Heaven and Earth Intertwined
By Michaelyn Sloan
Four years ago my father came for his annual - and what would be last - summer visit with us. My mother had died three years earlier and he could no longer tolerate the heat of Arizona or the loneliness when the “snowbirds” left each year.
Each Sunday he looked forward to attending the Divine Liturgy at St Luke’s, frequently commenting how he “felt the Lord’s presence in this church”. Returning home the Sunday of Pentecost he shared how moved he was by the kneeling prayers that he heard for the first time in English (my father was a member of the Serbian Orthodox Church). That Sunday would be my father’s last “earth bound” Liturgy as later that day he became ill and was rushed to the hospital. A month later, diagnosis unknown, he came back to our house with hospice care.
The anniversary of my mother’s death approached - and despite his failing health - he queried me as to how we would celebrate that date. This year we planned to pray for her, and have a special dinner at our house.
The day before the anniversary of her death my father lapsed into a coma. Hospice told us his death was imminent. Each of us voiced with certainty that Mom’s anniversary would now be Dad’s as well. My husband had his own opinion though.
“Don’t count on it! Your Dad has always liked parties and his own share of attention. He’s going to want his very own anniversary and memorial celebration.”
Mom’s anniversary day arrived and in the late afternoon we gathered for prayers before the meal. The dining room was quiet with Dad asleep in the adjoining room. Suddenly a loud noise emanated from the room where Dad lay while a strong smell of roses flooded the room. I ran to check on my father. He had not moved.
As I walked back into the dining area to announce that nothing was amiss my brother remarked, “Mom is here to take Dad home.” His comment stirred memories of the beautiful rose gardens my mother had always fostered.
The following day my father died in our arms in our home. My husband was right. Dad would now have his own anniversary – the day after mom’s.
Later sharing with others what our entire family had experienced that afternoon I learned from hospice nurses that they had heard similar stories. Catholic friends shared their belief that one of their saints—St. Teresa of the Little Flower, “brings roses” at the time of one’s death. This experience supported my own belief—that the spiritual world or Heaven as we call it--is intertwined with our physical world. Sometimes it just becomes more evident.