Mary Joan McNamara is one of six children, but she and her mother alwayas had a special closeness. “She loved us all greatly, as I knew, but the relationship with each of us was different,” Mary Joan says. Her mother had also developed an interest in angels, and in 1990, Mary Joan gave her a book on angels. In 1991, she gave her another book and wrote a message on the flyleaf: "Christmas 1991. To Mother, who is in great company. All my love, M.J.” Her mother was thrilled with this book too, and as she read, she put several of her comments and thoughts in the margins.
A few years later, Mary Joan’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. During the next year-and-a-half until her death in October 1997, the two women became even closer. Mary Joan’s mother opened herself up in unexpected ways, and the two women spent the last four holidays together. “We said our goodbyes, and I will never forget that extraordinary time,” Mary Joan says.
Her mother’s death, however, left Mary Joan grief-stricken. She was the only one of her siblings who was alone in the world. Her brothers and sisters seemed to be preoccupied with their own affairs; she had never felt so lonely.
The evening of her mother’s wake, three women came up to Mary Jo as she sat with an aunt. “I can still see their faces,” Mary Jo says. “The woman in the center was the most dominant, with short dark hair and nondescript glasses.” The two ladies on either side were about the same height and age. They were very ordinary-looking. Mary Joan had thought she would know everyone at the wake, but she had never seen these people before.
The woman in the middle leaned into Mary Joan. “You are Mary Jo,” she said, which was the name Mary Joan had been called as a child. “We are friends of your mother’s. She wanted you to have this.” The woman handed her a book. Mary Joan barely glanced at it. Friends of her mother’s? But who were they? Politely, she chatted with them for a few moments, and then the three turned briskly and left, as if their mission had been accomplished. A few moments later, Mary Joan went out into the hall of the funeral home for a brief break. She was still holding the book. She looked down. It was a book about angels.
The book looked familiar. Mary Joan’s heart started to pound. Slowly she turned over the flyleaf. There was her dedication to her mother, written in 1991. She turned another page and another. In her mother’s beloved handwriting were the thoughts she had noted about angels, her comments on her faith and on God. This was the book Mary Joan had given her mother six years before. But how had it gotten into these strangers’ hands?
“Suddenly, the most wonderful peace gave over me,” Mary Joan says. “I knew in an instant that the three women were angels, and they had come to let me know that everything was all right. My mother was in good company. I immediately went to my oldest sister. From looking at my face and from the tone of my tone of voice, she knew that I had seen or experienced something inexplicable.”
Mary Joan looked for the women the next day at her mother’s funeral. She didn’t see them, but she knew they were there.