Angels Along for the Ride

I was afraid because I didn’t know what lay ahead for me...

By Barbara J. Shoemaker, Tulsa, Oklahoma

My husband, Don, retired 10 years ago. Soon after, we bought a three-quarter-ton Chevy Silverado and a fully equipped travel trailer, and set off in search of adventure. Our eventual goal was to visit all 48 continental states and Canada. We saw New England and New Mexico, and everything in between.

One night, deep in Wisconsin wilderness, I marveled at how safe we always felt, no matter how far from home we roamed. “God’s angels are with us,” I said, and Don nodded, knowing I was right.

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Once in Colorado, Don wanted to ride a 19th-century train between Durango and Silverton in the Rocky Mountains. I’m scared of heights. “Okay, I’ll go,” I finally agreed, “but only if our angels come along.”

I could see nothing below us for thousands of feet, and the track was so narrow the train hung over on both sides. Wonder of wonders, the train ride was thrilling. Those angels were there, all right.

Last summer Don and I had planned a 10,000-mile journey to the Northwest. We’d covered all but six states and western Canada, and this trip would have been the fulfillment of our dream. Then we had to cancel it. I’d had problems with my right hip for a few years, but so far I had coped.

In a very short time, though, the pain grew so bad I couldn’t walk. The words “hip replacement surgery” became part of my everyday vocabulary, and fear overtook me.

Not that doctors and hospitals were new to me. I’d lived with diabetes and an irregular heartbeat for years, and I’d also had a couple of strokes. None of this made me a good candidate for surgery. I was afraid. This was something unknown, a journey I’d never taken. Then I remembered the train ride in the mountains of Colorado. I was scared then too, I reminded myself. I had to trust that God would keep me in the company of angels.

“Give Mom a big kiss,” Don said when our children came to visit me in the hospital on the morning of my surgery. Some of my good friends stopped by too. Don sat next to my bed, holding my hand. I tried to be cheerful, but it felt like they were all there to say good-bye.

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In my mind I repeated my favorite psalm over and over again: “He shall give his angels charge over thee…” But nothing brought me comfort as the nurse wheeled me to the operating room. Not my friends, my family, not even my prayers.

The gurney stopped outside double doors. Two nurses helped me climb onto the surgical table. As they moved the gurney out of the way, I mouthed a desperate plea: Lord, I can’t make this journey alone! Then the doors opened with a whoosh.

Rows of angels stood tall, holy, filling the room. One hovered above the place where the surgical table would be anchored. This was not an unknown place after all. Angels were with me, just as I’d always believed them to be. But now God had let me see them.

Today Don and I are planning short stays in some of the places we’ve enjoyed before. My recovery has postponed our dream trip till next year. But wherever we go is an adventure. Good thing angels come along for the ride.