33: She Found Me

33: She Found Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

She Found Me

The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.

~G. K. Chesterton

I didn’t open an independent bookstore in a small Mississippi town for the money. I opened the store to save my sanity five months after my son Perry was killed in an automobile accident. An avid reader my entire life, I always found comfort in books.

One rainy Monday, however, I found peace in that bookstore—not from the books — but from a source far beyond my wildest imagination. I spotted an elderly woman standing in the rain right outside the water department office across the street from my store. I assumed she had gone in to pay her bill and was waiting for someone to circle the block and pick her up.

But I was perplexed as to why she didn’t take a couple of steps back and wait under the awning of the building rather than stand there in the rain. After several minutes the rain was literally dripping off the end of her nose and I couldn’t stand it any longer. I feared she was senile or suffered some form of dementia and had wandered away from home. I grabbed my umbrella and hurried across the street.

As I approached her she gave me the sweetest smile. “Ma’am, are you waiting for someone?” I asked.

“No,” she said simply. That was even more disturbing. She was just standing there in the rain on a city sidewalk?

“Would you like to come with me to my shop and maybe I could call someone to come pick you up?” She agreed without hesitation and, sharing my umbrella, we darted back across the street.

As soon as we entered the shop she said, “Oh! This is nice. There’s a book I’ve been looking for.” She seemed unconcerned that she was practically drenched, and though she seemed perfectly lucid I doubted very much that she had been looking for a particular book or, if she had, that I would happen to have it on my shelf.

She went straight to the religion section. The gray in her hair had fooled me but now I realized she wasn’t nearly as old as I had thought. To my surprise she quickly made her selection and came to the counter to purchase the book. I remember it was a very thin volume on prayer.

I had meant to ask her if she needed me to call someone for her but I suddenly felt foolish. She was trim, her posture erect, her speech clear and precise, and her gaze seemed to see into my very soul. This woman didn’t need anything from me.

As if we were discussing the weather she began to tell me about her daughter who had died. I struggled to offer my sincere sympathy but all I could think was Please — not now. Not today. This was one of those days I was weary of the pain and just wanted to wall myself away from it. I didn’t want to share my own story and relive the trauma.

Her daughter had died of a brain tumor. She told me in great detail about the final twenty-four hours of her life. Perry’s cause of death from the accident was a severe head injury. They had kept him on life support for about twenty-four hours. The account of her daughter’s last twenty-four hours was almost identical to what I had experienced with Perry. How could this be!? I began to tremble with emotion yet she continued with her story relentlessly, her words slowly loosening the iron grip I had on my emotions. At this point I just wanted her to leave. I did not feel like reliving this right now and, quite honestly, I felt angry with her. Suddenly I burst into tears.

There was not one flicker of surprise on the woman’s face. As she reached and took both my hands in her own, her exact words were, “Ah. So I have found you.” To this day I cannot think of her saying those words without goose bumps rising on my arms. A warm rush of energy seemed to course through my body.

Without hesitation I surrendered to the wonder of her otherworldly presence. I laid my head down on the counter between us and sobbed as she gently stroked my hair. I remember being acutely aware of every drop of rain that fell outside my window and I was sure that heaven was weeping for me. It was no time for questions; all I could do was bask in the amazing feeling of love and peace that enveloped me. When I finally composed myself she asked if she could pray with me. Her prayer was brief and profound. After she left I could not remember a single word of that prayer but I will never forget its power. I only remember that her words were simple and seemed a little strange compared to all the prayers I had ever heard. It was not a prayer for comfort for my loss but a prayer for guidance in my spiritual journey.

She left, walking right back out into the rain as if it did not matter at all. I don’t know how long I sat there. The shattering pain I had felt for months was lifted as I seemed to float in a space where I felt nothing but a powerful healing peace. Slowly I became aware of my surroundings and considered my encounter with this amazing woman. It was only then I realized I had never spoken a word to her from the moment I began to cry — never even told her why I was crying. She never asked because she didn’t need to ask. “Ah,” she had said. “So I have found you.”

~Carolyn C. O’Brien

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