[ Divine Signs ]
Joy In the Mourning
I had a fairly dysfunctional childhood. Dad was a merchant marine and his rare visits home were very stressful for all of us. We hardly knew him, yet he expected us to know his standards of behavior for us and to behave accordingly.
Mom and Dad divorced when I was seven, my sister nine, and my baby brother was six months old. Dad rarely sent money home, so Mother tried various ways to provide for us. In our small "railroad town" there just wasn't much work, and there wasn't any public assistance available then. Mother did the best she could, but there came a day when she realized that it wasn't enough, and she sent my sister and me to live with separate relatives "for a while," just until she "got on her feet." We were never together as a family after that.
I lived at one time or another with every relative we had, and with non-relatives too. I found out early on that learning and obeying the "rules of the house" in which I lived made things a lot easier for me. I had a hard time trusting anyone and didn't make friends very easily. By the time I reached my early teens I felt unloved, abandoned, lonely and unsure of my future.
God had a plan for me though. I lived in a Christian home for a while when I was 12 years old. Church attendance was part of life there, and one day God used the sermon to show me that He loved me unconditionally. Jesus started a relationship with me that day that replaced and exceeded all others missing in my life.
Periodically, Dad floated in and out of my life; once when I was 14 years old, he came through the town where I lived and called me on the telephone. Then, when I was a wife and mother of two toddlers, he just showed up at my door, out of work and needing a place to stay. He stayed about three months, and then one day he just didn't come home from his job. I had five children the next time he "dropped in." He stayed several months, long enough for a bonding to take place with my children.
The last time Dad came to visit, I had graduated from a nursing program and was working as a Registered Nurse. He was terminally ill and needed someone to take care of him. He said to me, "I've lived my life just exactly as I wanted to, and it cost me everything that was dear to me. I wouldn't wish my life on my worst enemy! I'm not afraid to die, but this isn't living!"
My answer to him was "Dad, I can hardly bear to think of going to Heaven and not finding you there!" He told me he had "made peace with the Lord a long time ago."
But I had no peace after Dad died. I knew of nothing that provided evidence of his relationship with Jesus. Whenever I thought of him, I saw him as he was when he died; helpless, sick, and struggling to breathe. I could not shake the sadness I felt.
Exactly one year after my Dad's death, I was sitting in my Sunday School class thinking about him. We had just received our new Learner's Guides for the next quarter. I was casually leafing through the book while praying, "Oh Lord! I am so sad about Dad! I wish I knew if he was with you!"
Suddenly something on one of the pages caught my eye, but it had passed so quickly that I couldn't quite tell exactly what it was. I started turning the pages slowly, looking for whatever I had seen. Suddenly I was staring at a half-page picture of my Dad!
Eight Mile, AL