Jana pressed the end of the stethoscope to her chest and listened to the wild beat of her heart. Weeks of erratic and racing heartbeats had driven her to near paranoia.
The cardiologist had run a battery of tests, all of which came back normal. He put her on a heart monitor for 30 days, but her heart never messed up one time while she was on the monitor. Of course, the day she mailed it back it started up again. She woke at 3:00 AM with her heart pounding out of her chest.
Another week of palpitations and fibrillation and the doctor finally agreed to put her back on the monitor for another 30 days. It worked, or so she thought. On Saturday evening she had been able to record several really bad episodes on the monitor and called them into the monitoring service. The technician from the service had called her back after her last transmission and said there had been some static on transmission and that she needed Jana to send another one to see if the monitor was malfunctioning.
After the new transmission was sent, the technician called back and said she had spoken with the doctor and he wanted Jana to call the office first thing Monday morning.
Finally, she thought, they will be able to see what’s been happening and do something to help her heart function normally or were they just going to tell her that they needed to give her a new monitor?
With a little peace of mind, Jana was finally able to lie down and fall asleep, despite the feeling that her heart was doing little flip-flops in her chest.
She had only been asleep for a few minutes when the racing of her heart made her sit straight up in bed and grab for the stethoscope on the bedside table. She turned on the light as she listened and checked the monitor. Her heart was racing at over 170 beats per minute. She could feel it pounding in her ears; she counted every beat and willed it to slow down. She prayed, she tried to breath slowly and steadily, she tried to remain calm, but nothing helped.
Suddenly, the beating stopped. The room was absolutely silent. She shook her husband to wake him, but as usual, he didn’t respond. That man could sleep through a tornado!
She repositioned the stethoscope, but heard nothing. She looked at the monitor again, but this time the display was blank.
She thought about the technician checking for a malfunction in the monitor.
“Just my stinkin’ luck,” Jana thought. “I get a broken monitor.”
Her mouth and throat felt so dry, so she slipped out of bed and went to kitchen to get a drink of water. she stopped to use the bathroom before going back to bed. She flipped on the bathroom light and glanced in the mirror and that’s when Jana began to scream. She couldn’t see herself in the mirror…no reflection.
In the midst of her terror, bazaar thoughts flew threw her mind…
“no reflection, just like Dracula…”
“why isn’t my husband flying in here to see what’s wrong with me?”
“am I dead?”
She stopped screaming when she heard the voice say, “You’re not dead, Jana.”
Chills ran up her spine.
“Can’t be dead, dead women don’t get chills,” she thought.
Jana looked in the mirror again. She still couldn’t see herself, but she could see someone standing there, someone she had never seen before, yet he looked oddly familiar. She whirled around, but no one was there. She turned back to the mirror. He was still there, now with a big grin on his face.
“I’m losing my mind,” Jana thought. “All the stress of this heart condition is making me crazy.”
“You’re not crazy, Jana,” said the man. “You’re going to be fine. I just want to show you something. Come with me.”
Jana felt herself moving. She couldn’t tell how, or in what direction, she just felt the sensation of motion all around her.
She suddenly found herself sitting in a booth at McDonalds. The man was seated across from her.
“Ok, this is insane. If I’m dead, this isn’t my idea of Heaven. What’s going on here?” she asked.
“Don’t you remember, Jana?” said the man.
“Remember? Remember McDonalds? Of course, I’ve been to lots of different McDonalds. What am I supposed to remember?” Jana asked.
“Remember, 30 years ago, this McDonalds, and the old man who was washing his face and hair at the water spigot outside the building next door. You’d seen him many times before that day walking the streets. Rumor had it that he was homeless and lived in the woods behind the freeway. Remember? You felt sorry for him and gave him your breakfast. You told him Jesus loved him. He didn’t say anything, but he never forgot your kindness that morning,” said the man.
“How do you know that?” Jana asked.
“Because, I am that man, Jana.” He said.
Jan was confused.
“What? That’s impossible. That was 30 years ago and he was old then. You’re not old now, you can’t be him.”
“I’m him, Jana. My name is Jonas and I’m an angel,” he said.
“An angel?” Jana believed in angels. She had read about them in the Bible. Not little babies with wings and a bow and arrow, but strong and mighty angels, messengers of God.
“So, you were that man and you died and became an angel?” she asked haltingly.
“No,” he chuckled, “People don’t become angels. I was an angel then, and I am an angel now.”
Jana was reminded of a Bible verse; “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
It took her a few minutes to process the thought that she had given her Egg McMuffin to an angel that day.
“Did you eat the McMuffin?” she asked.
Jonas laughed again, “Yes, it was delicious, thank you.”
“I didn’t know angels could eat,” Jana said. She felt foolish and confused. Was she really sitting in a McDonalds talking to an angel?
“Remember that table over there?” he said with a nod of his head. “It was filled with men that morning. Remember how they laughed at me? Called me a worthless bum?”
“I remember,” Jana said, feeling angry all over again. “I wanted to tell them off. Sitting there all pious in their business suits laughing at a poor old man without a penny to his name. Big jerks!”
Jonas grinned. “Well, maybe not jerks, but they were laughing. Remember how they quieted down when they saw you hand me your breakfast. I want you to know that your simple act of kindness had a profound effect on those men. Each one was a little kinder to others after that day. Their kindnesses through the years eased a lot of suffering for others. Thank you for showing them the way.”
Jana didn’t know what to say.
“Jana, there’s more,” he said. “Remember the little girl that lived in the apartment three doors down from you many years ago? Rayanna was her name. You took her to Sunday School every week until her family moved away.”
“I remember.” Jana said. “I wonder what ever happened to her?”
