AFTER a refreshing, Spirit-filled five-day ministerial seminar at Camp Berkshire, I was returning to my home on Cape Cod. It was about 9:00 p.m., on January 10, and I knew my wife and three young sons would be anxiously waiting to greet me.
As I drove through Wareham, the Lord urged me to visit with the Richard Cormia family. I had met Richard, his wife, Edith, and their 6-year-old son, John, the year be fore. For a long time they had been studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses, but felt something was missing. Having found some of our literature in Dr. Clayton Carlson's office, they contacted me for more information regarding the teachings of Seventh-day Adventists. After hearing some of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation they attended our services a few times in Hyannis. Then they moved from Sagamore to Wareham, and I lost contact with them for about six months. I felt there was no need to rush them.
So that night I began offering excuses to the Lord as to why I should not visit them. After all, my wife and boys were waiting for me, and there was school the next day. If I didn't get home soon, my wife would be putting the boys to bed. But the Lord was insistent. I'm ashamed now that my reaction was, "All right, but only for five minutes."
There was a warm reception for me at their door. Richard seemed unusually happy. He was a 33- . year-old engineering designer working at Raytheon. He and his wife had studied most of our church doctrines, and after a short Bible discussion Richard said, "I want to be baptized into your church." Overjoyed, I stayed until midnight rejoicing with them.
After the Sabbath worship services two days later, January 12, I requested everyone who wanted to meet his Saviour in the baptismal waters and join God's remnant people to come forward. Among the seven precious individuals who came forward were Richard Cormia and his wife, Edith. The church members rejoiced. Doris Sorensen, our Sabbath school superintendent at the time, invited Richard and his wife to take part in the services on the following Sabbath.
Standing up in front next Sabbath morning, Richard was the happiest person you can imagine. He had the Scripture reading and the Spotlight on Missions. He expressed his joy and gratitude that he had been asked to take part. Richard fitted in with everyone so quickly that it seemed as if he had been a church member all his life. Everyone commented concerning this promising young man who was soon to join our ranks. He purchased some copies of The Great Controversy and gave them to individuals in an effort to stir up their interest. A baptism was scheduled for March 2, and everyone looked forward to this occasion that would so obviously be a triumph for Christ and the gospel.
On Tuesday evening, February 12, Richard and his wife and son, John, visited the home of his wife's sister and her husband, about fifteen miles from their home in Wareham. At about 8:30 p.m., they began their journey home only to be met by a drunken driver driving without lights on the wrong side of the highway. Turning sharply off the road to the right in an attempt to avoid a collision, Richard received the full impact of the crash. His head was crushed, and he died almost instantly. John, riding in the back seat, received two skull fractures, one eye was badly injured, and he lost six teeth. The wife, although covered with bruises and cuts, miraculously escaped serious injury. All were taken to the Jordan Hospital at Plymouth in a police station wagon.
Richard's wife, Edith, contacted me. Since Richard had found happiness for the first time in years after a lifelong search and had become a new person through accepting Christ and the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, she requested that he receive an Adventist burial.
The funeral was held on February 15, at Wareham. Two of Richard's favorite hymns were sung at the services, "Rock of Ages" and "Onward, Christian Soldiers!" Richard, like a man who had been searching all his life for an army in which he could fight with the whole heart of a soldier, was struck down by the enemy almost before he was able to get into the heat of battle. Six days after his thirty-fourth birthday, Richard Cormia was laid to rest in the Wareham Cemetery. But he died with the blessed hope that when the Saviour appears he will be caught up to meet Him in the clouds.
His death seemed so meaning less, so useless. But already the effect of his passing has been felt by those who remain behind. The faith of all has been strengthened. Our motto before was "Shake the Cape!" Now our cry is, "With Christ, nothing can stop us!"
Another individual has requested baptism. Richard's wife's sister and her husband are looking forward to joining the church. One father whose whole family has become Adventist but who has been resisting God for a long time called me and admitted he was wrong and that he was sorry. It seems as though some of the stars in Richard's crown might even be some of the members in the church whose faith had been almost extinguished until this incident.
My wife and family went looking for Richard's smashed yellow Camaro. We found it behind a small country gas station where the wrecker deposited it. We saw the battered side where Richard received the full impact from a car driven by a murderous drunken driver.
Looking through a gaping hole where a window had been, I could see on the floor of the driver's side a torn and battered copy of The Great Controversy. Richard always took it with him to read as he found the opportunity. The precious book had done its work well. I reached through the torn and twisted metal to retrieve it, and found small pieces of shattered glass between its pages. How many souls Richard Cormia's death and his Great Controversy will yet help to win for Christ, only time will tell. Rest in peace, Richard! Your works do follow you.