My husband Jim, battled emphysema and a bone marrow disorder for many years. When he didn’t have the strength or the breath to walk, I pushed him in a wheelchair to doctor appointments and blood transfusions. We knew one or the other illness would take his life. We knew he wouldn’t get better, only progressively worse. But we had faith. We believed in God’s promise of Heaven. Our faith and our love for each other grew stronger throughout set-backs and treatments.
One weekend I called the EMS to take Jim to the hospital, as I’d done on several other occasions. We expected he would receive treatment and I’d bring him home. But this time the doctor informed us the bone marrow disorder had become acute leukemia. There was nothing he could do. My husband might live long enough to go home with hospice care. But that wasn’t to be. I sat beside him in his hospital room and held his hand. In the middle of the night, the love of my life took his final labored breath. I sat with him, feeling the lingering warmth leave his body, called relatives and forced myself to leave him.
While I drove the lonely streets in the dark, reality hit. I shouted, “What will I do without you?” I pounded the wheel and reduced speed, as street lights blurred through the tears filling my eyes. A dark, empty house greeted me and I prepared for bed. In the silence, I knew I would never again hear the sounds of Jim coming home or feel his weight on the other side of the bed. Never another kiss goodnight. The loneliness of a first night as a widow was something I couldn’t have anticipated.
I had faith. I knew in my mind, Jim was with Jesus. But mental knowledge didn’t seem to be strong enough for that black night. After caring for him for so long, preparing medication, massaging his aching muscles—my hands were empty. There was nothing I could do for him now, and my faith faltered. Was Heaven real or a story in a book? Was Jim with Jesus or in the morgue at the hospital? Was he happy? Those questions threatened to suffocate me.
There was nothing I could do but go to bed and wait for morning, when family would arrive. I laid my head on the pillow. Then, the instant I closed my eyes, I saw them—a group of men sitting around a campfire, in my backyard. They were big men and wore white. The fire glowed from the center of the circle. In fact, they all glowed white. I didn’t have time to think about who or what they were. God’s perfect peace filled my being. On the most horrible day of my life, I was filled with intense peace, deeper than I’d ever thought possible.
I slept soundly that night. Every night for at least two weeks, I experienced the same vision—angels standing guard, keeping me company. Just like Elisha’s servant, in 2 Kings of the Bible, God opened my eyes to the truth. My beloved husband had simply stepped through the curtain into a world more real and glorious than the world here. He was healthy and strong and happy.
I still struggle at navigating life as a widow. But when things get tough, I look into the yard where angels sat at a campfire that night, and I think perhaps they’re still there.
"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them." Psalm 34:7 ESV