“We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses” – the holy women around us

cloud of witnessesOur world and our news are so filled with stories of fraud and deceit and people who seek only to impose their wills on others, to gain enormous power no matter who or how many are hurt by their actions. It is easy to forget that we are surrounded by stories of goodness and redemption. They are not stories which the news people will tell, because they speak of a deep faith in God, a faith which changes lives.

I wanted to share  something that happened to a friend of mine in San Angelo. Sylvia  is a wonderful, faith-filled Christian woman. Sylvia’s life has been a difficult one. She was forced into marriage at age 13 with an abusive young man, because she was out with her friends later than permitted. Sylvia had several children and was able, after a time, to divorce her husband and make a life for herself and her children. Sylvia’s relationship with her own mother was difficult, as you might imagine.

Sylvia fell in love with my mother, who though she had dementia, never lost her faith and her love for others. Sylvia spent the nights with my mother for most of the last three years of mom’s life. They slept near one another, in twin beds that were pushed up next to one another. Sylvia and my mom prayed together each night, holding hands as mom was accustomed to do with our dad.  Sylvia credits my mother’s love for her for her ability to offer forgiveness to her own mother before her mother died.

Silvia was visiting her daughter one Saturday evening about two weeks ago. They were preparing to watch a movie, but were waiting for another person to arrive. All at once Sylvia had this strong feeling that she had to go home. So despite her daughter’s protestations, Sylvia got into her truck and started home. On the freeway in San Angelo – it was 10 o’clock at night – Sylvia’s truck was nearly sent off the road by a driver who was going really, really fast. After Sylvia recovered from the fright and was headed home again, she saw that the truck, which had nearly hit her, had gone off the road, overturned several times and was lying upside down on the hill next to the highway. She stopped her truck, got out and ran up the hill to the overturned vehicle. There was a young man trapped inside, bleeding profusely. Sylvia comforted him as much as she could, having called 911 before she got to his truck. Sylvia sat there with him, unable to hold him but touching him, praying with him. The young man died just before or after the ambulance came.

I couldn’t help thinking that God sent Sylvia there to be a kind of angel, to be with the young man during those last moments. Sylvia could have kept on driving, but she didn’t. She told me that it is her habit each day, when she awakens, to ask God to show her His will. Sylvia believes that the Holy Spirit sent her home early that evening, so that she could be with the dying man. He was 22 years old. He had been a youth minister at his church for some time, until he got involved with drinking and drugs. His family were faithful Christians. Sylvia found out their name from the police and attended the funeral. The father was so full of grief – -as you might expect – not just because his son had died, but because he was concerned that his son had not returned to God before his death. Sylvia’s presence at his son’s side, her prayers with the dying young man comforted his parents. Sylvia made a difference in the young man’s life – not only by giving comfort, but more importantly perhaps, in helping to determine the young man’s final destination. At least that is how I see it. I pray that it was so.