year old son － William’s grandson. William had lived around the corner from them. They spent every other Friday night together. And then he was 7,000 miles away.
Since his death, she had felt something unfinished － emotional loose ends that would not go away.
I didn’t really know her father. I had met him seven years ago when he asked to interview me as part of his radio show. I doubt whether anyone ever listened to that broadcast. I certainly hadn’t. Meredith had the audio file too, buried in her 70,000+ library on iTunes, but also had never taken the time to listen to it.
Mysteriously, the podcast turned up three times on her recommended playlist that week. Seven years later, she felt that the radio interview was calling to her. A sign from the heavens? Meredith listened and then felt compelled to speak with me. Maybe I could shed light on William’s life after he had moved to Israel.
Our Skype lasted over 90 minutes. The conversation brought forth many suppressed issues for Meredith. I didn’t have much light to shed on William’s life in Israel, but she took comfort from our interaction. We mused that maybe the radio interview occurred solely to lead us to this conversation, seven years later.
Then Meredith wrote me she was coming to Israel. She wanted to keep working on those loose ends. This time we would meet face-to-face.
Over coffee , she shared more about her father. How all his life he had been a seeker, for truth and meaning. “He tried everything,” she said with a laugh. “Sufism, Buddhism, everything. A life-long searcher. He was impetuous, in his business dealings and relationships too. Trying to find the perfect fit. Then one day － boom － it was Israel. And he was gone.”
Then came the tears. “How could he leave us? He had a 3-year-old grandson. I don’t understand.”
I probably should have just listened and not said anything. I really didn’t know her or her father. It would be presumptuous and hubristic to offer advice. I listened.
But I sensed she was imploring me to say something. After all, why did that long-forgotten podcast suddenly appear, after so many years, again and again and again? What was William trying to say from the beyond?
I said, “Look, God talks to us in different ways. Sometimes softly, through our intuition, and sometimes in a pow, a spiritual lightning bolt. You know that I really didn’t know your father well. But from what you’ve told me, it seems to me that after seeking and searching all his life － he suddenly had a moment like that. A spiritual lightning bolt, which gave him a flash of clarity. He saw what he needed to see.”
I paused, with the silence weighing between us. Then I added:
“Meredith, you think he left you and your son. You’re upset and confused as to how he could make a choice like that. Family is everything to you. You can’t understand why he would leave. But maybe he really didn’t have much choice. His moment of clarity was so powerful that he just had to do it.”
I asked Meredith if her father was happy here in Israel. She said, “Yes. He led a very meaningful life. He found what he was looking for.”
Then I added a thought that had never occurred to me before: “Meredith, I don’t think William decided to leave. The decision was made for him. He was kidnapped by God.”
Another heavy silence. Then Meredith took a napkin and wrote on it: “Kidnapped by God.”
As she wrote, I sat there, dazed. Seven years ago, I had no idea why I was doing the radio interview. It had seemed like a complete waste of time. And yet — here we are.
Educators don’t often see the fruit of their labor. I wonder, not infrequently, about the effect of my work. When I find myself in a moment like this — it is a deep blessing, a moment of validation from God that I am fulfilling my calling in this world. And this particular moment of clarity, I thought, overwhelmed with gratitude — this spiritual lightning bolt — was a gift which William “paid forward” as his last act here.
We sat there together, amazed, floored, feeling that some of our loose ends were falling into place.
A radio interview that lay unnoticed for 7 years, suddenly turning up again and again. An unexpected encounter which brought clarity — to both of us. The hidden hand of God had touched our lives. We felt the warmth of William’s smile, beaming down at us, listening to the radio broadcast in heaven.
¹Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.