By Shirley Nordeck Short
While we are sleeping, angels have conversations with our souls.
The metal springs squeaked as I rolled into bed at ten o'clock that Sunday night. Despite the sagging mattress, I sighed with contentment. I was tired in a good way. I'd gotten up early that morning, bathed and dressed my three-month-old daughter for church, and driven across town to pick up my uncle Bert. I was so glad he could come to service with us. Bert was a World War II veteran who had suffered several illnesses and operations lately. What a blessing that he was well enough to call and ask to come along to Sunday School.
My uncle Bert, Daddy's younger brother, had never married. He had lived on the farm with our family. He was like a second father to me, especially since my dad had died seven years before. Bert was all fun and no discipline. He let my sister and I dress him up in aprons and stockings and Mother's old black pumps. He took us berry picking and sliced off bits of carrots from the garden with his pocketknife. Bert was my best friend and my hero.
After Daddy died, I left the farm and got married. After several years my mother remarried. Bert remained on the farm until his health began to fail, and he came to live with my husband and me. When my daughter came along, the tiny four-room house was too small and Bert went to live across town with my mother and stepfather. I saw him often, talked to him on the phone daily, and was so happy my infant daughter had a chance to meet her great (really great) uncle.
On that Sunday night, I tossed restlessly and kept glancing at the clock. Ten-thirty came and went, and the clock hands approached eleven. I worried about the alarm going off at six. I doubled up my pillow and looked toward the window. Maybe if I ignored the clock, sleep would come. My eyes closed, I began to relax and neared dozing. Suddenly in the distance I could see two objects traveling toward me. When they got closer, I saw they were angels. They were so bright I hadn't noticed a third entity between them. Now I could see that it was Bert. When they reached my side, I was lifted from my bed and joined them in flight. Bert said not a word, but I could feel him telling me he loved me.
We traveled for a short time through the blackest night I had ever seen. Then, in the distance, I saw a glimmer of light. As we grew nearer, I saw a mountain with a bright light streaming from behind. Along a beach in front stood several people. I recognized my grandparents who were dressed in white robes tied loosely with a sash at the waist. Then I saw my dad. He was peering in our direction as if expecting to see something. He looked neither aged nor ravaged by illness. He appeared as he had in pictures when he was a younger, healthier man.
I was so happy to see Daddy that I could hardly contain myself. I felt an overpowering joy. I tried to wave and call out to him, but I could not get him to notice me. And as suddenly as I had been lifted into the air, I was returned to my bed. The vision was gone. The dim streetlight shined through the curtains, and I knew I was far away from where I had been just a moment ago.
Even though I knew my beloved Bert was gone, I felt complete peace and fell into an immediate and deep sleep. My daughter never awoke for a feeding that night and I did not wake until the phone rang just before six. My mother called to tell me Bert had passed away. "He died sometime this morning," she said. She had called the doctor when she found him unresponsive in his bed.
The death certificate listed his date of death as November 6, 1973. But that was wrong. After I had gone with Bert on his final journey and returned to my bed, I had opened my eyes and looked at the clock. It read 11:58. Still November 5th. And that is the date I commemorate every year — the date my beloved uncle Bert went to heaven and God, in his infinite love and mercy, allowed me to accompany him home.