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5 Unexpected Gifts from Departed Loved Ones

These angelic messages brought heaven-sent comfort and reassurance.

White gates with angels built inside; Illustration by Weitong Mai

A Working Connection by Genevieve Ann Wakely

Visiting Angels was the name of the homemaker/companion agency where I’d recently started working. I could use a visit from an angel myself, I thought as I drove over to see Cal, one of my new clients.

Cal and I were still getting to know one another, but I told him what was on my mind that morning. Since my brother Al had died from heart failure, I missed him every day: his jokes, his larger-than-life smile, the way he always saw me as his little sister. “He was one of a kind,” I told Cal over coffee.

“I’m just putting the pieces together,” Cal said, “but I think I knew your brother.”

Cal had worked at a power plant before he retired. When the plant experienced electrical problems, he’d call Al, who worked in the electrical field. They’d had many long chats together. “It was 30 years ago, but I remember him well.” We wound up swapping stories about my brother all day.

“Seemed like he had a nickname for everyone,” Cal laughed. “What was yours?”

“Baby Sistah!” I declared. The Visiting Angels agency had worked overtime with my big brother today.

Butterfly Message by Julie Sobolik

Dad hadn’t made any changes in the house after my mother died. Now, 17 years later, I was sorting through both their belongings while planning Dad’s military funeral. My friend Kathy came over to help and listen. “Looking at all Mom’s things feels like losing her all over again,” I said.

We went outside for a breath of air, and I wandered straight to Mom’s old garden, perhaps hoping somehow to find her there. Of course the garden was now completely overgrown, yet another reminder that Mom was gone from me. “This used to be her favorite spot,” I said to Kathy.

I reached out a hand to the willow tree in the back corner of the garden. Mom had planted the tree herself. I wish you were here to help me with Dad’s funeral arrangements, Mom, I thought. I wish you were here with me, period.

Just then I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. A butterfly flitted around my head. “It’s so perfectly white and beautiful,” Kathy said. While the butterfly circled, a clear voice seemed to float in the air, following in the butterfly’s path. The voice couldn’t have been more familiar: “I’m glad you’re here.”

I was grateful for my friend’s support that day and for the words I heard from Mom in heaven.

My Friend Nadia by Norma Sarmi

Nadia and I had sons in the same first-grade class. She stood out to me right away because hers wasn’t a name you hear every day. I was still learning the ropes of parenting, but Nadia was a pro with four children of her own. “You’ll figure it out,” she assured me when I felt overwhelmed. “And I’ll be your sounding board.” Nadia became a trusted friend, and we grew even closer after she joined my prayer group.

When Nadia died of cancer almost 20 years into our friendship, my heart broke for her family. I didn’t know where to turn without her.

One evening while I was attending a school event, I felt myself missing her more than ever. The event was crowded; there were plenty of parents to talk to. But there was only one Nadia. She’s still with you, I told myself. Nadia’s faith was strong. I had to believe she watched over all of us from heaven. But I wished I had a sign telling me that was so.

At the end of the night, I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. As I gave her a hug, I thought, Maybe this is my sign from God reminding me of the many friends I have in the world. We had a lot to catch up on. I told her all about my son. She pulled out her phone to show me a picture of her daughter. “This is Nadia,” she said. “Her name means hope.” It was a name I would think of every day.

Mother’s Bible by Ruth Steinkoenig

Because my mother died when I was only five years old, I’d always cherished her well-worn Bible. I sometimes thought that holy book knew Mom better than I ever got a chance to. I read it often, looking for a kind of motherly guidance even now that I was 60, and found comfort in my favorite verses, like John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life…” The Bible was my most concrete connection to Mom. That and the faith I knew we shared.

Still, I would have given anything to talk to her or to read a note of encouragement written to me in the beautiful penmanship I’d admired in her letters to others. But she hadn’t ever gotten a chance to write to a daughter so young. I reached for her Bible, as I always did when I felt a longing. As I opened it, a slip of paper fluttered to the floor. Where did that come from? I thought. I never tucked anything into the Bible’s pages.

I picked up the slip of paper and read, “I am the resurrection and the life…” My favorite Bible verse, written in my mother’s beautiful hand. A note just for me.

The Answer by Carolyn Gilbreath

I stepped into the quiet chapel and spotted only one other person: Karen, a regular at my church. I hadn’t seen her for a while and decided to say a quick hello. As I approached, I saw tears in her eyes.

“My son died a few weeks ago after surgical complications,” she explained. “I just got back into town.”

I sat down beside her and took her hand. I’d lost my husband to cancer 15 years before and felt Karen’s pain. We talked about finding solace in God, even if sometimes he seemed silent in our grief. We agreed that there were times we had more questions than answers.

Eventually, we settled into a comfortable silence. Then I heard something. It sounded like talking, maybe a cell phone? Mine was on silent. Karen looked over at hers, where she’d left it on a seat a few feet away. She reached over and picked it up. “That’s strange,” she said. “How did my phone turn on?”

We both looked at the screen. The Siri app had connected. Its message? “I am here.” Karen and I knew who it was from.

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