Magazine Article

Life Stories

Miracles, fragrance, and forgiveness. What do these things have to do with each other?

Raymond Pilon, Julie Cook, and Kimberly Carr
Life Stories

The Adventist Review has been a source of instruction and inspiration for nearly 170 years. Much of that inspiration comes from our readers who have used its pages to tell their stories of God’s faithfulness in their  lives.

In this month’s issue we share how God has led in the lives of three of our readers. Perhaps their stories will serve as a reminder how God has led you. If you have a keyboard, or a pen and paper, we’d love to hear from you. Your story of God’s providence may appear in a future issue of Adventist Review to inspire others.—Editors.

An Angel in a Chevy?

He obviously knew what to do.

I’ve always believed in angels. I knew that they were there and that they helped people. But the idea of me encountering an angel never crossed my mind until the morning of August 31, 1997.

The day before was a Sabbath, but I had no plans to attend church. In fact, I hadn’t been to church in nearly nine months. I was in the military, stationed in Maryland, and according to most standards I was still a newlywed.

Five Little Words

I woke up around 8:30. The bed felt nice, and I could see the morning calm outside our bedroom window. I was just starting to think of what I might want for breakfast when my wife snuggled up and whispered five words that scared me to death: “I think I’m in labor.”

Launched from my bed, I nearly tripped over my feet in a state of utter panic. Surprisingly, my wife was calm. She reminded me that we were ready for this. We had a hospital bag already packed and a “what to do when in labor” checklist, and arrangements had been made for the delivery to take place at the civilian hospital in the town just west of my Army base.

Who was the guy who helped my wife and me?

When I had calmed down enough to drive, we loaded up and began the 2O-mile drive from the base to the hospital. I still remember turning onto the rural highway, convinced that I needed to set a new speed record for fastest commute.

At milepost 10 we blew a tire. Convinced that I must have done something really rotten to atone for, we flip-flopped into the only gas station on the highway between the base and the hospital.

As I pulled up, a rather rough-looking fellow sitting behind the cashier’s booth smiled and said, “Morning, pal. Want a fill-up?”

“No!” I said. “My wife’s in labor, and we just blew a tire!”

When I said this, he leaped from behind the booth and said, “You better climb into my Nova. I’ll close up shop and drive you.”

I was in no position to argue, fully convinced that our baby would be born in a matter of seconds.

I helped my wife into the back seat of his Nova, and we began to experience the car ride of our lives. Our driver pegged the speedometer at 80 miles per hour the entire way, laying on the horn whenever we came upon another vehicle. We came to a screeching halt in front of the glass doors of the hospital emergency room.

Before I could help my wife out of the back seat, this guy had already run into the hospital, commandeered a wheelchair, and brought it to the side of the car near our door, all the while yelling at the top of his voice, “We’re having a baby! We’re having a baby!”

As I pushed my wife toward the hospital doors I could hear his car tires screech as he sped away from the temporary parking. I gave a quick, short wave and continued into the hospital. Ten hours later our daughter, Emalie, was born.

Thanks for Nothing?

With mother and baby doing fine, we spent a quiet, comfortable night at the hospital. The next morning I left the hospital in a taxi to retrieve my car and get the flat fixed. As I climbed out of the taxi at the service station I said hello to the woman in the booth. I told her why I was there and asked if the fellow who had helped me the day before was working so I could thank him for what he did.

She looked at me as if I were drunk, in the wrong place, or both. She informed me in a matter-of-fact tone that she was the owner of the service station and that she had no male employees.

So make of that what you will. Who was the guy who helped my wife and me? I have no way of proving that he was an angel, so I don’t know for sure. But I know for sure that God knows the plans He has for us. I also know that sometimes He fulfills those plans in very interesting ways.

Our daughter was born 10 hours after we arrived at the hospital, so getting there quickly was not necessary. However, if I had not been speeding, I would not have blown a tire. If I had not blown a tire, we wouldn’t have needed a ride from a stranger. If I had not accepted that ride, I would have had no need to go back and retrieve my car. Had I not gone to retrieve my car, I would not have met the gas station owner. And I would not be writing this story, saying that I believe in angels.

Raymond Pilon lives in Springfield, Oregon. He and his wife are now parents of three children.

The Smell of Faithfulness

Small miracles are miracles nonetheless.

The battle began at prayer meeting. The Israelites had gathered at Mizpah to fast and confess their sins. “While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with a loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites” (1 Sam. 7:10).

Samuel’s response to God’s victory was to place a stone between Mizpah and Shen. He named the stone Ebenezer saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (verse 12).

Imagine how precious the Ebenezer became to every Israelite who journeyed that way: “Do you remember how terrified we were when the Philistines were closing in on us? We were as good as finished. But God sent the thunder!”

What We Remember

What is your stone of remembrance? My stone of remembrance is not something I see, but something I smell. For me, the scent of God’s faithfulness is the fragrance of roses.

