“Do not forget to entertains strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
The loss and loneliness were unbearable. I found it hard to function without my husband at my side. Bob was my strength and go-to guy for everything. We had traveled the world together while he was in the Navy. When he retired after 30 years of Navy life, we settled in a small town near relatives and resumed what we called “normal” lives. We became volunteers at our church, and I would spend many hours helping in the sacristy.
We finally had enough money to start some remodeling projects on our home when Bob started to get dizzy at work and passed out. He was diagnosed with a fast growing brain cancer and in a few short months he was gone. Everything had been put on hold while I nursed him through his illness. Our son helped as much as he could, but he worked two jobs. Our other children lived out of state and kept in touch daily by phone.
Family and friends were wonderful during this time. Even though I had given my life over to God many years ago in faith as well as actions by placing God first in everything I did, I could not handle the loneliness and grief. I felt robbed of my husband so early in our retirement. Instead of sulking and feeling sorry for myself I started to complete the remodeling projects and volunteered more hours at the church and local hospital.
After a few months my body was beginning to wear out. I looked pale and haggard. My son was afraid I would soon follow Bob and he urged me to slow down and let others help me. But I continued my grueling daily routine, dragging myself to bed completely exhausted, so I could at least sleep.
Five months after the funeral I was still working on projects around the house and this particular day decided to put a fresh coat of paint on the garage door. My house is located on a busy street that connects to an even busier highway. The driveway was less than fifty feet the street. Being short in stature, I needed a step ladder to reach the top of the garage door. Even though it was spring in Minnesota, the weather was warm; a nice sunny day to be outside. Exhausted from the heat of the afternoon, I slowly dragged the ladder back and forth while painting the garage door.
Being so close to the street, I could hear the roar of the vehicles when they passed by but ignored them. Instead I talked to God as my avenue of escape, and I continued the boring task of painting. As I applied the final brush strokes, I felt as if someone was watching me. Turning around I noticed a middle-aged man dressed in a winter Navy military pea coat and stocking cap at the end of my driveway.
How odd I thought that he would wear a winter coat on such a warm day. Then I looked into his face and noticed his striking brown eyes. My husband, Bob, had brown eyes. These eyes, however, were so mesmerizing and all encompassing, even from the distance of the driveway, I felt emotionally drawn to him.
In normal circumstances I would be very leery of strangers and tended to avoid them, especially living alone, but his eyes seemed to awaken a desire to get closer to him. I walked to the end of the driveway carrying my paintbrush.
“Why are you painting on such a hot day?’ he questioned me.
I wanted to comment on his strange attire but my emotions seemed to spill out all at once as I enlightened the stranger about Bob’s illness and death and my determination to keep busy to relieve the loneliness and emptiness I was feeling. I have a habit of using my hands and oodles of gestures when I talk. He listened attentively as I continued to talk.
His laughter was melodious as I revealed several humorous remodeling problems that ended in disaster and continued with what I planned for the future. His laugh reminded me of a church choir singing. His eyes penetrated into my very being and I could not look away from those beautiful brown eyes that reminded me so much of my husband. I tried to think of things to say to him to keep him from leaving.
I promised to meet some relatives who had a home on a nearby lake and was already running late. I finally reluctantly said, “I have to clean up my paintbrushes and get ready to meet some relatives.”
He reached out and put his hands on my shoulders and stated, “You know Bob is in a heavenly place right now and you should be happy he is not in pain anymore.”
With that touch pure joy entered my tired body and the pain of Bob’s loss disappeared. I felt at peace for the first time since his death. Even when he released his hands from my shoulders I still could feel their weight and the peace and joy remained.
We spent the last few moments together talking about my steady and unwavering faith and love for God and how that faith got me through my life and through Bob’s illness. I finally realized my husband was in a better place, but I still missed him.
“I don’t think your husband would want to see you working this hard. This was not his plan. It is too much for you to do.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I know he would be upset if he knew I was overworking, but I feel the need to keep myself busy. However, I promise I will slow down.”
Suddenly the stranger mentioned he had to leave because someone else out there needed his help. He turned to walk away and even though I did not want to lose his presence, I knew he needed to go. I turned back toward the garage, took a few steps and turned around to say something else to him – to thank him again. He was gone – disappeared.
I was still at the end of the driveway and looked up and down the street in all directions. He was nowhere in sight. There were no vehicles even passing by at the time. Because of my belief in God and the Holy Spirit, I realized instantly the stranger in the Navy blue pea coat had to be an angel sent to comfort me. My body tingled with this knowledge. I could still feel the warmth of his hands on my shoulders so I knew I was not dreaming.
Forgetting for the moment to clean up my painting tools, I called my son and relayed what happened. He responded, “Mom, you have been truly blessed. I agree your faith has brought you an angel to rescue you from yourself.”
I wondered then, if this truly was an angel, was I the only person who could see him? Do angels appear to one particular person and no one else can see them? If so, I thought I looked pretty foolish to people driving by as I was standing out at the end of the driveway waving my hands holding a paintbrush and gesturing as I talked to my beautiful brown-eyed angel.
At first I seemed embarrassed not knowing if people noticed my antics; but then I realized once again I had been blessed to have been comforted and healed by such a distinguished visitor.
I did take his advice and slowed down to smell the roses. I know Bob would have approved.