69: An Unexpected Journey

69: An Unexpected Journey

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

An Unexpected Journey

Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.

~Thomas More

She wasn’t supposed to die that way. Nor was she to die so soon, so suddenly. We often talked of how she was my best friend. What would I do without her? But on December 9, 1995, her seventy-first birthday, she woke up “dizzy.” In a half hour my mother was dead.

It was right before Christmas and so much was going on, including her birthday celebration. She was supposed to host another birthday party, for a friend’s three-year-old, in eight days—she was that kind of woman. So I was not surprised when people poured into the house, doing what they could, saying what they thought would help, and being there for us. While I was able to stay calm for Dad’s sake, I really only wanted one person there—my mother.

Mom had chosen the Christmas tree. It was out on the sun porch, and Dad said we needed to put it up. He also insisted after her funeral we have the party for little Brandon as she had promised him. He was too little to know why she wasn’t there. So we went through the motions, and I cried surprisingly little; I just felt like I had to hold the guys together. My sister was also in deep sadness. But maybe she was right—I saw death at the hospital constantly and was numb to the sting of it.

One of my mother’s closest friends was a pastor who had once preached at our church. He had lost his favorite aunt just eight weeks earlier, and so I leaned on him for two reasons: he knew how to help with grief counseling and he had experienced it himself. So we talked.

I asked him where she was. I needed to know. A lifelong Christian, I never thought about where we went immediately following death, until it took my mother. He said with a soft smile, “She’s with Jesus. Remember the crosses—when He told the thief that repented ‘Today you will be with Me in Paradise.’ ” I smiled, trying to accept his answer. But I just couldn’t be satisfied, even though I knew I should be.

This is how I went through the holidays too, just wondering. People in my church said things like “Your mom is spending her first Christmas in Heaven” with a smile on their faces. I wanted to say, “How do you really know?” I just wanted to feel better. I said the same prayer every night: “God please let me know she’s with You. Please.” And then the next day would be the same. It went on for months.

One night, no different than the others, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Again I prayed and asked God to please take care of my mother, since I could no longer see her. Then something miraculous happened.

I was no longer looking at the ceiling. I was floating over a road, looking straight ahead, and saw a “Y” in the road. I noticed the sheen on the road, the thick bushes and the huge tree ahead. I didn’t get a chance to look long, because I suddenly was somewhere else. I was looking at a house—close up—made of sand-colored stone bricks, with two windows in the front. I saw thick greenery in front of the windows and around the house, and they bloomed with the most colorful flowers. I had never seen that kind of flora before in my life! Amongst them were beautiful birds, some flying, some just walking beneath the bushes. Then I realized the windows had no glass in them! What kept the birds from going in?

And then I was inside.

I was in a living room and heard voices. Everything was muffled though, like I had cotton in my ears. I could hear, but not make out the sounds or words.

And then I realized who I was looking at—my maternal grandfather! Even though he had passed away when I was three, I was very close to him. I remember so many things about him, and there he was, talking to… my mom! She sat across from him, and they appeared close in age now. I wanted to hear what they were saying. To my right came this slightly younger girl, with very long red hair. While I had never laid eyes on her before, I knew it was my sister Linda. She died one year before my birth. I just knew it was her. She came into the room with such grace and then… I was staring at my ceiling again. In my bedroom. Wide awake. I knew I hadn’t fallen asleep. I knew I had been given a gift. The tension I felt was now replaced with the most peaceful feeling. It was a calm I’ve never felt before or since. With a “Thank you, God,” I knew He had allowed me to see her. Knowing I’d join her someday, I fell peacefully asleep.

I have repeated this story to very few people. I did tell my current pastor, who said he had heard similar stories, and believed I was given a glimpse of Heaven. I know I did, and I also know that I didn’t just see my mother, but also my future home. And that was even more than I had prayed for.

~Sharon Knopic

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