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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 12 January 2009 - 4:06pm.

The Sign
Steven G. O'Dell © 2008

Twenty-nine year old Robert Clanahan dropped the box to the floor with a resounding thud. Bang! That was the last of it. His father had just passed away and it had fallen to Robert to collect the remaining belongings of his parents. His mother had passed away when he was seven years old. Now they were both gone and Robert was alone—more alone than he had ever felt in his life. Alone but for the newly acquired boxes that now lined the walls of his flat.

Robert sat down heavily to begin sorting the first box, wondering all the while whether it might be better to just take it to the dust bin and be done with it. Letters, pictures, scraps of paper with unintelligible notes, references to relatives he had never met and likely never would—he was hurting with every piece he picked up to examine, but also a strange numbness had taken him over. It would take time, to figure out whether to shrug it off with stiff upper lip in the standard British manner or to give full vent to his grief and allow himself to recover, as common sense dictated.

An hour into his diggings, Robert pulled a greeting card from the batch before him and stopped to ponder it. It was a Christmas card adorned with a star in the heavens above a simple stable with shepherds gathered about it. Robert suddenly recalled the night his mother had entered the hospital when he was a boy—it was just after the Christmas season. He knew that something very serious had occurred and he felt helpless to do anything about it. His mother did not return home, but passed away that night in the hospital and in a few days Robert was attending a funeral. It was all so dreary and hopeless. It did nothing to lift his spirits or calm his soul.

The connection with the card puzzled him. Why would this cause him to think of his mother so strongly? All of it should have reminded him of his mother, but specifically this one card haunted him. And then it hit him. He recalled the minister having mentioned signs in the heavens and that night, after the funeral, he looked toward the sky and God and asked for a sign that his mother would come back to him—that he would see her again. Now he remembered that there had been an almost immediate display of shooting stars, so bright that they almost blinded him by contrast to the darkness about him. The landscape had lit up as three bright meteors had crossed the sky in quick succession. At the time he had thought this to be an answer to his small prayer. After a time, he had forgotten the shooting stars and life had become mundane and humdrum as he took on the duties of an adult. Tonight he remembered his childhood prayer and wondered anew if it were a real sign that he had been given.

Robert turned to look through the window, suddenly aware that it was getting dark. Rising to snap on the lights, he began to wonder again whether he might ever see his mother...or was it like so many others had claimed, that we would all be just serving angels in heaven and there would be no families ever again. With a sigh, Robert shrugged his shoulders and went to the kitchen to prepare an evening meal, the first he had eaten all day.

An hour or so later, Robert heard a firm knock at his door and went to answer. There stood an unremarkable man with an envelope in his hand. He smiled warmly and extended his hand to greet Robert as he introduced himself.

“Hello, my name is John. I was wondering, sir, if perhaps this might be yours?” He offered the letter in his hand and waited for a response.

Robert reached for the envelope and examined it. It was in his mother's handwriting and was addressed to him. Opening the envelope, Robert promptly forgot his manners and began to read silently the words on the page before him. His mother indicated that she knew she was becoming ill and that she would not likely survive to raise him to maturity. She wanted him to know how much she loved him, how she was sorry that she had not been able to provide him with a younger brother or sister to love and that he should listen to his father and be a good boy. She promised that one day she would see him again and they would be reunited as mother and son, that she had faith in a loving God and that He would never allow their love to be forgotten so easily, for love was eternal, as was the family.

Robert wiped the tears from his eyes and thanked the gentleman. “Yes, this is mine. Thank you so much for returning it to me. I don't know how I might have dropped it.”

“You didn't, Robert.” His hint of a smile was warm and loving. His voice brought calm to the soul.

“I don't understand. Where would you have gotten it then?”

“Let's just say that a mother's love is strong enough to reach God's ear, shall we? You once asked for a sign, Robert, and God gave it to you. Somewhere along the way you lost your faith in His answer. I am here to renew your faith. Look up, Robert. Look up and rejoice.”

Robert was stunned at the words. The thoughts raced through his head like jack rabbits running from the hounds. He was experiencing total confusion and speechlessness for the first time in his life.

“Robert...look up and live. See for yourself the love of God.”

Robert could think of nothing else to do and turned his gaze upward into the night sky. What met his eyes surprised him beyond belief. In succession...one after another...a stream of three bright shooting stars made procession across the sky. Robert was so overcome with emotion that his knees nearly buckled.

“Oh, my! Did you see...?” There was no one there to talk to. John had disappeared as effectively and quickly as the shooting stars themselves. Robert reflected that perhaps he had just entertained the presence of an angel. His knees did buckle now in reality and he sobbed uncontrollably to know that God did indeed hear prayers and had answered his in an unmistakable manner. No longer did he wonder about the questions that had plagued him through the years. He now knew with absolute certainty...the family was meant to be forever.

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