Messages from Heaven
If there's no chocolate in heaven, I'm not going.
I was only thirteen when I began corresponding with Corporal Steve Conboy, a young U.S. Marine stationed in Cambodia during the 1970s. His letters pulled me into the war that surrounded him. While there, Steve was determined to use his free time wisely. He worked with nuns who cared for children orphaned by the war. I was touched by his compassion and vowed to devote myself to orphans someday too.
When Steve was reassigned to another part of the world, we lost touch. I married Patrick after college and planned for a family. We decided to adopt orphans from Romania.
It was not until I adopted my two children that I realized how influential Steve was in that decision. With just a little searching, I found Steve again after so many years. He was an active duty Marine stationed in Quantico, Virginia. The military was the focus of his life, yet he found time to listen to reports about my daughters. It might have been because he never had children of his own, or perhaps there was a soft spot in his heart for orphans after working in Cambodia, but he always made my children a priority. The conversations we had helped me through many rough days. We kept our friendship alive through letters, e-mails and occasional phone calls.
Steve and I only saw each other twice, but I felt close to him and appreciated our unique friendship. When my daughter Juliana turned thirteen, the same age I was when I began corresponding with him, Steve was scheduled to visit us. I circled that date on my calendar and planned a few things we could do together. I could not wait to see him.
On the day he was supposed to arrive, I received a call telling me Steve had died unexpectedly. I was shocked that a fifty-three-year-old Marine who lived through war could die so suddenly without a good reason. The only justification that I could accept was that it was more important for Steve to go to heaven on June 20th than to visit me. He was now Heaven's angel.
My father and I drove to Washington, D.C. to attend Steve's funeral. It was during the mass that Steve appeared to me. He did not say anything. He merely stared at me with a solemn expression. I was afraid to take my eyes off him for fear he would disappear, and after just a few minutes, he faded away. I wondered if my brain was recalling past images of him, but I realized I had only seen him twice before and the image I saw was new and undeniably Steve.
When I returned home, Patrick and our daughters rallied around me offering support as I grieved. One thing that bothered me about Steve dying so unexpectedly was that I never got the opportunity to say goodbye to him. Even though I saw him in the coffin and the vision of him during church, it was not the same as talking to him alive and face to face. In the thirty years I knew Steve, I had only "seen" him two times! I was disappointed that he died on the day he was planning to visit me.
One night, shortly after his death, I dreamed he called me on the phone. I could hear his breath through the receiver so vividly it made the conversation feel real. He explained that he had to go away for a while and although it was not his choice, he had to do what he was told. I understood the Marines would send him to places throughout the world that were not to his liking, but he always did what he was told. That was the life of a Marine. So, hearing Steve tell me that he was going away seemed almost natural and I accepted it.
I wanted to keep talking to him, but the conversation seemed awkward, and in my dream, I looked out the window and saw Patrick walking up the driveway with Juliana and Andrea. They were carrying a huge bag of M&M's and I could see the excitement on their faces. They knew how happy that would make me. I told Steve I had to get off the phone because the girls and Pat were at the door.
We hung up the phone and then I woke up. I began to cry when I realized it was just a dream. Then, I noticed the phone on the dresser across the room was out of the cradle. I thought that was odd and I wondered if I was losing my mind. Did I just dream that I had a conversation with Steve or did I really have a phone call from him? I looked out of the bedroom window at the sky full of twinkling stars and asked God to tell me if that was really Steve I was talking to. At that instant, a falling star streamed across the sky. I was stunned, unable to comprehend it all.
The next day at work I told Michelle, my co-worker, about my dream and the falling star.
"I think it was God," she said.
I sighed deeply. "If someone gives me M&M's today, then I will know it was God."
Michelle burst out laughing. She pushed her work aside, looked straight at me and said, "All of those signs were not good enough? You seriously want more?"
"Yes. I am a woman and I want chocolate."
We chuckled. And then a drug representative approached the small glass window at the doctor's office where we worked. I slid the glass door open and greeted her. She handed me a small plastic container and said, "Here you go." Then, as quickly as she appeared, she was gone. I carried the container back to my workstation and set it on top of the files I had been working on.
"What's that?" Michelle asked.
"I have no idea," I responded.
"Who was that?" she asked.
"I don't know," I said.
Michelle reached over, lifted the lid and gasped. It was a container full of M&M's!
God works in mysterious and miraculous ways.