How quickly life can change. A sixteen-year-old texting while driving took the best part of us away, leaving two innocent kids without their mom. The most wonderful woman to ever walk the earth, my Sally, pinned against an icy guardrail, bravely clinging to her last moments of life.
“Tell Bo I’ll miss him terribly,” and, “tell my precious babies, Mommy loves them.” Tears filled her eyes, “I won’t be there to see you grow up.”
The car severed her above the hip. The paramedics told her the truth, pulling the car away would cost her the brief time she had left. Sally laughed, nervously asking for something to write on. My beautiful wife spent her last minutes writing, “Dearest family, I love you, I have had the most wonderful life, try not to be sad. Hold on to the memories.” She signed, “Mommy,” and, “I’m sorry, Sweetheart.”
I’m welding now, for Bath Ironworks, a shipbuilder based on the Portland Waterfront. It’s steady work – building Arleigh Burke class destroyers, for the U.S. Navy. I had to do something with my hands to keep busy or else lose my mind. Grief can do that. Work helps me forget.
I must have dozed off. My eyes open to the brightness of the noonday sun. Turning sideways I catch a glimpse of my son Brandon swinging stomach first, but there’s something else, oddly out of place. I can’t explain it. A girl, a young woman, maybe, is standing too close. Who does that? No one gets that close to someone else’s kid. What is she doing? She looks over at me, as though she would like to answer. I sense her thoughts as she realizes I see her. My heartbeat quickens, I count three thumps – before I figure out what to do - she’s gone. What was that? Who could she be? This is crazy – someone was there, then disappears. I have to question my sanity.
“Please come back,” I plead, mentally. “Whoever you are, whatever you are, I’ll wonder for the rest of my life! That’s not fair!” Maybe she wasn’t so gentle. My mind is racing now; Brandon is still swinging peacefully – oblivious, to what I’ve witnessed.
I ask anyway, hopeful, “Hey Bran? Who was that next to you?”
“I’m swinging by myself, Daddy.” He is giggling at me, his answer so matter-of-fact. I get chills.
Okay, I’ve cracked. To my credit, it did take a while for me to lose my mind. I put up a good fight the last two and a half years, but now I’m seeing things. After Sally died, I waited, hoping she’d show herself – to let me know she was okay. Surely our love could bridge the gap between death and life. If anyone would try - it would be her. I thought the chimes were Sally, the birds chirping, butterflies – the stern rustling of the leaves; it was all dreaming. Now I’ve lost it; for five seconds, I saw the most beautiful woman, as plain as the nose on my face. Then she disappeared. No one will believe me. The guys at work don’t understand stuff like this. I can’t trust anyone with this information. I thought I was a survivor and losing my wife hadn’t made me crazy. Now I can no longer say that. What am I going to do? If I tell – I risk losing my kids. I sit up and take a series of deep breaths to clear my head.
“You have the most beautiful faith,” I hear in my mind. It’s finally happened - I’ve completely cracked. I’m seeing things and hearing voices.
“You’re not seeing things, Bo. Look beside you, I’m here.”
My God. This is real. The most amazing creature is sitting beside me speaking directly to my mind. Now of all times, I can’t talk. My lips are frozen.
“Are you real?” I manage to ask mentally, overly stimulated.
She places her hand on my arm, “Yes, I’m real.” She smiles, gently shaking her head. “You must have been at peace. True rest is a gift from God.” When she thinks of God, I fall limp. She catches me, cradling my head in her lap.
“Who are you?” I think to ask. She leans over, blows sweet breath into my face, and communicates love and kindness without moving her lips, I understand the truth. She is Gabriella, a messenger of God. A guardian sent to intervene wherever she is needed. She is not the most powerful angel. Others far greater guard the outer edges of the earth. She is here briefly, to help change the course of events.
“Bo,” it’s funny, I hear her dulcet voice aloud with my ears. “Your faith must be strong for you to witness.”
“Well, it’s going to be stronger now. This is incredible... amazing... You’re amazing!”
“Sally’s in a place of peace and love.”
The angel knew that’s what I’d ask. “Is she happy, does she miss us? Where is she?”
“Slow down, I can’t give you the details, but you’ll see her again. True love always finds its way in Heaven. That’s all I can tell you.”
“Thank you, that’s the best thing you could have said.”
“You are blessed.”
“It’s like hearing the sweetest melody, say something, anything – it’s beautiful.”
“I bet you say that to all the angels.” The beautiful voice is teasing now.
“You’re the first angel I’ve seen. Are all angels female?” I was gazing in wonder at her face.
“I see...” Gabriella looked pensively, and then answered, “Angels can be male or female.”
“One or the other, I hope,” I said, trying to tease her back.
“You’re funny,” she laughed. “I’m a female angel, don’t worry.”
“Well, you’re lovely, ‘breathtaking!” I was trying and failing to suppress my admiration.
She giggled, “You’re sweet, we are not learning so we angels display perfection, the ideal possible in humanity.”
