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Reaching Out for Heavenly Help

A heavenly visit makes a life-changing impression in this excerpt from Dreams of Angels.

An artist's rendering of a grandfatherly angel, reaching out his hand

How had my life gotten to be such a mess? I sat alone in my apartment asking myself that question. I’d stayed out late the night before at a bar, slept the morning away, and I still felt exhausted. I had no job to go to; I couldn’t hold one. It was too hard to get out of bed most days.

I pulled myself to my feet and went to the mirror, hardly recognizing the gaunt face that stared back at me. I was 27 and weighed 85 pounds. It was no wonder I got sick so often, but I just didn’t care enough to eat well.  

A therapist had diagnosed me with depression, but I quit going to my sessions. The only people I saw regularly were a bunch of friends who spent their lives barhopping. Drinking didn’t make me feel any better, but at least it was better than being all alone. 

I reached for a hairbrush, and my eye fell on a photograph on my dresser: Grandpa. He had died a few years before. If only you were here, I thought, you would know how to make everything better.

That’s what Grandpa had always done for me growing up. My parents had divorced when I was 3, and my father removed himself from my life. Mom was unstable, sometimes leaving my younger brother and me for long stretches.

We spent a lot of time with our grandparents. Grandpa was so strong and protecting, I believed nothing bad could touch me with him by my side. No matter how sad I was, Grandpa found a way to make me feel better.

“Sometimes we just go down the wrong path, Dumplin’,” he said to me one summer afternoon when I was a teenager. We were out on the dock at my grandparents’ lakeside house. “We come to a fork in the road and make the wrong choice.

“Whenever that happens you just have to admit you made a mistake and find the right path again. No matter what, no matter how hopeless a situation may seem, you can always find your way again. God will always help you find the right path.”

It was easy to believe Grandpa when he was right there, strong and comforting beside me, his quiet voice the one I trusted over any other. But Grandpa was gone now. I knew the life I was living wasn’t what he had imagined for me.

He sat proudly in the front row at all my piano recitals and every church choir performance. Back then, when I dreamed about the future, Grandpa said, “Dumplin’, do whatever makes you happy. It doesn’t matter if you’re the president or a garbage collector, as long as you’re the best one you can be!”

I wasn’t the best I could be, and I certainly wasn’t happy. My head was pounding. Everything seemed hopeless. I thought back to the last time I’d seen Grandpa, after he’d had a stroke. He was in the hospital. He could barely talk.

He looked up at me with something like an apology when I came in the room. I stood at his bedside. “Don’t worry about me, Grandpa,” I said. “I’ll be fine.” But even as I said it I didn’t believe it.  

Grandpa lifted his hand. He pointed at me, then pointed to himself. Then slowly and carefully he said, “Always be there.” I knew what he meant. He would always be with me. Grandpa had always been my source of strength. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

I turned away from his picture. Grandpa hadn’t wanted to leave me alone, but that’s what I was. I couldn’t ask him for help, and I couldn’t ask God. It was God who had taken Grandpa away. Something had to change. I had to change. But how? How could I do it alone?

Maybe I’d gotten so lost, the right path was gone to me forever. I’d never find my way again. I went back to bed. I pulled the covers over my head and closed my eyes. Maybe I could just go to sleep. I was so tired. My head settled on the pillow, and I drifted into the only peace I knew.

Something was “off.” Strange. Was I awake? Or was I dreaming? I was back at the lake. Waves lapped against the dock. Grandpa looked just the way I remembered—a pillar of strength.

He stood at the end of the long pier. I walked toward him. Water sloshed over my feet, but Grandpa wasn’t getting wet. He was floating above the choppy waters—like an angel.

As I got closer to him the water rose to my knees, then my waist. I was sinking, but I couldn’t go back to shore. I kept my eyes on Grandpa. Why doesn’t he help me?

Grandpa looked at me with concern. He reached out his hand.

I tried to move forward. The water rose over my shoulders and up to my neck. It trickled over my mouth and splashed into my eyes. I tipped my head back. I can’t breathe! I was disappearing under the turbulent waves. Grandpa was close, but at the same time totally beyond me. I’m drowning!

Grandpa spoke to me in that quiet voice I trusted. “Reach out to me, Dumplin’,” he said. “I can’t help you until you reach out.”

I looked down. My arms were at my sides under the water. How had I expected Grandpa to help me if I didn’t give him my hand? 

I fought to lift it out of the water. Cool drops ran down my arm. Grandpa took my hand in his firm grip, filling me with his strength. I felt myself rising out of the water…

With a start I woke in my dark bedroom. I looked around me, almost expecting to see Grandpa right there in the room with me. But no, it had all been a dream. Still, I felt different. Something had changed. Something inside me.

I sat up. Images from my dream were vivid in my mind: the water, Grandpa, the jolt of strength when he took my hand. I still felt that strength even though the dream was over. 

That’s it, I thought. Knowing I’m not alone makes me feel stronger. Grandpa was still with me, his love was undying. My dream had shown me there was hope for me after all.

That night when my friends called I was tempted to go out with them. Instead I closed my eyes. I am reaching out, God. Give me strength to do the right thing. 

“No thanks,” I said. I hung up the phone. I would fill my time with more healthy pursuits. Like eating regularly, which helped improve my mood. I enrolled in a paralegal course and never missed a class. I went back into therapy, too. Now I was ready for the help a counselor offered.

Each change was a step on the path, the path that brought me to the life I have today. A fulfilling and good life that Grandpa must be proud to watch from his front-row seat in heaven.

I still make mistakes now and then, but when I do I hear his quiet voice in my heart: “Reach out, Dumplin’. God will always help you find your way if you only reach out.” Grandpa put me on the right path, and God keeps me there.

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