Maureen Howell of Bloomingdale, Illinois, always believed in an afterlife, and raised her children with the same faith. But when her son Chris faced death, Maureen's belief wavered. How did she know, after all, that there was a heaven, or that Chris would reach it safely?
Chris, a hemophiliac, had had a childhood marked by hepatitis, a liver transplant, severe relapses and only brief periods of good health. He did manage to graduate from high school due in part to the prayerful support of people who knew him and, despite a noticeable weight loss, went for his college physical during the summer of 1988. It was then his physician discovered that Chris had contracted AIDS from a contaminated transfusion.
Maureen's extended family is huge--hundreds of first and second cousins on her mother's side alone. Once again, everyone began to pray. But Chris was exhausted from his battle with sickness and pain. "Tell everyone to stop praying for me, Mom," he told Maureen. "I'm ready to die and go straight to heaven."
Heaven. It was one thing to read about it in a book, another to believe when one’s heart was breaking. Could Maureen believe? What if she had been wrong all along? She blinked back tears.
Chris seemed to read her mind. "Don't worry, Mom. When I get there, I'll send you a sign that I'm happy with our Father."
A sign. Was such a thing possible? Maureen wondered. But soon Chris hemorrhaged and lost his speech, and on November 20, he died. It was a peaceful death, but was Chris in heaven? Maureen had no idea what kind of sign to look for, or even if she should hope for one. She told only her immediate family of her strange pact with her son--others would surely think her mad.
A few weeks later, a distant cousin of Maureen's was running the vacuum when her four-year-old son Ryan awakened from his nap and bounced down the stairs. "Mommy, Mommy, Chris was in my room!" he shouted.
"Who?" Surely Ryan didn't mean Chris Howell. The two had never met; in fact, the child didn't even know Chris had died.
"It was Chris, Mommy." Ryan was adamant. "He played with me. And he said he was very happy."
"Uh huh. I asked him to come back and play with me again. But he said he couldn't stay here anymore. He had to go and be with his Father."
Ryan's mother was getting goosebumps. How could a preschooler be so specific? She called Maureen, and wept with her as both recognized the exact message Chris had promised to send. It was truly the sign Maureen had been waiting to receive.
Heavenly comfort isn't always brought by angels; sometimes our loved ones can be messengers too. Maureen Howell misses her son, but she has no doubts now. She will see him again.