On Tim’s first anniversary, I was still on crutches (from a broken ankle), but all the sisters in my house drove me up to Tim’s grave. They even brought a folding lawn chair for me to be able to just sit at his grave. I read aloud from Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there you hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Let only darkness cover me,
and the light around me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to thee,
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with thee.
It bothered me for months that the body of my brother had not been found until ten days after he died.
This morning I was remembering a story I first heard about three years ago. It was told by Fr. Basil Nortz during a series of talks about the angels that we have on CD. The story was told to him by another priest and goes something like this: The priest’s mother died suddenly and unexpectedly one day, collapsing on the street after coming out of a store in which she had been shopping. The priest, upon hearing about her death, was able to accept it in peace, except for one fact: that she had died so publicly on the street, a public spectacle–his mother was a very private person and would never have wanted to have died in such a public manner. This was very disturbing to him. Why did God allow such a thing to happen?
A few weeks after the funeral, he happened to be in the neighborhood of the store and stopped in. The woman who worked there knew him and asked how he was doing. He relayed his concern about the circumstances of his mother’s death. She said, “Did no one tell you?” Apparently a young man who had been present came up almost immediately, put his coat around her, and held her in her arms until the EMT folks arrived. The young man helped her into the vehicle and then took his coat. The priest was so relieved that the young man had been with her, and, of course, wanted to know who he was so he could thank him. The woman did not know, nor did others that had been present at his mother’s death. Still he wanted to find him and thank him.
Sometime later when the priest was praying, he heard a very distinct voice: “I am the one you are looking for. I am the guardian angel of your mother.” He realized that the Lord had allowed his mother’s guardian angel to appear in bodily form in order to protect his mother, even after she had died.
The reason I share that story is very personal. As some of you know, my brother, Tim, took his life in March of 2006. I experienced God’s presence and comfort in untellable ways during those first few days after he died. But like the priest in the story, in the midst of my grief something continued to disturb me. My brother died on March 17, but his body was not found until ten days later, and that bothered me–that he was alone for those long ten days, and that haunted me for many months. Until I heard Fr. Basil’s story. As soon as he recounted the part where the priest heard the voice saying: “I am the one you are looking for. . .”, I began to weep because I knew the same was true for my brother–that his guardian angel had not left him alone during those ten days. God’s mercy is so great. “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! . . . Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Ps 139.8,10).
That is the heart of Christ for us and for all those we love. He will not leave us alone.
I don’t know why that story came to mind this morning. Perhaps one of you really need to hear it . . .