‘Mysterious ways’ of God brought two strangers together in a cemetery

Posted Saturday, Jun. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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sanders There’s a phrase my mother and my pastor uttered so often that throughout my childhood and early adulthood I assumed it was a passage from the Bible.

“The Lord moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,” they would say, usually when something strange or inexplicable happened that turned out for the good.

Those words, like many I heard from my elders, became part of my lexicon long before I realized that they were not from the Holy Book. Years ago when I couldn’t find a citation in Scripture, I did a little research and discovered that the phrase was actually taken from an 18th century hymn by British poet and hymnist William Cowper.

Cowper’s hymn, written in 1773 (three years before our Declaration of Independence), began:

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform.

That phrase comes to mind a lot for me when things occur that I can’t quite explain and yet because of usually positive results I surmise must have come from divine intervention.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve said several times, “The Lord moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.”

It began in April with the chance meeting of a woman in, of all places, a cemetery.

I told the story in this column space in May, and as I look back on it now I realize it was not just happenstance that I met Alma Hernandez.

The reason for going to Mount Olivet Cemetery that evening was to visit the grave site and historical marker of Timothy Cole, the first wrongly convicted man in Texas to be exonerated posthumously.

I had planned to go at lunchtime, but I was so busy I couldn’t get away from the office. So I decided to stop by after work instead. When I arrived, I saw a woman seated in a lawn chair at the head of a grave between the historical marker and Cole’s burial plot.

After she said hello and struck up a conversation, I learned that her family had gathered to commemorate the birthday of her oldest grandson, Jonathan, who had committed suicide the year before. She told me that he had been dealing with “a lot of demons.”

Hernandez gave me her phone number, and I called a couple of days later to learn more about Jonathan and his troubles with depression. This brokenhearted matriarch allowed me to tell the story in print. As a result, several other troubled individuals sought help through local mental health agencies, meaning some good had come from that graveyard.

I was further convinced of that when I received a surprise email the evening of June 11 from Hernandez’s son, Meny Ventura.

“I first wanted to personally thank you for this article that I believe made a huge difference to someone that had thought her crusade and her battle with this cause had fallen on deaf ears,” he wrote. “See, Mr. Sanders, that matriarch you spoke highly of was my mother.”

He then said, “Alma Hernandez went home to be with the Lord on Sunday morning, passing peacefully in her sleep. I wanted to let you know that you made a significant impact on her with this article being posted in the Star-Telegram. I would personally like to invite you to her funeral; I know she would want this.”

Meny went on to talk about his mom’s charm, “contagious personality,” her ability to interact with people of different backgrounds and her unconditional love — traits echoed by others who were part of the overflow crowd at the recitation of the rosary and funeral.

Meny and I agreed that my meeting his mother was not accidental or coincidence.

“It was meant to be,” he said.

Of course I kept thinking of those words from the British poet who, by the way, suffered from depression most of his life.

As I said goodbye to Alma Hernandez at the spot where I had met her just two months ago, I left saying: “The Lord moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.”

Bob Ray Sanders’ column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775 Twitter: @BobRaySanders

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