August 2006 - Volume 11, Issue 1
The capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.
- Pablo Casals
Jack and Mona Barnes, retirees from West Sacramento, California, parked their car and strolled along a nearby shopping area, soaking up the sun and watching the tourist crowd. When they reached the door of a favorite restaurant, they turned in without missing beat. When people have been married as long as the Barneses, they sometimes think as one.
The restaurant was crowded as the maitre d' seated Jack and Mona on the covered patio. Mona looked around. It was always pleasant there. She and Jack both noticed a lovely young woman sitting alone across from them: light brown hair, about thirty, perfect makeup, a designer handbag draped casually on her chair. The waiter was serving her lunch, and it looked so delicious that Jack, normally reserved, leaned across to ask her what it was.
The woman laughed. "It's fajita salad."
"Well, that's my choice too." Jack signaled the waiter.
As the Barneses waited for their lunch, Mona stole another glance at the young woman. Exquisitely dressed, projecting class and wealth, she was obviously a "beautiful person" one of those graced with everything needed for a happy life. Mona imagined the woman in a lavish mansion or jetting off to some exotic location.
Then Mona felt a little signal, a nudge from inside her soul. It was a familiar feeling, one she experienced sometimes as a gentle whisper and other times as a command. She waited, and the message came: "Comfort this woman. She has lost a child."
Oh, no. Mona pushed the conviction aside. She knew perfectly well that the words were coming from her guardian angel. As a member of a Seventh-Day Adventist church, Mona had learned about angels long ago, and she believed firmly in their existence and their purpose as messengers from heaven. Often she had been warned away from accidents or had acted on a request and seen things turn out in a beautiful way. But although Mona was outgoing and social, such things were not easy, especially when they involved a perfect stranger. How could she approach this woman with a memo from God? She wouldn't do it. "Comfort her," the voice prodded. "She has lost a child."
No! Instead of obeying, Mona protested. There's no reason to think she's lost a child. Look at her B she's laughing at something Jack said.
The voice was not interested in excuses. "Comfort her. She has lost a child."
Mona was miserable. Her stomach had started to churn. "I looked at the delicious food, but could not eat it because I was too busy arguing with my angel. While Jack and the young woman shared some cheerful comments, I picked at my salad, and resisted." Yes, she knew that God would love her just the same if she refused to acknowledge what was obviously his request. She also knew that all of us were meant to meet one another's needs whenever possible. But this would be so embarrassing! Meddling in someone's life B Mona would be tossed out of the restaurant if the young woman complained. Jack would think she had lost her mind.
But the request continued. "Comfort her."
And Mona's answer was the same: no. She just couldn't.
Finally, she and Jack rose to leave. The young woman was still at her table, enjoying a last cup of coffee, serene and elegant as she had been during their entire encounter. They passed her with a little wave. Mona waited as Jack paid the bill. Her heart began to pound. "You will always be sorry if you do not obey," her angel whispered, more urgent than before. "Go and comfort her. Now."
The battle was over. Mona could resist no longer. As Jack left the restaurant, she turned back and hesitantly approached the table. The young woman turned her lovely face up to Mona, with a questioning smile. Mona took a deep breath.
"God has told me that you have lost a child," Mona said quietly. The woman's expression froze. Mona stammered on. "I-I don't know the circumstances, or if it was a boy or a girl, just that you are grieving, and that God feels you have grieved long enough." Her words tumbled over themselves, coming from some deep place of awareness within her spirit, heaven sent. "You are making yourself ill. God wants you to know that he loves you with all his heart. You are very special to him."
There. Somehow, she had done it. The words hung in the air. Then, suddenly, the young woman rose, threw herself into Mona's arms, and began to weep, deep wrenching sobs. Mona clung to her, stroking her hair as if she was her own daughter. Some of the diners averted their eyes, while others watched, enthralled. "It. . . he was a boy," the woman said through her tears. "I thought God had forsaken me and didn't love me anymore."
"God would never forsake you," Mona told her firmly, more words rising. "So don't you forsake him. Live life his way, and you will hold your baby again. You'll raise him in heaven where no sickness or vileness can ever hurt him."
The woman clung to Mona. Gradually her wild weeping ceased and she quieted. "I needed this so much," she murmured shakily, fumbling for a tissue. "I was praying and getting so desperate. I needed to know that God still loved me."
"Never doubt God's love for you," Mona told her again. She kissed the woman and went out, past a group of hovering and bewildered waiters. Later, she would wonder why she never thought to exchange names or phone numbers with this woman in a gesture of ordinary etiquette.
And yet this had been no ordinary encounter. She had agreed to be part of God's plan, she had taken a risk, and now she was happier than she could remember being in a long time.
Jack was waiting patiently in the car, which he had double- parked at the curb. "What took you so long?" he asked her.
Oh, Jack." Mona sighed, sliding into the seat. "You'll never guess."
Excerpt from In the Arms of Angels: True Stories of Heavenly Guardians by Joan Wester Anderson (Loyola Press 2004). Reprinted with permission of Loyola Press. To order copies of this book, call 1-800-621-1008 or visit www.loyolabooks.org.
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