13: A Message for Mom

13: A Message for Mom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

A Message for Mom

God blesses him who helps his brother.

~Abu Bakr

James, the youngest of my husband’s three brothers, was twelve when a drunk driver sped around the corner and hit the bike James was riding. James died almost instantly.

The grief-stricken family pulled together tightly, but things changed. Vic, the youngest surviving brother, sixteen at the time James died, couldn’t help wondering, what if there were no afterlife and James was just plain gone, snuffed out of existence? Vic’s grades went down and he didn’t sleep well for a long time after James died. He tried praying, but came away with an emptiness, wondering whether his prayers were heard. If there was no afterlife, then God didn’t exist either. Eventually Vic quit going to church to put these questions out of his mind, but he hid his doubts and worries to make it easier on his parents.

My mother-in-law had a hard time, too. She faithfully went to church and kept telling herself James was in a better place. But five years later she still grieved for her baby and worried about where he was and whether she would see him again. She had a hard time recognizing the joys God gave her and took no pleasure in the fact that her three other boys had graduated from high school and found good jobs. Even when the oldest, Ken, married and presented her with a grandson, she couldn’t take pleasure in her first grandchild, because her own baby was gone.

“I’m sure James is in a better place,” she told her husband and sons one day, trying to reassure herself as much as the boys. “I just miss him so much still, every day.”

“I miss him too,” Ken agreed. “But I know he’s happy where he is now.”

“And he watches over us,” Vic added, wondering why he had said that. After five years, he still kept his doubts to himself, carrying a burden that may have been too heavy for the twenty-one-year-old young man.

Dad, who never said much, nodded, and Mom smiled. Vic thought she put up a good front hiding her broken heart, just like he hid his own feelings of uncertainty so he could comfort her. It was important for his parents to believe that James was happy somewhere, but Vic just couldn’t convince himself that the Biblical teachings about the afterlife were true. He glanced at Ken and wondered how Ken could be so sure that James was happy somewhere else.

That night, more troubled than usual, Vic woke in the middle of the night. His two-year-old English bulldog Smedley was whuffing softly, the way he did when someone he knew was about to enter the room. It sounded as if Smedley was asking a question. Vic sat up in bed and, by the glow of the streetlight coming through his bedroom window, looked at his dog, who sat expectantly on his red plaid blanket by Vic’s bed. Smedley stared fixedly into the air. Wondering what the dog had seen, Vic followed his gaze.

Suddenly a tingling went through Vic’s body, like a small electrical current, welling up from his toes to his head. At the same time the tingling started, the room became lighter. A football-sized spot of a gentle, golden light formed in the air in front of Vic and rapidly expanded. Vic glanced at Smedley. The dog’s eyes were fixed on the light, he had quit whuffing and gently thumped his tail.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Vic thought he should be scared, but he wasn’t. As his eyes returned to the light, a figure appeared, the outline of a boy. With a shiver of amazement, but not of fear, Vic recognized his little brother. James looked just the way Vic remembered him, with his cowlick sticking up and his freckled grin still in place.

“I’m fine, Vic,” the heavenly messenger said, still smiling. “Tell Mom not to worry. Tell her I’m okay.”

Vic reached out to James. The questions that had tortured him for the last five years vanished, and peace entered his heart.

“I will,” he said.

James, in his sphere of light, nodded. The light in the room shrank and faded away, taking him with it.

The peace that had entered Vic’s heart didn’t leave, however. He lay back in bed, and before he knew it, fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

The next morning, Vic woke, instantly remembering the angelic vision of the night before. Suffused with happiness, he smiled to himself. All his doubts had disappeared, and he could hardly wait to deliver James’s message. He rose and went to his job as the manager of a small store, but all through the work hours he thought about James’s message to his mom.

Bit by bit, his joy was replaced by worry. Would Mom and Dad believe him? What if they thought he was crazy, and then Mom would worry about him too? Why hadn’t James appeared to Mom instead of to him? Finally he decided that, whatever would happen, he needed to tell his mother as he had promised.

When he went to see his parents after work that day, Mom said, “It’s good to see you, Vic. You look happy. What’s going on?”

Vic followed Mom into the kitchen and sat down at the table, where Dad already sat, just home from work, drinking a cup of coffee.

Mom put another cup and a plate of cookies in front of Vic. “Eat,” she said. “You must be starving after working all day.” She sat down across from him.

Vic took a sip of coffee and said, “I have a message for you and Dad.”

Dad looked up, a question in his quiet face.

Mom frowned. “From whom?”

“I don’t know how to tell you, but. . . ”

“Did something happen to one of your brothers?” Mom interrupted, eyes wide in alarm.

Vic shook his head. “Nothing bad happened. I had a strange experience last night.” He told them about his nightly visitor.

Mom stared at him, a mixture of doubt and belief in her eyes.

“Are you sure you didn’t dream it all?” Dad asked.

Vic patted his mom’s hand on the table. “I’m positive I was awake. If Smedley could talk, he’d tell you the same. James is all right, and he doesn’t want you to worry. I’m not worried anymore, either.”

“Why didn’t he appear to your mother then, and let her know directly, instead of sending you to tell her?” Dad challenged him.

“Ever since James died, Dad, I’ve had serious doubts about God and the afterlife,” Vic answered. “I think God has sent him to me with his message so I would know for sure.” He squeezed his mom’s hand. “I’m so glad this happened. My doubts are gone now. I know James is happy and is somewhere, watching over us. Maybe God knows you have the faith to believe me, when I may not have believed you.”

Eyes bright with relief, Mom smiled, took Vic’s hand into her own and patted it with hers. “I do, son. I believe you.” She took a deep breath and glanced at Dad.

Dad shook his head. “I have always felt James was all right where he is now,” he said. “God’s ways are mysterious, and sending James might just be how He wanted to reassure you and your mom.”

In the days that followed, the other brothers too heard the message, and they believed Vic. The family pulled closer together, united through their faith in what had happened. Soon after, Mom put aside her grieving and started taking joy in the children she had left and the grandchildren. And Vic felt as if a new life had been given to him, through the grace of God who had sent the perfect heavenly messenger to the right person.

~Sonja Herbert

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