It was two years ago, around eleven in the morning on a Thursday. I was in our bedroom where, more often than not, I tuck in to write.
Most of my nine books and over 1,000 columns have been written while propped in bed — mainly because I start while still in my night clothes — but others have been written from a back porch rocker.
Tink walked in, his laptop in-hand and open. His face was ashen covered with a look that I had never seen.
I looked up from my own work and, as life as unfortunately taught me, I braced myself. “What is it?”
I did not breath again until he had spoken. He sat down in an easy chair at the foot of the bed, swirled toward me, and took a moment to gather his words.
“Do you remember Dr. Lesslie? I was looking at developing his books…”
I finished the sentence. “’Angels in the ER.’ Lovely man. From South Carolina.”
Tink nodded, his face turning from ashen to white. “I just saw this news bulletin — someone broke into his house and killed him and everyone there.”
The breath left my body. “Kind Dr. Lesslie?”
Tears welled in Tink’s eyes. “It just happened in the last couple of hours.”
Dr. Robert Lesslie was a man who loved Jesus with all his heart, was married to woman with remarkable faith herself, and together they had raised a family to serve the Lord, their community and, importantly, those less fortunate.
As a young doctor working in an emergency room, Dr. Lesslie saw many miraculous recoveries in people who should not have survived. His faith was deepened by those experiences and eventually led the doctor to write a series of books, documenting those incredible events.
A producer optioned the books and, having heard of Tink’s strong faith, inquired if he would shape the books into a television series. Tink liked the idea and was very impressed with the gentle kindness of Dr. Lesslie. He agreed. I wound up in the middle of the contract, working with the producer’s attorney. It was one of those situations where the deal fell apart over a couple of contract clauses.
One day, I was in the car when Dr. Lesslie called Tink and listened while they talked on speaker. Dr. Lesslie said, “My wife came to me last night and told me she had prayed about it and the Lord told her that you are the one to do these books. I will only do them with you as the writer and producer. When we pray and the Lord answers, we listen.”
Several months later, Dr. and Mrs. Lesslie were in their beautiful home, babysitting two elementary school grandchildren. Outside, in the early April spring, two HVAC technicians were working on their air conditioning unit. Perhaps we will never know everything because all six died, though one of the technicians lived long enough to give some information.
A patient of Dr. Lesslie’s had entered the house, perhaps seeking opioids. Phillip Adams was a former NFL player who had suffered several severe concussions. Dr. Lesslie’s response was displeasing to Adams and he murdered the Lesslie family then went outside to the HVAC techs. One man was shot six times.
That night, a SWAT team descended on Adams’s house he shared with his parents and tried to negotiate him out, peacefully, but Adams killed himself. An autopsy later revealed that Adams had an “unusually severe” case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) caused by the football concussions.
The Lesslie children issued a statement in which they confessed to not understanding how such tragedy could happen, then said, in part, “Our hope is found in the promise of Jesus Christ.”
They have carried on admirably, keeping their father’s several medical and hospice centers in business.
I think that not only did Dr. Lesslie see angels in the ER. He and his wife raised angels, too.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” She is married to television producer and writer, John Tinker. Please look for Ronda’s new novel, “St. Simons Island: A Stella Bankwell Mystery.”]