“You’re beautiful in every sense, Gabriella. Your skin, your hair – you’re perfect.” She is the most desirable woman I have ever seen.
“We’re archetypes, modeled after men and women. Not the other way around.”
I have the strangest sensation like I'm drawn to this angel. The feeling is overwhelming.
“Bo, that's why angels never show themselves, we are irresistible to humans. It's not your fault.”
“It’s strange, you’re reading my mind.” I can’t keep my thoughts secret from you?’
“I’m afraid not, I hear your thoughts as easily as if you were speaking them.” She began to walk, with a gentle gait that was as graceful as dancing, around me.
“Sally would have loved to be able to hear my thoughts like that.”
“What girl wouldn’t want to know what her man was thinking?” She continued pacing, seemingly filled with an excess of energy that she needed to vent by moving.
“You’re funny.” Smiling, I shook my head.
“No, it’s true; I hear a lot of prayers like that.” That statement brought home her angelic nature to me. Thinking of her listening to prayers and trying to help grant them was heady stuff, yet I felt remarkably focused and grounded by the thought.
“I feel clearer headed near you. Why is that?” I began to pace around in a less graceful imitation of her movements. It was a bit like being a moon caught in her gravity.
“Angels can focus your mind, on what you want.” She stopped and looked intently at me.
“Well, I want you!” The words came bursting out. I didn’t censor myself and I could see the disappointment in her eyes.
“Bo, you don’t understand yet. I’m a helper, sent to aid and protect. God made you in His own image. You’re his child and very precious, someday you’ll join him in heaven.” She began to move again. There seemed to be a rhythm and a pattern to her movements.
“Are you sure? It seems like human beings do an awful lot of things that are hardly godlike.” I was as entranced by her graceful movements as I was by her voice.
“Bo, think of the night sky with its billions of galaxies, each with its billion stars – God placed each of those stars – to show you who he is. Aren’t you in awe?” She completed the pattern of her movement and gave a graceful wave of her hand. The sky seemed to darken and small sparks of light hovered around us. They formed into a pattern of constellations
I looked up at them in pure astonishment. “I guess I never thought of it that way.”
“God placed eternity for you to witness, all you have to do is look up.” Her voice was gentle.
“I’ve wondered, especially after losing Sally, what’s it all for?” There was a familiar bitterness in my heart that had been there since her death. It felt as though Gabriella’s words were starting to draw that bitterness out like poison from a wound.
“God’s plan is full of wonder and there is a purpose.” She sounded serene and confident.
“Can you tell me what that plan is? What was the purpose in Sally’s death?”
“That’s not for me to say. You’ll have to wait and let the plan unfold for you.” She came to me and took my hands in hers. Her hands were smooth as silk and warm to the touch. The warmth spread directly to my heart.
I felt my heart begin to burn. Not in an unpleasant way, but in a way that invigorated me and made me curious. “When did it all begin? Was there anything before God?” I tried to take her words and the idea of God and God’s plan make concrete sense to me.
She shook her head and removed her hands from mine. “You wouldn’t understand, not yet at least.”
“Try me please, Gabriella.”
She gave my shoulder a light squeeze. “Call me Gabby.”
“Okay, Gabby, please try to explain as simply as you can.”
“Well, think of it this way. God, the maker of heaven and earth and all that is... I don’t know if I should be telling you this.” She seemed uncertain. Briefly, her hands twisted together.
“Please, go on. This is the most fascinating conversation I’ve ever had.” I looked over at Bran. He was still swinging happily and laughing. Reassured he was having a good time, I turned my attention back to my conversation with Gabby.
“Bo, He’s your father, your creator and your best friend. He’s known you since before time and part of you is with him now.”
“If that’s true, then why do I feel like it’s only me here, now?” Gabby’s presence was a kind of proof that she was speaking the truth, but I was still struggling to fully grasp what she was saying.
“It’s an earthly experience and a spiritual one. You asked for it. It’s his gift to you.” Gabby moved closer to me, but I stepped back. The bitterness wasn’t all gone from me yet. It seemed to increase again.
“I wouldn’t have asked for my wife to die and leave my kids without a mother.”
“God is good all the time, he gave you exactly what you asked for. But, things don’t always turn out as planned.” She looked saddened by my step back.
“Oh, so things can go wrong? Why does God let that happen?”
“It’s free will. It causes problems and is why things aren’t perfect here. There is darkness in the world.” She gestured gracefully with her hands and I found myself surrounded by a cage made of silver bars.
I looked around me at the cage in alarm. “What are you showing me? That the darkness gets us off track. It imprisons us?”
“No, but it definitely keeps you from seeing. If there weren’t free will, it would be like you were in this cage all the time; confined and unable to do what you wanted to do. Having free will liberates you to make your own choices. Unfortunately, there is nobody who is perfect and will never make bad choices.”
She waved her hands again and the cage was gone. “I know you won’t understand fully, but part of you - the biggest part, is with Him now, and so is Sally.”
“You’re blowing my mind...”