An Angel and a Wink

I try not to think too much about the death of my sister-in-law last week.  I'm afraid if I think about it too much, I'll start crying.  And if I start crying, I might not stop.  

In fact, I couldn't even go into the room where her body was during the funeral because there were so many pictures around of her and my brother and their happy, smiling children.  My goodness, to see the happy family in the pictures - the children who have no mother now - absolutely breaks my heart.  So I watched the children in the kitchen while the funeral happened.

Thankfully, the children seem too young to really understand.  When I first got there, my 5-year-old nephew told me, "Come on and see my mom.  Come see my mom."  And he dragged me up to the casket.  And as he said, "There's my mom," his voice cracked ever-so-slightly with sadness.  But then he skipped out of the room and played with toys, and he seemed happy the rest of the night (except for the tired moments).

And my husband says that my 3-year-old niece went up to the casket and kept saying, "Mommy, wake up!  Wake up, mommy!"  But that was about it.  And she showed no signs of understanding why mommy was sleeping or what it meant.

And the 7-month-old ... well, she smiled and charmed people the whole night.  She, of course, will have no memory of her mother.

Even typing these things makes me want to cry.  I have tried not to think about it too much.  And yet, since last week it's all I've thought about.  About how my dear, wonderful brother is a widower at 30.  About how these three sweet kids will grow up without their mother.  About how desperately I want to be involved in their lives to give them the love and support and security a mother would give them.  (See, there I go ... crying again!)

Anyway, last night this was going through my head as I was trying to sleep.  I saw the kids in my mind ... the way my 5-year-old nephew leaned over the table at the dinner my mom took us all out to two days after Jessica died (which would have been Brad and Jessica's wedding anniversary), asking if he can hug me ... how he ran up to me full speed at the funeral, with a huge smile on his face, jumping into my arms for a big, bear hug ... the 3-year-old jumping into my arms a couple days after the funeral, showing me her stuffed animal, Hobbes (the tiger from Calvin and Hobbes), and how I told her that I liked her tiger and she told me "It's not a tiger.  It's a dog!", as she clung onto me and wouldn't let me put her down ... the baby just smiling all the time, charming everyone who talks to her.  

And then I thought about how my brother sleeps alone at night now, how he has to make so many decisions on his own from now on, how brave he's carrying on in front of everyone but how heartbroken he's got to be on the inside, during the quiet moments when he's alone.

And I started to cry.

I felt my chest start to convulse with sobs that were rising up.

But I didn't want to cry.  I was tired.  And I was afraid I might spiral into a crumbled heap of heartache.  

And then ... an image passed through my mind.  Something that happened right after the funeral when I went grocery shopping.

I was walking around the store in all-black, still in my funeral clothes.  I knew I probably appeared very solemn, downtrodden, maybe a bit scary.  I didn't want to talk to anyone (and yet I wanted to tell everyone what was going on).  But I kept to myself, navigating through the masses of people to get my grocery shopping done.  I really just wanted out of the store, away from all the noise and busyness.

s I was walking out of the store, there were people coming towards me to get in.  And I was moving out of the way to get past these people when one person in particular caught my attention.  It was a young man, probably in his young 20s, really tall, maybe about 6-foot 4-inches or so.  And as he walked past me, he gave me the weirdest little half-smile ... and a wink.  

Now, I am in my 40s with glasses and half-silver hair.  So I know he's not winking at me to hit on me.  That hasn't happened in years and years.  

It was more of an "I see you and I know you and I'm saying Hello" kind of wink and half-smile.  It was a wink that jolted me out of the sadness I was feeling, making me go, What the heck was that?  That was strange.  Strange ... but cool.  (And yes, I did nonchalantly turn around to see if there was anyone behind me he could be winking at.  That would be embarrassing.  But there was no one.)

Most likely, it was just a nice guy who saw my solemn, downtrodden, scary face and decided to see if he could lighten my spirits a little.  But deep down, I wondered ... "Could he really have been an angel, sent to encourage me, to remind me that God sees me and that He knows what's going on down here and that He's got it all in His hands, even the seemingly senseless tragedies?"

I don't know who he was or why he winked ... but I like my version of the story.  That an angel winked at me to remind me of God's presence and goodness and sovereignty.  To remind me that even when it hurts, it's okay ... because God's watching over it all.

And last night as I thought of this wink, I stopped crying, sighed deeply in thankfulness that God is a big God, and fell asleep.

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it."  (Hebrews 13:2)

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