[ Divine Signs ]
She Heard the Angels Sing
On February 14, 2003, at 10:00 p.m. the call came from my sister, Darlene. "He's dead. Larry is dead." Our oldest brother had died from a massive heart attack.
It is often said that most families have one. A black sheep in the family is not an uncommon thing. Larry was our black sheep. He was always the loner. Larry marched to the beat of a different drum. He was always a troublemaker from the time he was old enough to walk. How a young person got involved in the horrible things he did is beyond my understanding. We were small-town, Christian people.
I was always close to Larry. He was my oldest brother. I always took care of him. No matter when he showed up at my door, no matter what shape he was in, I took care of him. In July 2002, he had moved in with my husband Bill and me. The last eight months of his life were spent with us.
Larry was never afraid of anything. He began to abuse his body with smoke, drugs and alcohol when he was around twelve years old. No one could ever tell Larry what to do. I cannot remember such rebellion in anyone. Larry lived a hard life. It was his choice.
For a brief time when we were younger, he was active in our church youth group. He made a profession of faith in Christ. I remember having such hope that finally he was with the right influence and he'd settle down and grow in the Lord. But the worldly influences only swallowed him back up and by the time he was 20 years old, he was serving time in a maximum security prison. Mom and I always said it was the best months of our lives because we knew where he was and knew he had a roof over his head and food to eat.
Throughout his life, we would go for long periods of time and never hear from him. We'd not even know if he was still alive. As I grew older, I realized he chose that kind of life and he stayed away to protect the people he loved the most, his family. He didn't want the kind of people he was involved with hurting his family.
When he came to live with us in July of 2002, a different brother arrived. He was a worn out, weary man, tired of the hard life and seeking peace in his life. Larry also came to us sick. Twice within a short period of time after he'd moved in with us, he was in the hospital. His rough life had taken its toll on his body. He'd ruined his lungs to the point where he had only 30 percent use of them.
Larry was a difficult person under normal circumstances, let alone when he was sick. The first couple months he was here were so trying. Sometimes he was downright mean. But he was my brother and I loved him.
Much to my surprise, shortly after Larry came to us, he'd asked for a Bible. I bought him one. I wish everyone could have seen the thrill on his face when I gave it to him. He took a brown grocery bag and made a perfect book cover for it. He read his Bible. I know he did.
I often shared with him how sinful I was and how I still do so many things wrong and fail in so many ways. I'd tell him how God always forgives me and never turns me away. I tried to get him to understand that God never moves, we move from God. I tried to get him to understand that God was waiting with open arms for anyone who needed Him. I know Larry wanted that from God, but I believe Larry felt he'd done so many bad things that he could never go back to God.
By the end of September, he'd gotten well enough to go back to work. All the progress we'd made with his bad habits started to fly out the window. He knew he needed to stop smoking. He knew his body wasn't able to take the hard drugs anymore. Yet he was Larry and Larry did as he pleased.
When I arrived at my sister's house the night he died, I was sure they were going to tell me it had all been a mistake and that he was going to be okay. It wasn't a mistake. Larry was gone. He was only 53 years old.
I stayed with my folks that weekend. I didn't want to leave them alone. Finally I had to go home and I didn't want to. My house is where Larry and I had lived together. It's where I'd taken care of him and argued with him and laughed with him. We'd watched Westerns together on television. He wasn't there now and I didn't want to go home. But I had to.
In the midst of my grief, alone in my office in the wee hours of Monday morning, I heard the angels sing. The house was still and silent. I thought perhaps someone had left a radio on, unheard until the house got quiet.
There was no radio on. I heard the angels sing, and they sang notes of harmony in unison. It was beautiful and soothing. It lasted but for a moment.
Within a few minutes of the angels, God came to me with a very distinct voice. "Dea, I knew when I brought Larry to you in July last year his time would be up on February 14, 2003. I knew it then, Dea. I want you to find comfort and strength in knowing I trusted you and Bill with Larry the last months of his life. Of all the people in his life, I trusted you and Bill with him." Then the voice was gone.
That morning in my office, a peace came over me I cannot explain. I realized my grief and pain was so important to God that He had come to me personally. He helped me to understand:
"When I was hungry, you gave me meat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; when I looked like a stranger, you took me in. When I was naked, you clothed me. When I was sick, you visited me and took care of me. When I was in prison, you came to me." Matthew 25:35-36
"Inasmuch as you have done this to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me." Matthew 25:40
Larry was my brother and I loved him. All the years I stood by him, all the times I'd visit him in jail or prison, all the times I wrote to him, all the times I took him in and clothed him and fed him, it took Larry dying to get me to realize I was practicing what the Bible tells us to do. Not only was I serving Larry, but I was serving God.