78: The Comforter

78: The Comforter

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

The Comforter

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.

~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It was midnight when I began to rouse from the fog of sleepiness, suddenly aware with my “mother’s ear” that one of my children was crying. “Please, God… show me what to do,” I prayed as I climbed wearily from my bed and went to the next room.

It was my eleven-year-old daughter Lauren’s room. Kneeling at the side of her bed, I tried to soothe and comfort her, knowing full well my daughter’s hurt was not one that mere words or hugs from Mommy could heal. For the first time in my fifteen years of parenting, I faced a dilemma for which I had no practical resolution. Neither my husband nor I could solve this problem or “make it all better” and that was a painful (and scary) realization for us. The problem we faced was the death of our oldest child, our three surviving children’s big brother.

As I settled myself into Lauren’s bed, rubbing her back, speaking what comfort I could, I thought back to four weeks earlier. We had been eagerly preparing to move to our dream home in the country outside our small town in southern Michigan.

During visits to the new property the four children had raced up and down the driveway, kicking up plumes of dust in an old go-cart, or scouted the woods for fort sites. It was truly a five-acre child’s paradise, complete with a nearby fishing stream. While our children reveled in the freedom and adventure of their new home, Earl and I had rejoiced watching them. This is what we wanted for our family, a place to experience life outside the crowded confines of our city neighborhood, and away from the roving gangs of boys who’d begun to harass our oldest child, who was fourteen years old. It had all seemed so perfect.

The new house had needed a lot work before we could move in, but we made it an adventure as we enthusiastically filled several dumpsters with the detritus of previous owners and scrubbed the little house inside and out. It was hard work, ripping out old carpeting, gathering up the trash that littered the property and hacking down the weeds that filled the yard. It was truly a labor of love for the whole family. In fact it was because of the hard work we’d all been putting in that Earl and I were glad when Wesley was invited to a sleepover at his best friend’s house. It was a much-deserved break for Wes and he was very excited to spend time with his friends.

“See you tomorrow, son, and have a good time!” I called as I waved goodbye to Wes on that sunny June day.

Wesley left home at 3:30 p.m. that Friday afternoon, and it was scarcely 5:30 p.m. when we received the phone call that would change our lives and home forever. Wesley had drowned. While playing in the water at a local lake he’d stepped off an unmarked drop-off and slipped below the surface before anyone could reach him.

The shock and grief of our loss was staggering. It seemed unreal that someone as vital and healthy as Wesley could be gone so abruptly and completely from our lives. The days surrounding the funeral passed in a merciful blur, and soon the crowds of well-wishers were gone and we were left alone to get on with our lives the best we could.

The much-anticipated move to our dream home had felt more like a nightmare in light of our circumstances. Everything seemed to remind us of Wes and his excitement about the move. Earl returned to work and his company began sending him out of town again. Everything seemed to go back to “normal” I thought, except Wesley’s place in the family was empty and it hurt us all terribly to have him gone.

That’s when these cries in the night first began. One or another of our three surviving children would awaken, terrified, confused and grieving for their older brother. At ages six, eight and eleven, such high concepts as salvation and eternal life were beyond their comprehension. We told them their brother was a believer and had gone to heaven to live with the Lord, but the children simply knew their brother was never to be a part of their lives again, and this knowledge hurt. With Earl gone, the task of helping our children deal with their loss fell more and more to me and I felt wholly inadequate for the task. After all, I was grieving too.

Tonight it was Lauren’s turn to grieve and I held her in my arms, rocking her back and forth, trying to comfort her.

“I want Wesley,” Lauren sobbed. “Please Mommy, I want Wesley.”

“I know, I know,” I crooned. “I want Wesley too, but he’s in heaven with Jesus now.” As I rocked my daughter I felt the familiar pangs of helplessness.

I don’t know how long I held Lauren that night but I felt myself falling asleep as she continued to cry restlessly. I laid her down, settled the sheets around her and stroking her hair, prayed out loud for her.

“Dear Lord we pray you will comfort Lauren tonight. You know how much she misses Wes and we ask that You please be with her and help her as only You know how. In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.” Then promising Lauren I would continue to pray for her, I returned to my room.

Back in my own bed, my heart aching, and exhausted from yet another night of interrupted sleep, my own tears began to flow. I wanted to beg God to remove this terrible burden of grief from our once happy home but instead I prayed.

“Please God help Lauren, be with her tonight. It hurts me Lord that I can’t take away her pain. I don’t know if I can ask this of You, but please, please can You send someone to comfort Lauren tonight? And if it’s possible Lord, can You please send Wesley to comfort her?” Praying, I fell asleep.

The next morning I slept until 9 a.m. and felt a renewed sense of strength, peace and comfort. It was the first full night’s sleep I’d had in a while, though it had come after midnight. Emerging from my bedroom, I found Lauren in the kitchen making toast for her younger siblings. Lauren greeted me with a broad smile, and I was relieved to see her more like her old self.

“Well look at you; good morning, Sunshine,” I greeted Lauren as I kissed my two younger children.

“Good morning, Mommy.” Lauren beamed. I laughed at the look of joy and mischief on her face and stroked her hair before kissing the top of the head.

“You look cheery this morning. I want you to know I prayed for you last night,” I began.

“I know,” Lauren exulted, “because someone came and held my hand after you went to bed.”

I stopped instantly.

“What do you mean?” I asked, thinking one of the younger children must have wakened in the night and gone to comfort their sister.

“After you went to bed I was still feeling very sad,” Lauren said. “And, I was lying there crying when suddenly I felt you take my hand and hold it very gently. I was so glad you’d come back that I squeezed your hand and I felt you squeeze my hand too, but when I opened my eyes there was no one there!” Lauren smiled.

I felt a tingle run the length of my spine, remembering how I’d prayed God would send someone to comfort Lauren.

“You weren’t afraid?” I asked.

“Nope, it wasn’t scary at all. I just felt happy and safe, and I went to sleep while someone held my hand.” Lauren was matter-of-fact about this marvelous revelation and took the toast to her brother and sister at the kitchen table.

I stood a minute, stunned at what my daughter had just told me and wondered… had it been the Lord Jesus who had taken Lauren by the hand or had it been an angel? Or was it even Wesley himself, allowed to return and comfort his grieving little sister? I decided it didn’t really matter who took my daughter’s hand that night; the miracle had happened.

Lauren and I both firmly believe God sent someone from heaven that night, to hold a little girl’s hand and comfort her during one of her life’s darkest moments.

~DeVonna R. Allison

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