One of my readers, Marie Gromley who hails from Groton, Connecticut, recently wrote to ask if I believed in angels. She then followed through by sharing this true story.
Doctors had just informed the family that Marie’s eighty-three year old mother-in-law, Emily was dying. This dynamo woman, who had led church groups through decades of church suppers, bake sales and outreach programs, had suddenly grown lethargic. She had lost all interest in the things that had previously fueled her life with great joy.
Concerned, the family scheduled a doctor’s appointment. The doctor immediately admitted her to the hospital. A battery of tests was run. The conclusion—Emily’s organs were shutting down.
The doctor gently explained that there was nothing more that medical science could do. Emily’s life had run its course. He assured them that every effort would be made to keep her as comfortable as possible. She would, however, have to be moved into a nursing home facility.
Although the diagnosis was not unexpected, the family was bereft. Not only were they about to loose a beloved family member, but the care associated with her condition necessitated overriding her wish to die at home. When Marie’s husband gave his mother the news, she turned her face to the wall in teary silence. With a heavy heart, they left to make the arrangements.
The day of the move to the nursing home arrived. The family gathered at the hospital intent on seeing her through the difficult transition. With forced smiles, they stoically entered Emily’s room just as a nurse was finishing up readying her for transport. But instead of a woman riddled with anxiety and fear, Emily was propped up in bed, her eyes bright as sunshine, a soft pink flush to her checks.
“Good morning,” Emily called, waving them inside. “I’m so glad you all could make it.”
Marie’s first thought was, I don’t know what kind of med’s they’re giving her, but I hope they continue.
The nurse was enjoying the look of shock on their faces.
“Emily, why don’t you tell your family about the man who visited you last night,” she said with a grin, then quietly left the room.
Emily’s eyes sparkled. Her voice warmed with the memory. “I couldn’t get to sleep. I kept tossing and turning. I hated the thought of taking my last breath in a strange place. I’ve said it often enough. When my time came, I wanted to die in the comfort of my own home, surrounded by my things.”
For a brief moment, the look of joy left her eyes. “I’m also ashamed to admit that I was afraid of dying.”
She scanned the faces surrounding her bed with a look of defiance.
“I know what you all are thinking. How could a woman who proclaimed her faith in the Gospel be afraid of meeting the Lord she professed to have worshipped all of her life? But there you have it. Death was about to come knocking and I was afraid to open the door.
“It was after midnight. Everything was so quiet. I never felt so alone in my life when suddenly I looked up and saw a young man pushing a book cart.
“‘Emily,’ he said, just like he knew me. ‘I heard you where having trouble sleeping so I thought I’d drop in and pay a visit.’
Her eyes glistened with the memory. "I can’t explain it, but there was just something comforting about this young man. While he was here, I felt a wonderful feeling of peace. Petty soon I was pouring out my fears and disappointments. He didn’t say much. Just listened. But when I was through, he got and reached inside the book cart and handed me a book.
“I have just the thing for you,” he said.
I reminded him that I was leaving tomorrow and wouldn’t be around to return it.
‘No need. It’s yours to keep.’
She removed the book that had been tucked by her side and idly leafed through the pages. “I stayed up the rest of the night reading.”
“What was his name?” Marie’s husband wanted to know.
“Funny, I never thought to ask,” Emily replied.
While the others began to pump her for details, Marie headed straight for the nurse’s station. Who was this wonderful stranger that had helped a dying patient find such peace? At the very least, he deserved a card expressing the family’s deep gratitude.
The same nurse who had been attending Emily was seated at the front desk. She saw Marie coming and smiled.
“You want to know about Emily’s visitor,” she said without preamble.
“Why, yes. I can’t believe the transformation in my mother-in-law’s outlook,” Marie explained.
“We were all dreading today and now…”
“I spoke with the night head nurse. She swears that no one went in or out of her room.”
“But the book…”
“That’s another mystery. We don’t have a book cart and, if we had, we certainly would never have allowed a volunteer into a patient’s room that late at night.”
“Then how..? Who…?” Marie was completely baffled.
The nurse paused a moment, looked around then leaned forward to whisper, “Do you believe in angels?”
Emily went home to be with the Lord a few weeks later. Apparently, even though her stay was short, she left the gift of faith and hope in her wake. Staff members spoke glowingly of a woman unafraid of death.
Perhaps you’re wondering about the title of the book that was left by the mysterious visitor?
It was “A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s,” by Katherine Valentine.
Katherine Valentine is the author of A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s; A Gathering of Angels; Grace Will Lead Me Home; On A Wing on a Prayer; Country Fair and The Haunted Rectory. She has also shared her faith story on “Good Morning America” and asked to by the Biography Channel to participate in a four part series on the Apostles which aired earlier this year. She is a popular speaker whose faith story has touched the hearts and spirits of groups around the country. Katherine can be contacted through her webpage: http://www.katherinevalentine.com/ .