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Messages from Heaven

A grieving widow receives much-needed comfort and proof of the afterlife in this excerpt from Thin Places.

a widow receives a phone call all the way from heaven
Credit: Bora HIRSOVA
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The September sun was making the day unbearable. I swiped my hand across my forehead. Sweat stung my eyes. I dropped my keys. Somehow I broke a fingernail picking them up, and the storm door I had been propping open with one hip slammed into me, knocking me into the door. Just one more in the chain of horrendous days that had grown progressively worse since my husband Steve had died suddenly, without warning, of a massive heart attack.

It had happened in our living room during a birthday party we were hosting for our pastor. I had been in another room. He was only fifty-two. We had no idea anything was wrong with his heart. In shock, I tried to console myself with the knowledge that he was in heaven with his parents. Still, his loss left a huge hole in me. I was unable to eat or sleep. I lost twenty-five pounds. The house was cool at least, but quiet—too quiet—another reminder that my husband was gone and I was alone.

 I made my way to the kitchen and dropped the groceries on the table. As I passed the phone, I noticed the blinking message light.  I picked up the phone. My uncle’s and my best friend’s numbers appeared on the caller ID. But a monotone recorded voice told me I had three messages. Three? I looked again. My uncle’s message played and my friend’s message played. Then Steve’s voice said clearly and distinctly, “Steve Holderby.”

Stunned, I listened to the three messages five more times. The voice was definitely Steve’s. It sounded like the recorded voice-mail name on his cell phone. I stumbled upstairs to his office. The cell phone lay on the shelf behind his desk where Steve had placed it the night he died. I hadn’t touched it since.


I picked it up now. The battery, of course, was dead. I tried to figure out a logical explanation. There was none. I called several friends. They were baffled too.

“Well, if anyone could do this, it would be Steve,” John, Steve’s best friend, said. He laughed. “And Steve would do this.”

He was right. And Steve could do this. Steve had been a broadcast engineer. When a radio station, 75 miles away, went off the air, Steve got it back on by punching some numbers into his cell phone. He was a genius when it came to electronics. And if he wanted to accomplish something, he wouldn’t let a little thing like death stand in his way.

“I didn’t get to say good-bye,” I whispered to John. “I can’t stand that.”

“Steve didn’t get to say good-bye either,” John reminded me. “I’m sure that bothers him too.”

“I didn’t think of that,” I said. “Yeah, it would.”

 I put the phone call out of my mind for the next couple of months. Then on Christmas Day, a Sunday, I left my visiting daughter, son-in- law, and grandkids sleeping and went to church. When I came home, my daughter was in the kitchen getting a start on our Christmas dinner.  The message light was flashing on the phone.

“Who called?” I asked.

“Nobody,” Amber yelled from the kitchen. “The phone didn’t ring all morning.”

I punched the play button: “Steve Holderby.” I was almost as shocked as the first time it happened. Again, no number on the caller ID.

“Steve called to wish us a Merry Christmas,” I said. A couple of months later, I had been at the church decorating the fellowship hall for the Valentine’s Day banquet. Steve had helped me the previous year and escorted me to the banquet.

I came home now exhausted and depressed, and collapsed into the nearest dining room chair. The phone lay on the table. Tears of grief, frustration, and rage streamed down my face. “Steve,” I screamed, “do you know how hard this is? Do you hear me? Do you even care?”

The message light on the phone began to flash. I picked it up. No caller ID. I pushed the message play button and heard Steve’s voice. Suddenly I knew in my heart of hearts that Steve was somehow doing this, letting me know he was with me. But I wanted proof.

I called the phone company and explained what had been happening. To her credit, the woman tried to act as though she didn’t think I was irrational. I played the message for her. “Well, it’s obviously recorded somewhere on your phone,” she said.

She checked a couple of places where she thought it might be. “Weird,” she muttered. “There’s nothing there.”


“Well, maybe someone recorded his voice and is playing a terrible trick on you.”

“If that were true, there would be a phone number on caller ID and the phone would ring. It doesn’t.”

“Well, you got me,” she finally admitted. “This just isn’t possible.”

“No logical explanation?”

“No logical explanation,” she said, confirming what I already knew. There were more deliberately placed calls. One on my birthday and a couple more when I was stressed beyond belief. 

Then I met a man at church. We began seeing each other. After a whirlwind courtship, we were married. Steve knew I was okay. He never called again.

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