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With God and His Angels Between Us

I hadn’t been in a church for years. Why was the urge so strong to visit this one?

Angel in the marketplace

Among my many blessings I count long-lasting friendships—two women especially, who are like angels in my life. On an October day in France, I was with them both in a wonderful way, something I could have never anticipated.

Mireille has been my French pen pal since high school, 60 years ago. In 1989 I visited her in the seaside resort of Croix de Vie. “Would you like to see our lovely church of St. Croix?” she asked as we wandered through the village. It had been a long time since I’d gone into a church for something other than a wedding or a christening. “I can’t find God in churches these days,” I said.

Mireille knew that the hardships in my life had gradually come between me and my faith. Then one morning, strolling on my own, I felt a strong urge to step inside St. Croix.

The ancient steeple towered over the village, pointing the way to the church nestled behind the marketplace. I simply couldn’t resist its pull. Why am I doing this? I wondered, opening the heavy wooden door. My eyes adjusted to the darkness as soft sunlight filtered through stained-glass windows. Instantly I was at ease.

I walked slowly up the aisle, enveloped in a mantle of silence. I was alone in the church. Childhood memories stirred, and I slipped into a pew. Most of my life I had been devoted to Jesus. Why have I stayed away for so long? I thought. I had so much to be thankful for. Children. Grandchildren. Mireille and the other angel in my life, my dear friend Bev back in New York.

Bev and I had married brothers, and our families grew up together. I loved her like a sister. She was dying of cancer.

“Dear Bev…” I whispered. I’d been reluctant to leave her for my trip to France, but she’d insisted I go. That was so like her. She was always loving and generous. I’d hugged her good-bye and said, “Wait for me. I want to be with you at the end.” Now my words seemed selfish. “Oh, Lord,” I said, “that really wasn’t fair of me, was it? Asking Bev to wait.”

There was only silence in the empty church, but I was in conversation with God again after all these years. Just like I’d never left him. “I want to be with Bev with all my heart, but if she’s ready, please take her home.” I love you, Bev, I thought. My prayers are with you.

I sighed with genuine relief. Somehow I felt that Bev and I had never been closer. Maybe because now God and his angels were between us again.

It was about 11:30 a.m. in Croix de Vie when I left the church. On my way back to Mireille’s, I picked up a phone card so I could check in with my children.

Later that day I reached my daughter. Her voice was choked when she told me she had been trying to get me, but the call wouldn’t go through. I had given her the wrong number. “What’s happened?” I asked.

“Bev died early this morning.”

Bev. I hadn’t been with her! Guilt fell on me like a lead weight. Why hadn’t I canceled my trip? How could I live with myself now? “You are a good friend,” Mirielle said, trying to comfort me, but I was inconsolable.

The next morning I hurried to the church of St. Croix. “I want to remember the happy times, Bev,” I whispered. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving. Our children’s birthdays. Our weekend talks. I felt a smile on my face. “Good times, Bev,” I said. “Now that’s all you’ll have ahead.”

I lit a vigil light, a symbol of my prayers to heaven for my friend. I often thought of the candle’s flickering flame when I returned home to the States. Weeks later I learned that Bev had died at about 5:30 in the morning on that October day. For a second it was just a number to me, and then I realized. With the time difference between New York and France, I had been talking to Bev in the church of St. Croix at exactly that moment, telling her goodbye.

I was with her! Close to home, with God and his angels between us.

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