“She had a rough childhood. Both of her parents were arrested and imprisoned for drug related crimes. You didn’t know it, but those Sunday mornings were the only bright spots in Rayanna’s life at that time. Rayanna was put into foster care and placed in the care of a loving couple who also took her to church,” Jonas said. “She became a nurse. A hospice nurse, to be exact. She was a great comfort to her patients and introduced many of them to the Father before they passed away.”
“That’s wonderful,” Jana said, “I prayed for her several times through the years, whenever she came to mind.”
“Your prayers were heard and answered, Jana,” said Jonas.
“You want some French fries?” Jonas asked, and then laughed again at the puzzled look on Jana’s face.
“Come on, we’ll get some to go.” He said.
Seconds later Jana felt herself pulled into motion again. Lights, colors and fragrances swirled around her. She could smell lilacs – her favorite flower.
They came to rest in a meadow. A blanket had been spread under the shade of a flowering lilac bush. Jana breathed deep. The smell of lilacs always took her back to her childhood. There had been a hedgerow of tall lilac bushes along the property line of her childhood home. She remembered taking her father’s handsaw and chopping out a hollow in the middle of the bushes. It was her quiet spot. She had spent weeks one spring, safe inside her leafy cave, reading Trixie Belden Mysteries and breathing in the fragrance of lilacs.
“Jana,” Jonas said, snapping her out of the memory. He handed her a bag of French fries and a Coke, then asked, “Jana, do you remember the lilacs?”
“Sure, I remember,” Jana said, popping a hot fry into her mouth. “That was a great spring.”
“Was it?” Jonas asked, softly. “What were you hiding from there among the lilacs, Jana?”
“Nothing,” Jana said quickly. “I was just reading my books.” The French fry stuck in her throat.
“Jana,” he said again, and the memories flooded back to Jana’s heart. She hung her head.
“I don’t want to remember,” she said.
“I won’t allow you to remember the details,” Jonas said. “I don’t want you to feel the pain all over again. I just want you to know that I was there with you. The Father sent me to comfort you. He even sent extra blossoms to the lilacs that year just for you.”
Jana’s voice cracked, “But, if He knew, then why didn’t he stop it from happening?”
Jonas’s voice was soothing, “Jana, the Father gave mankind free will. Man chooses his own behavior. Some men choose to do evil things. It breaks the Father’s heart, but to interfere with man’s right to choose, even his right to choose the wrong thing would violate the laws of Creation. I know that’s hard for you to understand, but when you were violated, He was also violated. He felt your pain.
Believe me, the persons who hurt you paid for their sins. You may not have seen the punishment outwardly, but things happened in their lives as a result of their choices that were devastating to them.”
“I never forgot what happened,” Jana said, “but I think I did forgive them. At least I tried.”
“Jana, you did forgive them and that’s why the Father was able to use you through the years to help and comfort others that had also been hurt and violated just as you had. Remember them?” Jonas said.
Jana looked up to see herself surrounded by a throng of women. She recognized some of them, but most were strangers to her. They were all smiling.
“I don’t get it, Jonas,” Jana said, “I don’t know most of these women. I didn’t help them all.”
“Oh, but you did,” said Jonas, “You see, when we help someone through an experience that we ourselves have gone through, it has an exponential effect. They in turn comfort and help others and it just flows from one person to another.”
“See Sally, over there?” Jonas asked.
Jana turned to see a pretty blonde give her a little wave.
Jonas spoke again, “Sally started Woman to Woman Ministries in her little church. It has grown to reach thousands of women, helping them through some of life’s most difficult trials. She based that ministry on a passage of scripture found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4…
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
You see, Jana, your hurt did not go to waste. The Father has used it over and over again through the years to help many women. He didn’t cause your pain, but he turned a very painful situation into something very good.”
Jana looked around again at large crowd of women. A soft collective “thank you” rose from the crowd and then they faded away right before her eyes.
“Jonas, please,” she said, “I don’t understand what’s happening. Am I dreaming? Am I dead? Am I ever going to see my family again?”
She began to panic and wondered if that would make her heart start beating erratically again.
“Peace, be still,” said Jonas and she did feel peace. She felt it flowing into her inner most being.
“The Father has heard your anxious heart. He knows you’ve been wondering if your life is almost at an end. He’s seen you question whether you’ve ever done anything important with your life. Jana, the Father has brought us together tonight so that you might know that throughout your lifetime you have done many wonderful and special things. Things you thought unimportant, just one person helping another, but the Father calls that ministry. He sent his Son to minister to those on earth, to lay down his life so that others might be saved, might be comforted, might be helped, and you, Jana, you have continued the ministry of the Son. You have been His hand extended to many people around you.
I am here tonight to tell you that you are going to be fine. You have many years left to live before you come home to the Father. Enjoy them, Jana. You will touch many lives and they in turn will touch other lives. It’s the cycle of life set up by the Father.
Now, rest, my child. Let not your heart be troubled. His peace I leave with you. Continue to do good and to encourage those around you and know this…I will be with you always, a servant of Jesus Christ, sent to minister to his daughter. Good-night, Jana.” Jonas said and disappeared.
Jana felt herself moving again, moving through time and space until she landed in the softness of her own pillows.
The beating of her heart had quieted; it was steady and strong, not erratic at all. Her husband still lay sleeping beside her.
Jana shook her head. “That man could sleep through anything,.” She thought.
She thought about all she’d been through.
“Thank you,” she whispered quietly to the Father.
“Your welcome,” her husband mumbled in his sleep.
Jana rolled her eyes, turned over and fell in to a deep and restful sleep.
(Copyright © 2009 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)