Most of our immediate family live in other states across the country. The children particularly wanted some sort of closure to their Dad, grandfather, father-in-law and so forth. After seeing him suffer so much in the hospital and enjoying Don’s visits, I asked Don to write a sermon for Vince. Don’s replay was OK, “What do you want me to write?” I told him I didn’t know. Just days later, Don wrote this wonderful piece that I shall cherish every day of my life. Marla Pisciotta
For a friend whom I will cherish and never forget …
Having been in ministry of some sort for more years than I can count, I must confess that there are things, and there are people who challenge my way of thinking. It has nothing to do with my beliefs and convictions, for those are rock solid in both my heart, and my spirit. But there are those things that come along on occasion which cause me to question my methods. That is, how God deals with our spirit and speaks to our heart.
One such individual crossed my path some time ago while I was working as a journalist, photojournalist and religious columnist at a small town newspaper called, “The Hampshire Review.”
While there I became acquainted with a short, boisterous, outspoken lady with whom I soon developed a love/hate relationship. In other words, her loud mannerism made me hate her at first while my wit, charm and incredibly good looks made her fall in love with me from day one. But over time we set aside our first impressions and decided to meet somewhere in the middle and over the course of time, we both developed a mutual respect and caring attitude toward one another.
I wondered often just what kind of man could put up with such an outspoken, opinionated woman and one day I had the privilege of meeting the man with whom she did carry a real, genuine mutual love and respect with to the point that she not only called him her husband, but she affectionately also referred to him as her very best friend.
It was a match made in heaven … or West Virginia or Maryland, or somewhere, but it was a match that was destined to last literally til’ they were parted by death.
Vince Pisciotta was the one man who could tame Marla with his interesting and unique form of charm, along with the fact that he was every bit as opinionated and outspoken as she. Those who didn’t know Vince and Marla personally could easily wonder how his blunt and to-the-point method of speaking to his short-statured wife could ever be taken as affection, but the love that existed between the two was as obvious as a brilliant rainbow that followed an afternoon summer storm. Vince and Marla were a blend of brilliant colors, all fitly joined together in an unquestionable span of love and affection visible for all to see.
The Christianity of my early years taught me a strict, disparaging method of judging others based on a first impression. To judge Vince Pisciotta on a first impression was as unfair as trying to pick a Super Bowl winner after one opening game.
My second impression of this man was much more lenient than my first, as was my third, fourth and fifth, for each time my unjust opinions were peeled away, revealing a man whose heart was much more tender than his words often portrayed. For beneath the hard-shelled surface laid a man who showed no pretense of being religious. For what I saw in Vince Pisciotta was not pretentious at all. Instead, he was a man who lived what he believed. Vince believed strongly that a man who showed respect, was a man who deserved respect. He was a man who made no unfair claims about God, yet, he seemed to have a strong opinion about just who God was and how He dealt with his creation, particularly mankind. That God was a God who attended to the affairs of the unfortunate. That He dealt justly with those who dealt justly with others, and dealt harshly with those who took advantage of the helplessness of those who couldn’t defend themselves.
It was on his death bed that Vince and I were able to spend the better part of an afternoon talking about God. Neither of us had any inclination that his time to depart this life was as near as it proved to be. He spoke with affection about his dear wife, saying there was no way he could leave her because she depended on him too much.
“I have to be here to pick up after her,” he said.
And as if that wasn’t enough reason to fight for his life, there was Peanut, their adorable Rabbit Beagle, which he described more as a person than as a pet.
“Peanut wouldn’t know what to do without me,” he told me.
For me personally, it was the prayer that we prayed together that afternoon. Our conversation centered around his not being afraid to die because of his belief in God. Vince recognized and came to understand the grace (the unearned, undeserved) favor of God.
We talked in depth of God’s original plan for mankind and how man in his selfish, impatient way blew it, opening the door for sin to step in and disrupt God’s plan.
We also talked of John 3:16 and how “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever will, would not perish, but would have everlasting life.”
I was able to reiterate to Vince how simple God had made the plan of salvation. We talked candidly about how Jesus, the very Son of God, gave Himself as a final sacrifice for sin, thus redeeming mankind back to the Father.
I shall never forget Vince’s words as he talked of how man made getting from here to the other side so difficult.
(1 John 1:9) “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us from all our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Vince’s reaffirmation came as he held my hand, looked me in the eye and said simply, “It don’t get any easier than that.”
His weakness had become apparent and it was obvious that it was time to say goodbye and let him get some much-needed rest.
I asked Vince if I could pray with him, to which he responded, “I’m tired Don.”
He pointed to the oxygen mask and replied, “You pray. I can’t pray with you because of this mask and because I’m getting really tired, but you pray, and I’ll pray with you from my heart.”
I saw Vince one more time after that visit as Marla sat in what appeared to be almost a daze on the sofa next to his bed.
I will never forget Vince’s words to Marla, telling her that he prayed with me. I had that one last chance to pray with Vince, as well as for Marla. Little did I know that when I said goodbye to my friend that day that it really was goodbye.
I had plans to stop in again and check on him, only to be reminded by God that the sentence of life and death are in His hands and not ours.
I was reminded once again that none of us are promised even one more breath, and that what we have, we have only because of His grace.
When I got the call that Vince had passed, my heart broke for his passing, and for my good friend Marla. But I was able to find comfort in knowing that heaven is simply one heartbeat away, and that God has prepared a way for all of us through the death of His Son Jesus, so that a simple sincere prayer of “Jesus, be merciful to me a sinner,” like the thief on the cross, assures us that “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.”
Our most kind and gracious Father, we are thankful that we can call on you in both the good times and the bad times. We acknowledge that you are the One and Only True God, the giver of life and the Comforter to those who grieve when the life of one we love has come to an end.
You are, by your own inspired words, a Friend who sticks closer than a brother, a Mighty Fortress in which we can run in times such as this, and you are the Author, and Finisher of our Faith. You, O’ God, are the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last.
I pray God that you would indeed receive the spirit of our beloved husband, brother, father and friend, into your presence. I ask you that my good friend Marla, who has suffered the loss of one so close to her, whose heart breaks from the pain and feels empty from Vince’s passing, will be overshadowed by your presence, will be uplifted by your grace and that she will be comforted by your Holy Spirit.
May she find hope and comfort in knowing that there will one day be a great reunion, in which those who are in Christ Jesus will be able to meet again around a Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I pray that you minister to her broken heart, and fulfill your promises to her, that when we are weak, we are made strong in you. May her days of emptiness be filled with your presence and every need she has due to the loss of her beloved husband, be met according to your riches in glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen
May God’s blessings be yours, may His assurance be your strength, and His promises bring you hope.