A Beautiful Account of Finding Comfort and Hope

I have a story to tell. Perhaps it’s not really a story, but, rather, a little vignette from my life. It is a vignette that deals with reality, or truth, or perception, depending on the reader’s interpretation.

Four months, one week, and two days ago my beautiful wife Catherine died, just short of our forty fifth wedding anniversary. It was a sudden and unexpected death. Although our children and I were inconsolable, I drew some small comfort from the fact that it was a very peaceful, painless and fear free passing from this life. But, it was only a small comfort.

The pain of her loss was nothing compared to my terror that she may not be at peace. I was wracked with guilt that I had not done enough for her, but even more with a consuming fear of not knowing whether or not she was in that place that we call heaven, or just cold in the grave we had placed her in.

The Despair of Grief

I am lucky to have a few, very good, friends. Less than you could count on one hand, but they are my anchors. Without them I would have floundered and drowned in the rough seas that followed Catherine’s death. They held me afloat as best they could. But even they and my beautiful children and grand-children were powerless to stop my drifting towards the grinding rocks of despair.

It was in that despair, that yesterday, as I was driving home from shopping in town, I received a phone-call from my dear friend Paul.( I hasten to add that my car is equipped with a hands free phone system.) Paul reminded me that the blackberries in his fields were ready for the picking, and suggested that I should stop by and pick some. In truth I didn’t really want to. What I wanted was to go home, close the door and shut out the world again. With Catherine gone there was little point in picking more berries. She loved apple and blackberry pies, and I loved baking them for her. But, I said yes anyway.

When I came back from picking the berries Paul and I talked. He told me about a priest he had met who claimed he could see Angels. I am a sceptic in these matters. I am not a church goer, and quite argumentative on religious matters. His story was simple, as all the best ones are. This priest asked the Angel for his name. The Angel replied that he was named Michael, and that he was his guardian Angel. The priest then asked the Michael to provide proof that he was an Angel, and three days later as the priest was walking along a street in Limerick, a white feather fluttered down in front of him. Obviously I looked underwhelmed, and Paul had to explain that the white feather was apparently the normal proof. I don’t think that my lack of enthusiasm impressed Paul, but we left it at that.

Finding A New Old Friend

On my way home I went first to the graveyard to put fresh flowers on Catherine’s grave. As I stood there Paul’s story came to mind. I remembered my childhood Catholic catechism and the prayer “O Angel of God, my guardian dear”. I don’t know what prompted the actions that followed. I nudged my elbow out as if to attract the attention of a person beside me, although there was nobody there. I spoke aloud. “Hey buddy, if you are there, then you have been there all my life. You know me better than anyone else, so there’s no point pretending with you. Unless you want to tell me your name I’ll just call you Bud. And Bud I need you to do me a favour if you can, because I can’t get any answers. I need you to ask Catherine’s guardian Angel, if he hasn’t been reassigned, if he could let me know that she is at peace, that she is ok, because it is killing me not knowing. Any sign will do: anything that could bring me some comfort. Thanks Bud.”

I went home, prepared my dinner, and washed and partially cooked the blackberries. As night was falling I lit, as usual, the candles that I had placed in front of my photographs of Catherine. She loved candles and always had lighted scented candles on the table and mantles. Since her death I have carried on this tradition in our home. Before I go to bed I extinguish the candles and check again that they are all out. When I switch out the lights, I check again to ensure the candles are fully extinguished. Last night was no different.

This morning when I came downstairs I did the usual, opened the curtains and made myself a coffee. When I came back into the sitting room to check my emails the first thing I saw was a lighting candle. Catherine suffered from OCD so she frequently had to rely on my certainties. When I did something I knew I had done it. When I didn’t do something I knew I hadn’t done it, and when I wasn’t sure, I knew I wasn’t sure. I knew the candles had all been put out the night before. I knew that it wasn’t lighting when I came into the darkened room earlier to draw back the curtains. I blew the candle out and went back to the kitchen wondering was it at all possible that I had missed it last night, and this morning. As I walked back into the kitchen I moved to one side with my foot what I took to be some fluff. It wasn’t fluff. I bent down and picked it up. It was a feather.

The Power Of Love

That is my vignette. I do not ask, or expect anyone believe it. I do not ask anyone to attribute any supernatural aspect to it. I tell the story as it happened. Do I believe the candle was lit by an Angel? Do I believe that an Angel left the feather on a floor that I keep spotless? No! I don’t believe it. Belief requires an element of faith. And this was beyond faith because I KNOW IT as an absolute reality. A reality as tangible as the keyboard I am typing on. As real as the love that Catherine and I shared. And equally certain of the message it contained. My Catherine is at peace and waiting for me. In life and in death, we are together forever.

Thanks Bud. I am glad I found you again. You have eased my soul, and reassured a tormented mind. The feather is in my wallet pressed against a photograph of Catherine taken on our honeymoon. The candle (Which, incidentally, in Doubting Thomas fashion, I compared in height to its companion candle. Both candles were the same height to the millimetre.) I have placed in the midst of a circle of Doulton China figurines that Catherine collected over the years. It is a very special candle. It will not be lit again until my time comes, when it can glow again for both of us, and Bud can take a well deserved break.

That is my story. Take from it what you will. Hopefully some will find comfort, and hope. Others, I suspect, will dismiss it out of hand. As for me…..! I know what I know, and am content in that knowledge.

Old Storeman

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