The Flagman, Part Two

flagger ahead sign - image by OlinEJ from Pixabay

Editor’s note: Read part one of Loretta’s encounters with the flagman here.

From inside my apartment I can hear the flagman’s radio buzz as he talks to his counterpart up the road. Another dump truck of dirt passes as the hillside comes down in preparation for new foundations.

The flagman reminds me to slow down my life. The next time I pass and say hi, he asks what I do. I tell him about books I’ve written.

“You write books! My mother wrote a book about me,” he offers. His eyes dart back and forth on the road, ever vigilant at his post. He calls on his radio, “Car coming!” and I wait a moment. “Would you like to read it?” he asks.

I tell him I’d love to. “Let’s trade books!” I offer. He gives me Flights of Destiny, and I give him 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days. We talk briefly about the value of daily devotionals.

Later, when I begin reading the book about this 34-year-old, I learn of his miraculous rescue at age three and a half from Romania during the fall of communism. Born Gabriel and called Gaby, the family renamed him Michael—after another angel—to protect him from difficulties in his new life. The book describes his father’s horrible fuel fire death, a violent stepfather, a powerless mother, and Michael’s escape with his sister into the arms of an adoptive family eager to love.

Michael earned a college degree in marketing communications, but he works as a flagman while discerning God’s call, which seems to be drawing him to be a youth minister. He hesitates to accept this invitation, because the salary is so much less than he gets holding a flag. And he enjoys learning about commercial construction by observing. Nothing gets past this flagman.

Some churches have already heard his testimony. He almost died of stage 4 cancer at age 20. When doctors said they could do nothing more and referred the family to hospice, Michael’s mother refused to accept it. She heard about a weekend-long healing event in Florida. Michael could barely endure sitting in a wheelchair and being lifted into a plane seat. He suffered excruciating pain from a broken hip caused by tumors. He could not swallow; a feeding tube kept him alive.

On the aircraft, people heading to the healing conference began praying over Michael right there. By the time they landed, Michael’s pain had decreased so significantly that he ate a hefty rib dinner and never needed the feeding tube again.

After the weekend, Michael surprised his doctors. The deadly tumors were gone. His bones were restored.

Michael still holds the sign telling me to slow down and appreciate blessings. He is a witness to love and redemption. I wonder what God has in store for him next.

Michael’s mother included her e-mail address at the end of the book. We met for coffee and shared our faith. Connections occur when we dare to open a conversation with a stranger. That stranger is Christ.

Image by OlinEJ from Pixabay.

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Loretta Pehanich
Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and the author of 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Women in Conversation: Stand Up!, and Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. A spiritual director since 2012, Loretta is trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Her involvement in ministry and parish life includes 20 years in small faith-sharing groups and Christian Life Community. Loretta gives retreats and presentations on prayer and women’s spirituality and is commissioned as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I was waiting for Part 2 of The Flagman and I was not disappointed. Thank you Loretta. We can learn so much if we are willing to listen.

  2. Thanks. Loretta continues to carry on with her creative and constructive Flag March. The Gabriel Michael story is faith nourishing. Praise the Lord.

  3. Like other readers, the first word that sprung to my mind was also “wow”.
    Grateful you engaged with the Flagman( Michael). I will share this amazing story.

    The power of faith.

    • Amen. The power of faith. When the rain in Seattle purs, I plan to bring some cookies straight out of the oven to the workers. Michael never knows how long they will keep him on this project, but the building construction will take a l o n g time. I suspect the workers may become friends in that time.

  4. Your storytelling captivates. And this is an engaging tale of drama, horror, illness, and miracles. Thanks for telling us about you and the Flagman. God bless you both is generous ways.
    Blessings, Pat

  5. Wow! What an amazing and inspirational story and man! Thanks for sharing, I’m sure no matter what he discerns he will touch many lives.

  6. Beautiful story; thank you for sharing this message.

    Keep Mary Jane in your prayers. She has a tumor on her kidney and will have surgery the end of November. Mary Jane was in the St. Francis choir.
    Also Janet Vitt passed away last week…RIP

  7. What a remarkable encounter! And what a remarkable young man. Recently, while visiting family in another state we encountered road work daily on the street where we stayed. The 2 flaggers were always the same 2 people – a young woman at 1 end and a young man at the other. I always greet flaggers, silently bless them and pray for their safety, and internally wonder about their stories but have never conversed with them. You’ve so beautifully illustrated the Christ to be found in each of God’s children if we have the courage to invite fellowship.

    • Wow, Ann. That is powerful, too. Let us silently bless everyone we pass!
      My husband’s family had a tradition of blessing whoever was in the ambulance when a siren passed.

  8. It is the slowing down to hear/listen to what our call is at that time. I try to only remind myself of the times I did it my way and did not follow that voice… only to feel the joy in hearing the voice and following it. I especially hear it in my hospital ministry. Thanks for the reminder in your story.

  9. I love this story about The Flagman, I’m so glad you you have an end to the beautiful encounter. I, like you, like to ask people about themselves, sometimes I mentione that I am not noisy, just that I care to know their dreams and life story.
    I enjoy reading The Ignatian Spirituality and the beautiful writings from different authors. Thank you for your articles. God bless you.

  10. Wow, what a compelling story! I enjoyed Part I and was delighted to see a Part II. I never expected to hear what a miracle, and witness, the flagman is to God’s providence. Thanks for sharing it here!

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