My fragrance story began when an appeal was made to donate toiletries to some missionaries visiting our school on the tiny remote island of Majuro, in the Marshall Islands. As I considered the appeal, my mind went to my two 24-ounce bottles of shampoo. I had brought them all the way from the United States, since I had been warned that shampoo was expensive in Majuro. That shampoo was meant to last me the whole year!

Living on a volunteer missionary stipend had been tough. I had just enough money for a spare diet, laundry, and the occasional 25-cent pancakes on Sunday mornings at a local restaurant.

So when the speaker asked for toiletries, my immediate response was “Not my shampoo, Lord!”

But the conviction came: “Give one of your bottles to them.” So I did.

Something Strange

At first I didn’t really notice; but then something funny seemed to happen with my remaining bottle of shampoo. It didn’t go down very quickly. Day after day I washed my hair, but the amount of shampoo in the bottle seemed to stay the same. I wondered if the miracle of the widow’s oil and flour (1 Kings 17:8-16) was happening to me. I couldn’t tell for sure.

Though I had no absolute proof, I could tell that God was supplying my need. People started giving me shampoo. I even got a gift box from the U.S. with shampoo in it. Who sends shampoo in a gift package? After a while I had a little line of shampoo bottles stored under my bed. In fact, when it was time to leave the country, I had more shampoo than I could pack.

It’s the Thought That Counts

Giving a bottle of shampoo away was a small thing, yet God graciously honored that gift. Even more valuable than receiving so many bottles of shampoo has been the constant memory of God’s faithfulness. The shampoo that seemed to stay the same level was rose-scented. To this day when I find myself stressed or worried about the future, I buy rose-scented shampoo. I wash my hair with it, and the lingering aroma reminds me how God will provide my Ebenezer.

What’s yours? What might God’s faithfulness smell like, taste like, feel like, look like, or sound like?

Everything around us can remind us of who God is. Ellen White wrote, “The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring.”
* As we eat our bread in the morning, we can remember Jesus’ body broken for us. Driving home at night, we can look at the stars and be reminded of His constant love. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge” (Ps. 19:1, 2).

I want my Ebenezers to be embedded in all my senses. I want to encode God’s faithfulness through every smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound.

* Ellen G. White,
The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), p. 660.

Julie Cook, an English professor, lives in Orlando, Florida.

Final Words

Why should forgiveness be the last thing we talk about?

It was a cool fall day when I pulled up to the home of a new hospice referral. Dorothy greeted me at the door and quietly welcomed me into her home. She introduced me to her husband, Joe, whose face was gently creased from years of working outdoors.

We chatted about their life together and how long they had lived in their home. Dorothy told me about her recent diagnosis of cancer, and we discussed things she might need. I offered to set up an aide to help her with bathing and personal care. We talked about equipment that could be ordered to make caring for her easier and to help keep her more comfortable.

Dorothy rested in a faded recliner and listened intently. Her pale-blue eyes didn’t reveal any of the thoughts running through her head. She quietly accepted the offer of equipment but refused any nursing or hospice aide care. Her husband nodded in agreement: “Whatever Dorothy wants.”

Dorothy walked me to the door. She asked, “Will you come when I need you?”

“Yes, I will.” I left my phone numbers and walked down the sidewalk paved with small stones and surrounded by daisies.

It’s Time

Several months later I received a call from Dorothy. “I need you now. Will you come?”

I went that afternoon and was greeted at the door by her husband. Dorothy was lying quietly in her recliner; both legs propped up to help relieve the swelling. Her abdomen was swollen; her skin was pale, almost translucent. Dorothy’s blue eyes were shadowed, and she appeared to be in pain. Joe quickly left the room so we could visit.

I completed my nursing assessment quickly, trying not to tire her. She was getting around with difficulty and made very few trips from her chair to the bedroom and back. Her breathing was labored after just a few steps. I ordered oxygen and a hospital bed and placed them in her bedroom so she could be comfortable at night.

I asked if she would like someone to help her bathe several times a week. “I would prefer you helping me. I’m afraid that a lot of people coming in and out might upset Joe.”

We talked openly about her hopes, her fears, and briefly touched on spiritual matters. She seemed reticent, almost shy when talking about God, even though she seemed well acquainted with Him. After bathing and changing clothes, we prayed together, and I asked God for strength, peace, and comfort in the days ahead.

I went in search of Joe and found him sitting on the back porch. He was quiet, grieving already for whom he was about to lose: his wife and companion of 55 years. We talked about the garden and flowers that Dorothy had lovingly tended; his workshop and other things that were important to him. He carefully avoided any discussion about Dorothy’s impending death and what it would mean to him.

Pressing Forward

Soon I began visiting three times a week. Tippy, the dog, greeted me at the door each time, and Joe would silently fade away, leaving Dorothy and me to our visit.

