99: The Check

99: The Check

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

The Check

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.

~Dan Rather

At age forty-eight, after twenty-nine years of marriage, I was a widow with four sons at home. Tom died after a long battle with cancer. At the end, I bent down, kissed his forehead and whispered, “It’s okay, you can go.” It was the permission he needed to leave us and end his suffering.

We believed we had taken care of most of the details associated with his death. I had the necessary account information to handle paperwork for Social Security, life insurance, retirement accounts, and the tedious, time-consuming tasks of becoming a single mom. At least that’s what we thought.

In the aftermath of numbness, I began the process of filling out forms, sending for copies of the death certificate, and making appointments to “prove” that my husband was gone and life as we knew it was forever changed.

However, one evening as I looked through the information for a rather large, work-related life insurance policy, I found myself a little alarmed. This policy required my husband’s membership in an organization that he had belonged to for ten years. The membership fee was paid annually by Tom’s employer.

But what I saw in the folder was an invoice Tom had received for the membership fee. He had copied it and passed on to his employer for payment. I would need to contact them for proof of payment.

The next day I called his company and explained my request. His supervisor indicated she would check on the invoice status and let me know. The invoice was dated several weeks before his death so there had been adequate time for payment. Not one given to deceit, I also called the life insurance company and told them I was waiting on this proof of payment.

However, the next day, Tom’s supervisor called. “I just cannot find any record that we have paid this invoice. I cannot imagine how it would have slipped through the cracks, but we apparently failed to update your husband’s membership. I am so very sorry.”

“Sorry” seemed like the smallest possible word for what I had just been told. Tom’s driving commitment after his diagnosis was to be certain we would be financially secure when he left us. The income provided by this policy was one of the provisions to make that possible. And I was being told that the company had overlooked his membership payment! That omission was all this life insurance company would need to deny our claim.

Sick to my stomach, I hung up the phone and raged. “God, I thought You were a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow. You have taken my husband. How could You allow this to happen as well?”

I finally bowed my head and prayed—but not to God. To my husband! I was not in the habit of speaking to the dead nor did I have beliefs that encouraged it. I believed that our loved ones were content in heaven, healed and whole, and we would just have to wait our turn.

But at this point, I needed to hear from Tom and all I knew to do was demand it. “Tom,” I urged. “This is a horrifying situation. And I know that you would have never left us if you had any idea this membership invoice wasn’t taken care of. If there is any possible way you are able to speak to me from heaven, you need to do it now and tell me what to do.”

I don’t know what I expected to happen. Probably nothing. But in the silence that followed, a miracle took place. These words came to me: “Go look at the invoice again.” Like a robot, I obeyed this order.

Standing there with the invoice in my hand, I read it over and over. Could I really be I missing something?

Then I saw it. At the bottom of the invoice, penciled in, was a four-digit number. Could it possibly be a check number?

I ran to the box that held our canceled checks and record book. Searching through the record book, I found the check number Tom had listed. Yes! It was made out to the organization that carried his life insurance policy—for his membership fee! I sorted through the canceled checks and found the check he had written. It was the proof I needed. The life insurance money would be ours.

Rather than take a chance that his employer would not pay the membership fee in time, Tom had paid it himself and passed on the invoice for them to reimburse him.

As I looked from that invoice with the penciled in number and back to the canceled check I held in my hand, I knew with certainty my husband had clearly led me to the information that I needed. Yes, God is a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow.

But for one miraculous moment in time, He had allowed my husband to communicate with me from across time and space. This one last message from beyond the grave was an incredible gift that also gave hope and faith to my grieving heart.

~Lettie Kirkpatrick Burress

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