A Heaven-Sent Encounter Became Comfort from Beyond

A woman gets a healing sign from beyond after the passing of her veteran father.

Posted in , May 25, 2022

Susans father in uniform; Photo credit: Susan A. Karas

I pulled into the parking lot of the fast food restaurant. What am I doing here? I thought. I hardly ever eat fast food. I’d been out running errands, with no intention of stopping for lunch. But I was too lost in grief to think too much of it, or to try to plan a healthier option, so I parked and went inside to order.

My dad had died from a stroke a week before at the age of 81. There were five of us kids, and Dad had always made an effort to spend individual time with each of us. He used to drive me into the city for my ballet classes, and we had so many wonderful dinners together after, just Dad and me, before we drove back home. Yet some of my most cherished memories were of the whole family together, on Veterans Day.

Dad had been a first lieutenant in the army, and his service defined him. On Veterans Day, he’d gather the family on the front lawn to watch him hoist the American flag. His face lit up with pride, watching as Old Glory unfurled in the breeze. Then we would all go to our town’s Veterans Day parade. We’d cheer and salute as men representing every branch of the military marched by. Afterward, over steaming mugs of hot cocoa, Dad told us what it was like to be a sharpshooter at two of the most famous battles in history: D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. Dad was my hero, and I never tired of his stories.

I had to swallow the lump in my throat to place my fast food order. Dad had suffered an initial stroke that impaired his memory and much of his mobility. In the last few months of his life, he couldn’t speak much, and he didn’t seem to recognize any of us. We lived 800 miles away from each other, so I’d called him on Veterans Day.

“I love you so much, Dad,” I said into the phone. He tried to speak, but I couldn’t make out what he said. I wasn’t even sure he realized that it was me calling. My heart ached as we hung up. That was the last time I talked to him. He passed a few days later.

At the funeral, we displayed pictures of Dad in his military dress uniform, adorned with medals honoring his service. A flag was flown at the cemetery, and I’d stared at it for a long time that day. I stared into space now, waiting for my order to be ready. I can’t believe Dad’s really gone.

Someone reached past me for some napkins. “Excuse me, sweetie,” a man said.

His voice was so familiar! The tone and timbre were exactly like Dad’s. My dad, who just so happened to call me “sweetie.” I turned to look. The elderly man had my dad’s pale complexion, brown eyes and the same thick white hair. He wore identical silver-rimmed glasses. He was Dad’s height and even moved like Dad, bent in a slight stoop. The man could’ve been Dad’s twin.

The sight of him brought tears to my eyes, and I turned away. The man must have seen I was upset, because I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. He patted my back, exactly the way Dad would have. I felt myself relax under the comforting touch. For the first time since Dad’s passing, a calm peace settled over me. It was as if God was trying to tell me something.

By the time I regained my composure, the man had sat at one of the tables to eat. You’re reading too much into this, I thought.

Feeling a bit embarrassed, I grabbed my meal from the counter and headed toward the exit. On the way to my car, I looked up to see one of the biggest and grandest American flags I’d ever seen, waving majestically in the breeze and back-lit by the afternoon sunlight. God had put an exclamation point on the healing peace I’d felt during my fast food restaurant encounter.

I’m so thankful God knew and understood my grief. Although Dad was gone, he’d always be with me.

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