Hebrews 13:2 (NIV) states: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it”.
We have all been told about Angels and the fact they live among us. While I had heard the verse from the Bible several times in my life, it’s one of those things that you hear, file away, and move on. It doesn’t pertain to you, and won’t happen to you, correct? Well, that’s only until it does. Let me tell you a story, something that took place last summer, which forever changed my outlook on Angels in our world.
Mom had been sick for several years. She had been the primary caregiver for my Dad, during the last years of his life, when Alzheimer’s took control of him. Watching the health of the person you love, the same person you have been married to for 58 years, deteriorate was a horrible thing. Shortly before Dad passed away, Mom began the 7-year downslide of her own health. Our family spent many days and nights worrying about Mom, during those up and down days. In and out of the hospital she went, with varying ailments affecting her heart, lungs, skin, etc. It was a rough time for all, and the times were filled with many prayers. When not having her ‘vacations’ in the hospital, as we jokingly called them, Mom resided in the local nursing home, where she was mostly happy during this time. When her health was good, she was the home’s social butterfly. She was the Bingo Queen and enjoyed gossiping with the other residents. She was loved by all. She was content and even with her failing health, she managed to keep us all in line. My mother was a strong woman, and it was a brave soul that argued with “The Shirl”.
In late 2014 into 2015, the inevitable happened. Her illnesses started taking a much heavier toll on her body, her hospital visits became more and more frequent, and as much as my siblings and I did not want to acknowledge the fact, we knew what was on the horizon. While she continued to be the “Energizer Bunny”, it wouldn’t be long before God called her home. On June 26, Mom’s strength and stamina finally lost out to the ravages of age and health issues. She had reached the milestone of her 85th birthday just 20 days before, and I believe in my heart she was ready to go. Not that this makes it easier for those left behind, but it is some comfort when all is said and done.
In the ensuing days, my siblings and I made the final arrangements for Mom’s funeral, through the tears, second guesses, memories and regrets. The pictures were unearthed, the very large extended family brought together to say goodbye. It is at Mom’s funeral service where the extraordinary happened.
In the small town where my parents had lived since 1971, friends and family gathered in the local funeral parlor to pay their last respects and stay for the service given by a clergy family member. My sisters and brothers and I, along with our spouses or significant others greeted every single person who came through the receiving line. Many were other family members, known by all of us, while others were friends or co-workers. I say this because I need to make the point that each person who came to the funeral home that day was known by one or all of us. The day progressed, we got through the funeral service, proceeded to the cemetery, said our final goodbyes and went back for the gathering of family and friends for fellowship. It was at the gathering that I was approached by two of my aunts and an uncle. They asked me who the man was, sitting in the front row at the funeral parlor. They assumed it was an uncle from my Dad’s side of the family, as they said the gentleman looked just like Dad and was wearing a flannel shirt and work pants, similar to the attire my father always wore. Now, the thing is, my Dad did have a brother who looked just like him. However, my uncle had been deceased for close to 10 years. All three of my aunts and uncle saw this man, and had a discussion on how it had to be one of my father’s relatives. No one else did. He sat in the front row, spoke to no one, and just kept his eyes to the front of the room, watching my siblings and me, as well as my mother’s casket.
I immediately spoke with my sisters and brothers, to see if someone had entered the funeral home that we missed greeting. The answer was no. I spoke to my children, who were all sitting in the same general area as our mystery man, and they did not see him. I spoke with other family members, who had been sitting continuously near the door, letting people in an out, and they assured me they never saw this man I spoke of. I also must mention that there was only one door where people were entering and leaving. We spoke to the greeters and workers of the funeral home, checked the guest book, made sure there were no other doors in which someone could have slipped in or out, without being noticed. No one other than my aunts and uncle had seen this man, nor had he been seen coming or going into the funeral parlor. Our mystery guest was only there for roughly 30-40 minutes, and seemed to disappear. Let me say again, the people manning the door did not let this gentleman in or out, nor was it possible that he was not greeted and acknowledge by either me or any of my siblings, as the parlor is small and intimate. He just appeared, and when his mission was complete, disappeared in the same manner.
After much research and questioning, as outrageous as it may sound, we concluded my Dad had come to join us for a short time, to be sure we were alright, and to guide his beloved wife of 58 years home with him. While I’m very sad that I did not get to see him, it is so very comforting to know he was there, watching us, dressed in his casual best – as he so often was. No suits for Dad! For those that are still in disbelief, I understand. It’s hard to imagine, but it happened. There are some things that are divinely given, extraordinary, and unexplainable – even to those pragmatic souls such as myself. Thank you Dad, for being the gentleman and walking Mom home that day!