13: The Gift

13: The Gift

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

The Gift

No, I never saw an angel, but it is irrelevant whether I saw one or not. I feel their presence around me.

~Paulo Coelho

My husband’s beloved grandmother was a very nurturing person who had been raised on a farm. She was roundly plump, with white hair and kind eyes. She never had a harsh word for anyone, did not believe in spanking children, and could cook and bake like a dream. Her rhubarb and gooseberry pies were family legends. When in her presence, you knew you were loved. Babies adored her and if any of us had a colicky or fussy infant, all that Grandma had to do was cuddle the baby against her ample bosom and it immediately became content and drifted off to sleep. She was loved by all.

When she was in her nineties, her daughters placed her in a nursing home that was a distance from where we lived. My husband and I both had demanding jobs and worked long hours. But we made the effort to visit Grandma every weekend, if not more frequently.

One night, I had been at work completing a special, complex project and I was exhausted. I had been at the office about sixteen hours and it was quite late when I left. As I drove down the darkened freeway on the long commute home, I could hardly wait to get to bed. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I was startled by an overwhelming need to see Grandma. What an odd notion — I was not only tired to the core, but it would be after 11:00 p.m. by the time I would reach the nursing home, far too late to visit and certainly not appropriate visiting hours. I dismissed the feeling.

As I continued my drive, that overpowering need to see Grandma abruptly came again, this time even stronger. How foolish, I thought. Yet the feeling persisted and it became an imperative. As the off-ramp to home neared, I fully intended to turn onto it. Instead I found myself pushed forward, driving right past it. I arrived at the nursing home a little after 11:00 p.m. Feeling a bit foolish, I had to ring a bell to gain admittance.

When I got to Grandma’s room, she was sitting on the side of her bed, awake, with the light on. “Land’s sake, look who’s here!” she declared with a bright, surprised smile. She was delightfully pleased and so was I; the anxious feeling of being pushed suddenly fell away and was replaced by an enveloping warmth.

As I hugged Grandma and sat down beside her, she asked me how my husband was. As I replied, I heard a noise in the doorway and looked up. There stood my husband! I was as surprised and shocked to see him as he was to see me. A police detective, he too had been working on a project and was on an extra shift. His project site was about an hour away from the nursing home. He had asked special permission to take three hours for a personal matter and said that he would make up the time. As he came forward and hugged me, he softly whispered that he felt like an idiot, but that he had suddenly been driven by an urgent need to see his grandmother. Despite realizing the inappropriateness of the hour, the need was so strong and so insistent that he couldn’t ignore it.

We three sat close to one another, held hands and talked, reminiscing about days gone by and memories that brought smiles all around. It was a wonderfully sweet visit.

It was soon the wee hours of the night and time to leave. We promised Grandma that we would be back to visit the following day. She plaintively asked, “Can’t you stay just a bit longer?” We couldn’t. My husband had to make his long drive back to work and make up his time, and I had my long drive back home. We said, “I love you,” and kissed Grandma a fond goodnight. Once outside, my husband and I marveled at how each of us had come to make such an unusual visit at the same time so late at night, and had both felt a strong presence compelling us to do so.

Only a short time after I arrived home, the telephone rang. It was an RN at the nursing home. The voice on the other end of the line informed me that after we left Grandma went to bed and fell asleep. When someone went into the room to check on her later, they found she had passed away. It seemed so unbelievable; I could hardly process it.

My husband and I were stunned and heartbroken. But we were also deeply grateful that we had just been with her and had one more chance to say, “I love you.” We still speak of that night; how both of us, independently, had the same highly unusual guided experience.

We later learned we were fortunate that the night staff let us in to visit Grandma, as they have a strict policy against unexpected late-night visitors. It seems that even the nursing home staff felt compelled to help enable our visit.

Our experience was not one of a visitation with halo and wings. But whatever happened that night — however it came to be — it continues to leave us filled with awe and wonder.

However it happened, whatever angel insisted and compelled us to make that final visit with our beloved grandmother, we are eternally grateful for that benevolent blessing. Grandmother’s name was Berta Angelia, her life reflecting the “angel” in her name. I like to think that as she left this earth our compassionate angel greeted Grandma and was gently and lovingly guided to her ultimate joyful destination.

~Johanna Richardson

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