In her old age, my mother sometimes has trouble discerning dreams from reality. A few days ago, she was napping in her chair, dreaming that she was at a bridal shower for one of our old neighbor girls, Beth, even though Beth is now a 63-year-old retired elementary school teacher.
The dream was as real as could be, and when my mother woke up, she mistook one of the CNAs that helps take care of my dad for the bride-to-be. The CNA kindly talked to my mom until she remembered who and where she was, and then my mother laughed at how foolish it had been. There’s a fine line between a dream that seems real and reality.
However, another time, in October of 1948, my mother had an experience that she firmly believes was not a dream. And I believe it wasn’t a dream because I would really like it to be true.
In April of 1948, my mother’s father Edward was standing in the bedroom of his home, looking out the window, watching the weather. It must have been storming, my mother thought. By this time, he was 74 years old and had retired from farming. His sons had taken over the farm operations and he was mostly, my mother laughed, the “errand boy.” He ran errands into town for his sons and did some of the less strenuous work around the farm.
As he stood in the window watching the weather, Edward suddenly fell to the floor. He had suffered a massive stroke. He was taken to the hospital in Fergus Falls where he lay all through that spring, summer, and fall.
Several months later, in October 1948, while her father lay in a bed in another part of the hospital, my mother was admitted to the maternity ward at the same hospital and delivered a baby—me—on October 24.
On the morning of October 26, two days after I was born, I was asleep in a bassinette in the hospital nursery and my mother was alone in her room. Suddenly, she was not alone. She looked up, and there in the corner of her hospital room hovered an angel.
“Did the angel say anything?” I wanted to know when I asked her about the story again today.
“No, the angel was quiet,” my mother said, looking thoughtful.
“But you knew why she was there?” I asked.
“Yes, she came so I would know that my father had died.”
“What did the angel look like?” I asked. I had heard her tell the story dozens of times, but I wanted the details.
“Long, flowing cloths—she was dressed in long, flowing cloths, and she was bright and very quiet,” my mother replied.
“But I wasn’t in the room,” I said, disappointed as I always was when I heard the story, that I had missed the action. “I was in the nursery.”
My mother nodded, continuing the story: A short time later, after the silent angel had disappeared, a nurse stopped by her room to break the news that her father had passed away. However, before the nurse had a chance to get any further than, “I need to tell you . . .,” my mother had interrupted her.
“I know, my father died,” she calmly told the nurse. The nurse had been surprised. ‘Who had told her?’ the nurse wanted to know.
The angel, of course. What could have been an upsetting experience, the death of her father, was one filled with reassurance and peace.
We should all be lucky enough to have an angel deliver the bad news in our lives.
It’s been over 60 years, and my mother has never seen another angel. However, she does not believe, not even for one minute, that she dreamed the angel. The angel was real.
I know that sometimes my mother dreams really hard. But deep in my heart, I believe that angel in the corner of the hospital room was really there. And I think the angel really did want to reassure the new mother that all was well, that her father, Edward, was peacefully in heaven—not to worry.
And I want to believe that the angel floated through the nursery and smiled at me on her way out.