FEELING THE BREATH OF AN ANGEL (Part 1)
"For there stood by me this night an angel of God
to whom I belong and whom I serve..." Acts 27:23
As I was growing up, my grandparents, Fausto and Anna (Cassiani) Berardinelli, often talked about taking me to Italy to show me the towns where they were born. Even after I married, they spoke of someday traveling with my husband and me. Unfortunately, their dreams of us traveling together never materialized.
As the years passed, my husband and I traveled every year to Italy. We eventually found an apartment in the small town of Gardone Riviera at Lake Garda and often spoke of how wonderful it would have been to travel with my grandparents, to enjoy the food and the sights, to speak to them in Italian, and to see the pride on their faces knowing they had instilled a love of their birthplace and its culture into our hearts and minds.
In 2004, while eating lunch at a small trattoria in Gardone, I closed my eyes and whispered (as I had done so many times before) how I wished my grandparents were there with us. The last thing I expected to see, in my mind's eye, were Anna and Fausto sitting at the table on either side of me. Yet, there they were. They appeared to be in their thirties. Their faces were vibrant and glowing with an angelic beauty that I’d never seen before.
While it is not unusual to create a mental picture of someone or something, this appearance wasn’t from photographs or memories. What happened next was also far from the ordinary. I heard my grandmother's voice saying, “Don’t be sad, we are here with you.” The unhappiness I felt, by not being able to travel with them so long ago, vanished instantly. And in the blink of my eye, they were gone.
Even though I didn’t understand how I saw and heard my grandmother, two things were perfectly clear to me. The words I heard, “…we are here with you,” specifically meant that it was the love my grandparents had for me that would be with me all the days of my life. My grandparents were not, and could not be with me physically since they’re in the presence of God.
Even in this reality, I questioned as to how it was possible for me to see and hear my grandmother so clearly. A peace filled my spirit when I realized there was a plan in process, but I was to be patient until all things were revealed in His time and place.
As a Christian, I believe that the Bible—both Old and New Testament―is the inspired, revealed, and infallible Word of God, which holds all knowledge, power, and truth. From the time I accepted the Lord Jesus as my Savior (fifty-seven years ago), I never tried to communicate with a loved one who passed away. As instructed through the Word of God, we are not to try, in any way, to contact those who have departed from this life.
I understand this may be difficult for some to accept as many take great comfort in thinking they’re able to see and speak to loved ones and that loved ones are able to communicate back. I will try, always mindful to use God’s Perfect and Holy Word as the standard to explain what I learned from the encounter in Italy.
In Luke 16:19-31, we read Jesus’ words about a beggar named Lazarus and a rich man. When Lazarus died, angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom. When the rich man died, he was buried, and, from the torments of Hades (hell), he saw Lazarus resting in Abraham’s bosom. Crying out for mercy, the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus that he may “...dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”
Abraham’s response was to remind the rich man that in his lifetime he had received many good things while Lazarus had not. Then Abraham added, “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.”
The rich man pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house to tell his brothers about “ . . .this place of torment.” The rich man knew that if one returned from the dead, it would undoubtedly convince them to repent. In verse 31, Abraham’s answer is definite: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”
Even King David, speaking about the death of his son, said, "...can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me," (2 Samuel 12:23).
What we do know is that the dead cannot depart from heaven or hell to interact with us. If they are in the presence of God, they are experiencing great joy and peace. Our joy and peace is to know that one day we will reunite with them.
There is no doubt that those who seek to communicate with the departed do so on many emotional levels—one being their own mortality. The reasoning is simple: any information from beyond the grave confirms that life after death exists.
Be assured by the Word of God that there is eternal life, but it can only come through Christ Jesus. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).
Let us reason together for a moment. What would a departed loved one or friend say if they were able to come back? Would they tell where money or a piece of jewelry was hidden? Would they give winning lottery numbers? Would they complain about trivial things that occurred in life?
If a loved one or friend in the hereafter were given the opportunity to communicate with those who are living, they would express one of two things: the awesome peace and joy they were experiencing in the presence of God or the terrible anguish they were suffering in hell, as with the rich man in Luke 16.
The next thing they would say is to repent and make ready because all the things we read about in the Bible are true. The plea would be to prepare for the inevitable: death and the Day of Judgment. That, and that alone, is what would be revealed.
The Word of God clearly states that no reason—even one that seems good, like returning to tell a loved one that there’s definitely a heaven and certainly a hell—is allowed. Then how did I, a believer of God’s Word and a follower of Jesus Christ, see and hear my grandmother? Read on, and I will explain.
In 2005, my mother, Rose, passed from this life into eternity. She lived ninety years; a brief time compared to eternal life. At the time of her passing, a healthcare worker standing at her bedside commented that she sensed the presence of God’s angels. In the precious moments that followed, the room filled with an incredible peace. There was no morbid fear of death, as those present were believers in Christ. The atmosphere was highly charged by the spiritual knowledge that soon one of God’s children would be going home. There was sorrow in the physical loss, and joy in the heavenly gain. “They will all be there, on the other side, waiting and rejoicing for her homecoming,” said my sister, Patricia.
Even now, when I think back to that day, the sweet calm and the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding..." (Philippians 4:7) filled the room to overflowing. I can still hear the soft puff of breath that escaped my mother’s lips just before she crossed the bridge into eternity. The barely audible, peaceful sigh conveyed all is well.
A week after my mother’s passing, my husband and I were aboard an airplane crossing the Atlantic to Italy. Most of the events of the previous week were somewhat of a blur. My thoughts were mixed with sadness from the separation of a parent and joy in seeing our first grandchild graduate high school, bound for college. Within those mixed feelings, I had no way of knowing that soon I would see the mighty hand of God move in my life, revealing supernatural things that would be the start of life-changing experiences.
FEELING THE BREATH OF AN ANGEL continued in Part Two.
Agli Angeli (To the Angels) Hotel and Restaurant, Gardone Riviera, Italy.
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