Miracle Moments Miracle Moments with Family

HE NURSE CALLED MOM FROM THE ICU waiting room at about 6:30 a.m. that Sunday. Dad was having life-threatening arrhythmias again. She called my brother, David, and he called the other four kids.

I had been at the hospital as late as 11:30 p.m. the night before but was tired from working and left for some much-needed sleep. None of the family had been sleeping much in the two weeks since Dad’s heart attack. If I had known that in just six short hours Dad would be dead, I would have stayed.

As I walked into the waiting area that morning, I feared the worst and hoped for the best. When I rounded the corner and saw my brother’s face my fears became reality. “He died three minutes ago,” was all he said. A burning lump seared my throat, and my body went limp. My mind would not—could not—grasp the news. Dad was gone! “Do you want to see him?” a very polite nurse asked. We didn’t answer her but slowly walked toward the ICU.

As I entered the room, my eyes strained to focus in the dim light. Slowly I allowed myself to look at Dad’s body. His crippled left foot from an accident long ago first caught my gaze. This, in itself, was more than I could bear because I was the one who helped with the therapy to rehabilitate that foot. My eyes inched upward towards his chest, then to his neck, then his jaw. I could see that his mouth was open. I knew that I did not want to see Dad like this.

The next couple of days were a blur. Funeral arrangements, caskets, flowers and other arrangements had to be made. My strength was gone. The third day after Dad’s death—funeral day—is only a shadow of a memory. I do vividly recall realizing that for three days, there had been a slow, steady stream of tears running down my cheeks—not crying, but it was more as if the grief inside me was ebbing away, allowing me to cope with the saddest day of my life. The funeral service was over as quickly as it had begun. The family was in the appointed car and the procession was en route to the cemetery. My strength had entirely evaporated. As the car pointed toward Dad’s grave site, I prayed that God would give me strength and that He would comfort my entire family. Becky, the eldest daughter, was in shock. Robin and Renee were drained and numb. Mom, even in her grief, was trying to console us, giving no thought to her own grief.

“Please, God, give me strength,” I silently said as the car rolled to a stop next to a spot of fresh dirt bordered by flowers and covered by a canvas tent. I had to look away from this picture of death. I glanced toward a statue of praying hands nearby and once again asked for strength.

The vision I had at that moment must have been a dream. Six young men dressed in suits were walking toward the hearse. But they were not really walking. It was as if they were gliding with their feet about six inches above the ground. “Angels with no shoes?” I asked myself. “Well, I’m losing my mind, or I’m sick with grief,” I thought. “What an answer to my prayers—barefoot angels!” However, I got such a strange sense of peace from my vision.

That day was long, long ago. Almost all the memories of it have faded to dust. When our family gathered for Thanksgiving last year, the conversation turned to loved ones who were gone. Becky was remembering how difficult Dad’s funeral was. The pain and her feelings of a lack of strength were her most vivid memories. Almost jokingly, she said, “But the barefoot angels held us all upright with the strength of God’s love.”

I still have not told her that I, too, saw them. Today when my problems become too overwhelming, I know God will protect me from those things from which I cannot protect myself. My faith and my spirit are forever stronger, and I know that somewhere near me is my very own barefoot angel.

Paul Sewell
Family member of a former CHRISTUS St. Michael patient