[ Divine Signs ]
Out of Grief, Peace Flowered
Since moving to Mobile, Alabama I have experienced several things – most of which tested my faith and some of which were miraculous.
My first day here, while helping my handicapped fiancé to the car, my purse was stolen with all the money I had in the world. Yes, $4,000 in cash, my credit card, and Mike's gold bracelet. Needless to say, my high hopes for happiness were being tested. On the bright side, we weren't knocked in the head or hurt.
Six months earlier I had left my nursing job, my family, and my little home on a lake to pursue a dream with my fiancé, Mike. It was great opportunity. I was 47 years old and I had never lived outside Oklahoma. I grew up on a farm in Northeast Oklahoma. Both my parents taught Sunday school and if we were poor I did not know it because we were rich in love, faith, and family values.
Not long after the robbery, the next strain on me arrived the form of a siege of hurricanes – four in all. The first one missed us and mostly hit Florida. Friends, and former patients of mine inquired about it. But I paid scant attention to the storm, as my family and I were grappling with the tragic news that my brother Roger's only son, Straton ("Lake", as we called him), had committed suicide the day before the storm had made landfall.
My nephew had been out with his friends one night, after which a friend had dropped him off at his mother’s house. (My brother, a veterinarian, and his wife were separated.) Lake was to return to college at Oklahoma State University the next day. Afterward, the boy’s mother admitted that they had had "words" and that Lake had brandished a gun, threatening to kill himself. He later went upstairs, turned up the music, and shot himself. His body was not discovered until several hours later, when his mother called my brother at his office and told she was unable to wake Lake.
There were so many questions, questions for which we will never get answers. Mike and I made the long trip back to Oklahoma and the 900 people at the funeral spoke accolades, showing a love that my nephew was obviously unaware existed. There were school chums, college fraternity brothers, numerous friends, family, and neighbors. Why hadn't he cried out for help to just one of us?
There was little I could do to console my brother. Lake was only 21 years old and my brother would never experience seeing his son graduate from OSU, get married, have grandchildren or any other such things that we all take for granted.
I went over to visit Roger following the day of the funeral. This, I had told myself was for him -- but in retrospect I think I was looking for comfort or answers for myself as well. Lake, always pleasant, smiling, and polite had told me once I was his favorite aunt. I remembered how this had made me so happy at the time.
Roger asked me to step out on the deck of the house, where there sat a modest plant. He told me of the miracle of it.
Apparently Lake had admired a plant belonging to his grandmother, whom the Parker grandchildren had named “Nanny.” Nanny, being the generous person she was, gave Lake a start of the plant, along with an empty pot with had angels painted on it in a delicate style known as “toile.” This was kind of funny, since Lake was a strapping 6'5" tall, good looking, young man with red hair and freckles. Lake later named the plant "Betty," in honor of Nanny's given name.
Lake headed off to college that year and, along with all of his prized possessions, went the plant. With all the activities a college boy has, and being dragged back and forth, the plant hadn't fared too well, but "Betty" came home for the summer anyway. The plant, nearing its demise, was placed outside on the deck at my brother's place at the beginning of summer. Instead of reviving, though, it pretty much continued to decline.
The miracle of the story is that the day following Lake's funeral, "Betty" came to life. There were new green leaves and buds everywhere. Yes, there in that pot with the toile-painted angels. Lake was surely sending us a sign that he was okay.
After a lot of tears, we actually managed to laugh a little I told my brother that I wanted to leave and go over to Nanny's and relay the story to her. There she sat, somewhat tearful, in her beautiful house. Several people from the Christian church had sent her sympathy cards, which she was reading.
As I began the story she started to smile and asked me to step out on her deck. There was the original plant. Hers, which had always been healthy, had a pink bloom on it. I asked her what the surprise was and she told me. Although healthy, the plant, which she had for two years, had never before bloomed. Here on the day after Lake's funeral was yet another sign: there, on the otherwise unremarkable plant, was a beautiful pink bloom.
We both cried, but these tears were of happiness that this was a sign not just from Lake, but from our Lord Jesus Christ, that there is life after death and of his great promise that we will one day be together.