Thoughts flitted through my head: Where are her children? Why aren’t they here with their mother when she is so close to death? Dorothy kept in touch with them, she said, and she said that she would tell them when to come.

Eventually Dorothy shared some stories about her children. One son lived in Alaska, one in Turkey, a daughter in California and another son in Maryland. All were far away from her Midwestern home.

I soon became Dorothy’s pastor, her social worker, and her confidant. Sometimes the load seemed too heavy to bear. Dorothy refused any others in her home.

“I’m ready to die now. It feels so good to be ready.”

Our hospice team discussed her needs at weekly team meetings and offered support as I managed her care at home. Dorothy, her doctor, and I worked together to control her pain, always trying to keep her as comfortable as possible. We became very close and Dorothy revealed some unresolved family issues: things that needed to be said, forgiveness that had to be given. I helped her write letters to her children, and contacted each one by phone asking them to come home.

This Little Light

As I bathed Dorothy one day I asked if she had a pastor she wanted me to call. “No, please don’t call my pastor,” she said. “I’m afraid it would upset my husband. I’m the only one in my family who believes. My husband and children don’t know Jesus as I do. I wish they did, but I don’t want to make them uncomfortable.”

“Dorothy,” I said, “this is your life and your death. If it would make you feel better to talk with your pastor, please don’t let anything get in your way.”

“No,” she said, “it’s better this way.”

We talked a long time about the love of Jesus and what her faith had meant to her. “Dorothy, have you asked forgiveness for your sins?” I asked. “Have you accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation?”

“Yes, I have,” she answered, “but I’d like to make everything right one more time. Would you help me?”

We prayed together, and Dorothy asked forgiveness for her sins and privately made things right with her friend Jesus. She sighed peacefully when we finished. Traces of tears marked her face. “I’m ready to die now,” she said. “It feels so good to be ready.”

Be Not Afraid

By this time Dorothy’s children were on their way home. Other close family members were coming as well. I made my last trip up the pathway to her door in the late afternoon. The flowers were brown and stiff, rustling in the breeze. It was colder now; snow covered the ground. Dorothy’s sister met me at the door. Dorothy had slipped into a coma, her respiration slow, uneven.

I bathed Dorothy one last time. As I left the room her sister was in the hallway, tears streaming down her face. She began to sob. “I’m sorry,” I said as I held her while she cried.

Finally she was able to speak. “I’m so afraid,” she said. “I got here too late. I never even got to ask her if she was ready to die. We never talk about religion in our family; we like our privacy. I don’t want her to be lost, but it’s too late to tell her that now.”

I comforted her and said, “I’m happy to tell you that Dorothy gave her heart to Jesus just yesterday. She was at peace and made things right with Him. She told me she felt ready to die.”

One by one Dorothy’s children came home that afternoon. They kept a silent vigil in the living room. At times they whispered and seemed almost ill at ease in their childhood home. Joe sat in the recliner, surrounded by loved ones, yet looking lost and alone. Tippy lay close by, as if to guard Joe and comfort him.

I checked on Dorothy again. She was still unresponsive. I left her and quietly asked her children if they wanted to say goodbye to their mother. They went in one at a time and visited with her, gently holding her hand and kissing her. Each one spoke with her and told her that it was OK to rest now and that they loved her. Joe wanted to be alone while he said his goodbyes.

One of Dorothy’s sons hung back, almost as if it were too painful to go into her room. I encouraged him to go in if he wanted to. “Will you come with me?” he asked.

We walked in together, but he hung back, his grief almost overcoming him. “You can touch her and talk to her,” I said. “She may be able to hear you.”

I bent down and whispered, “Glen is here, Dorothy; he wants to talk to you.”

Glen reached down and closed his big hand over Dorothy’s little one. “I love you, Mom. I’m so sorry for hurting you. Will you forgive me?”

A tear slipped gently out of the corner of Dorothy’s eye. It wasn’t too late; forgiveness was there for her son. Her hand tightened gently in his, showing that she was able to hear, and that she knew he was there.

By late evening the last family member had said goodbye. Just a few minutes later Dorothy peacefully took her last breath.

Our hushed conversation turned to Dorothy and her life. Her children shared funny stories, loving memories; we laughed and cried together. By the time the funeral home staff arrived we were all talked out. Tippy left Joe’s side and quickly went to guard Dorothy’s bedroom door.

Several days later Dorothy was laid to rest on a beautiful, wooded hillside that overlooked the town. The service was held in a little stone chapel; her family and I were the only ones in attendance. After the service we hugged each other and said goodbye. I gave each one a card with special remembrances their mother had shared with me and the little booklet Life After Loss. Driving away that afternoon I prayed that each of them would find the peace and assurance Dorothy had found in Jesus.

Kimberly Carr writes from Saraland, Alabama.

Raymond Pilon, Julie Cook, and Kimberly Carr