An angelic messenger reassured her that no matter what happens, God is in control.
Posted in , Oct 16, 2013
Over the last years I had prayed many times after visiting my folks, “Dear Lord, I don’t know how this can end well. Mom is in the nursing home and Dad, who has always been there for her, is now failing fast. His memory problems are becoming so much more apparent. You know how fearful Dad is of Alzheimer’s disease. He’s always been a bad patient and now he dreads the possibility of having to be dressed, fed, bathed, and becoming dependent. I’ve seen this many times before with others, I don’t see how this can end well. Help us, Lord.”
In the weeks after Dad had the stroke, he remained in a coma. My brother Marty and his wife, Mary, agreed to share the vigil. I took the day shift and they took the nights. The time seemed to fly, with pastors, church members and people from the nursing home coming daily. I passed the days reading to Dad from the Bible and singing. I especially liked singing his favorites, “How Great Thou Art” and “Heaven Is My Home.”
At night, when my brother came in for the switch of shifts, Mary said. “I’m so glad to be here for Dad. I never was able to do this for my folks.” After a week, the hospital sent a nurse from hospice to talk to me and give me papers to fill out before transferring him to a hospice unit the next morning.
Standing there with the doctor who had come from intensive care because he had heard that Dad was “someone important,” I said, “Yes, he was a pastor.”
I asked the doctor, “How long can a person last like this without food or water?” The doctor took a long look at Dad, the still clear urine in his drainage bag and lack of respiratory distress and said, “It’s going to be a few days yet.”
After the doctor left, I was determined to get down to that paperwork, because we needed it the next morning. But realizing that it was now after 6:00 p.m., I decided to call my sister, knowing she would be home from work and waiting for the day’s update. I went over to the large window ledge and leaned toward the window, where I knew I would have the best reception with my cell phone.
As I was telling her what the doctor said, I sensed a movement behind me. I turned around, knowing Dad had stopped moving several days before. The door was closed, no one had peeked inside to see if I wanted anything, and Dad was lying there just as still as before. I turned back to stare into the night sky and that’s when I saw a reflection in the window of something behind me. I wanted to see if there was an obvious or natural explanation for the heavenly phenomena I witnessed in that hospital room.
I quickly looked down the five floors to see if there was any way something was shining up to that room. Below I saw only the typical street traffic coming and going to the hospital. Nothing unusual there. As I turned and looked behind me, my first thought was, "Oh, it’s you." The memory came flashing back.
In October 1987, I was the night nurse on a Medicare floor, sitting there at 4 a.m. charting. I looked up at various times to watch the three nursing assistants walk back and forth across the dimly lit hall in front of me as they went to change linen and turn debilitated patients. The next sight was strange. I watched the three come out of one room, cross the hall in single file and go into the next room. They did this several times, but I looked up and there were four of them. The fourth figure was much taller than the other three and towered above them. He was a man, but he didn’t so much walk as glide across the hall. I can’t describe him, but he was extremely tall and slow moving.
As I sat there, I thought, "They walk with angels and don’t know it. Should I tell them?"
I didn’t say anything that night. But over the years that sight never diminished from my memory. Whenever I had a chance to do so, I would tell caregivers, “You know you walk with angels.” They may not have grasped what I meant, but I knew. In the back of my mind I often wondered why God had allowed me to see the angel that night, but as I sat beside my father, I suddenly understood.
It was so I wouldn’t be afraid and I’d be clear about what I was seeing. As I watched, that tall man from years earlier was there. I knew it was an angel; and as he passed directly over Dad, I was once again caught up in his large size and the slow graceful movements. I now knew why I saw what I had seen in 1987, and why I saw it now. It was for my comfort.
I felt a great sense of peace. As the angel appeared to pass right through the wall, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see it again. I turned back to the window. I didn’t tell my sister what I had just seen but said simply, “Dad will be gone tonight.” She never questioned how I knew.
When Marty and Mary came for their nightly vigil, I also told them, “Dad will be gone tonight.” I knew that God had not only spared Dad from the life he had been so much dreading, but He had given me what I didn’t know I needed—comfort and deep-settled peace.
I left those hospice papers untouched on the night stand. I took a last long gaze around the room so I would always remember the look and feel of that night. Marty sat in his usual place next to the bed. Dad was peaceful and still, his breathing regular as though he were sleeping. Mary leaned over him, whispering, “Take Jesus’ hand, Dad. Take Jesus’ hand.”
I said “Good-bye, Dad,” for the last time and left. He died shortly after I left the hospital. The90-minute ride home that night was different from the previous seven.
The feeling of comfort, peace, and knowledge of how senseless worry is has stayed with me every day for the past six years since Dad died. When trouble comes, in whatever form—standing next to my car with a flat tire, hearing of a loved one diagnosed with cancer, or family conflicts—I take it to the Lord and leave it there because I know He can and will handle it.
After Dad died, I didn’t tell everyone I had seen an angel. Just like many years earlier, I would mention it whenever someone seemed to need to know. As time passed, I read Bible passages referencing angels and read a few books about people seeing angels. But I consciously didn’t want to be caught up in the pursuit of angels. However, I have taken much pleasure in the thought that nurses are referred to as “angels of mercy."