My father, Howard James Hicks, had a correspondence gene that I didn’t inherit. He corresponded with his first grade teacher, Sister Agnes, until her death long after her retirement. And he corresponded with all the other officers of the ship he commanded in WWII until his own death at 93. Through such he was instrumental in one, and maybe two, of them entering ordained ministry.
I just ran across a letter from him to Sister Agnes on March 7, 1988, a month after my mother died. I herewith share it with you.
“Dear Sister Agnes,
“I thank you for your prayers, your words of support, and your thoughtfulness. I thank you for the information about the 30 days, consecutively, of masses.
“My dear Sister, I have not tried to put this in words before, but I have already been assured that my beloved Virginia Lee has been taken up into the Lord’s Kingdom.
“It happened this way on the night of the 30th day of her death.
“I had finished my reading, finished my crossword puzzle, had turned off my light, breathed a prayer for my love, turned toward her pillow in the large bed and prepared to go to sleep.
“Suddenly, I was aware of two unearthly things. One was of a spiritual presence, another was a soft glow – a light such as I had never seen before. It was not an earthly light. It was ethereal. It was a glow. There was no sound. All was quiet. The presence was joyous, warm and loving. It spread joy and happiness. The presence was telling me that Virginia Lee was safe in Jesus’ arms.
“I cannot tell you that the presence itself was Virginia Lee, but I am almost certain it was. It was so comforting, so familiar, so close, so loving, it just had to be Virginia Lee and not a heavenly messenger. I just know it was the spirit of my love.
“Meanwhile, and I’m talking about a very short time, in seconds probably, the glow hovered about halfway to the ceiling. It was round, but not smooth. It was shaped much like a cotton ball. It seemed to be translucent in that it was a light but did not light up anything. The room was dark. In seconds it was all over. I was left with a deep sense of relief, of happiness and security. I lay there thinking about it. It never would have occurred to me that I would be a person on whom such an honor, such a great gift, would be bestowed. Rather, I thought it was the holiness of Virginia Lee which prompted it, buoyed by the many masses and the thousands of prayers from people all over, of all walks of life, of many denominations, and which made it all possible.
“It was not eerie. It was not strange. It seemed so normal for her to come and tell me that she was with Jesus that I really did not think at the time of the startling fact, that I had had a visit from beyond the grave.
“There was no sound, No rush of noise or wind. It was quiet. No words were spoken. Just the all enveloping sense of happiness that the presence transmitted to my brain in the darkened room. It was as if words were there, but not spoken.
“I had the feeling that the glow was separate from the spirit. The spirit I felt was in the dark because the light gave off no light. The room was still dark. But, I sensed the presence to be quite close to the glow. I felt the presence to be be just to the left of and lower than the celestial light. About the height of Virginia Lee were she standing there.
“It was almost as if the glow was a guide and a protection. After all, we don’t really know how far or how long is the journey.”
“Could the glow be that of an angel, a guardian angel. After all, we, again, don’t know what an angel looks like. Our pictures all show them as cupids with wings, but who knows. What I know is the glow was beautiful, lovely, pleasant, and peaceful.
“The message was distinct and clear. It was a conveyance of thought and fact to my brain and to my senses that Virginia Lee had passed whatever purgatorial time was required and that she was safe in heaven.
“It could not have been made clearer even though it was all done in darkened silence and with the celestial glow the only visible thing in the room.
“It left me with a feeling of complete happiness to know that my loved one was in the Kingdom of God. That she was content, that she was happy. That she was free from pain and stress and was filled with a heavenly happiness.
“It was a message, too, of support for me as if she wanted me to know she was happy and that while I might grieve for her and miss her that I should be heartened and supported by the knowledge and fact that she was safe with her Maker.
“I must tell you again that I cannot understand how I could be selected by God to be so honored. I can only say that I am proud to be so honored and I hope that I can be worthy of this great gift.
To which I can’t do better by way of closing than the Proper Preface for the Commemoration of the Dead: “…Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who rose victorious from the dead, and doth comfort us with the blessed hope of everlasting life; for to thy faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body doth lie in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.”
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 04-March-2014.