Written by Debbie Whitlow
I have believed for most of my adult life that God speaks to us in many different ways. Sometimes, for me, it has been like a very subtle “something” nudging me in a certain direction, and at other times, it has been a much stronger sense of communication. I know that God has spoken to me through other people as well. I wish to share a very personal story, a time when it was apparent to me that God was speaking.
On Friday, August 21, 2009, my husband, John, and I had the daunting task of driving my stepfather, Mac McAllister, to the University of Virginia to see Mom, who was struggling with an unknown health issue. Dad was struggling with his own health issues and Parkinson’s, and it was unrealistic to be in Charlottesville the entire time due to his mobility problems. I had a bad cold myself, and didn’t want to give it to Mom, so I had returned home after taking her there for tests a few days earlier. My brother, Mike, had come to the rescue by driving from Atlanta and getting a room, so that he could be with Mom on a daily basis. On the night before this trip, Mike had called to inform us that Mom had had some sort of horrible respiratory attack, and from his panicked voice, I could tell the situation was dire, thus the trek to Charlottesville first thing Friday morning.
When we arrived at the hospital, Mike met us in tears, and told us that Mom was on a breathing machine, and that she was struggling. He prepared us as to what to expect when we saw her. She had indicated to him that she knew she was dying. We all cried, then gathered our emotions and headed to her room. Although Mom was covered in medical devices, I still thought she looked her beautiful self. She was the most wonderful mother a child could imagine. As most of you know, Mom and I had a very special relationship. We had the blessing of being best friends, as well as mother and daughter. The day was exhausting, filled with questions and very few answers. The doctors could not figure out what was causing Mom’s issues. At one point, late in the day, she was taken to the operating room for a procedure, and when she returned, she was still under the anesthesia. We decided to head back to Martinsville, as Dad was worn out, and I was feeling badly from my cold. Mike was staying, until I could come back on Sunday. He promised to call, if there was any change. Dad said that he wanted to say goodbye to Mom, even though she was out of it. I wheeled his chair up to the side of her bed. He stood up and gently reached for her hand. He said, “Goodbye, Sweet Pea, I love you”. I tried not to let Dad see my face.
On the way home, Dad sat in the front seat with John, and I sat in the back. I fought my emotions all the way from Charlottesville to Lynchburg, tears streaming down my face, but I didn’t want to upset Dad, so I tried very hard not to sob out loud. I could not get that picture of him holding her hand out of my mind. I had never been more distraught in my entire life, wondering if he had just said goodbye for the last time; wondering if I was about to lose my mother and best friend. I was overwhelmed with the most fear I had ever experienced in my life, and I truly felt that I was going to explode. This feeling, these thoughts, it was simply unbearable, and just when I thought I might lose my sanity, I happened to glance out the window.
Just to the east of us was the smallest cluster of dark clouds that must have just passed by minutes before. There was hardly any moisture on the road, and it had been a sunny trip both up and back, but there it was…the most beautiful double rainbow I had ever seen! I knew immediately it was meant for me. God might as well have shouted down to me, “I am with you all, child, as I have always promised.” In that moment, I experienced the most overwhelming feeling of just total peace. I could feel it up and down my spine. I suddenly knew that everything was going to be okay, that God was in control, and that He was with Mom. The relief was both instant and satisfying. I thanked Him for this blessing. I share this because we all face death and adversity, and it is so difficult to see the blessing through the tears. Our humanness can be so blinding, sometimes.
The days to follow were very difficult, but I felt God’s arms around me the entire time. Mom departed this earth on August 25. Oddly, the last gift that I ever opened from her was a Hallmark Christmas ornament of an angel. I remember her saying that she had no idea why she had purchased it, but that she just had! It sits on my piano in front of her picture.