God Meets Us Where We Are by Victoria Rodriguez
I was crying on my bed one day in late summer. My husband and I had argued a little before breakfast, and while he was out fixing the van, I told the kids to go play in their room because Mommy wasn’t feeling well and needed to take a nap.
Lying on my side of the king-size bed, I watched my door creep slowly open. I saw my daughter’s Chinese eyes peeking in to check on me. I waved her in with my hand and said, “Come on, baby. Come lie down with Mommy.”
Amber came in, closed the door behind her, and crossed her way over to my side, cuddling her way into my arms. After some time, she spoke.
“Mommy, why are you crying?”
“Oh, baby, you know Mommy is a big crybaby.”
“But why?” She wiped my tears. “Mommy, you don’t have to cry because I love you. I don’t ever want you to cry or to ever be sad because I love you!”
Oh, my sweet baby! She had always taken care of me, always known the right thing to say at the right time. I gave her a big kiss and told her I loved her too. I lay back down, feeling warm inside.
When I finally left the room, Amber was there in the doorway, flashing me a grin from ear to ear with her two front teeth goofing out. She held out a piece of paper and said, “Here, Mommy. This is for you.” It was a picture of two stick figures—me and her—and the words, I love you. You are the best mom, written above. I told her that I loved it, and she told me that she would hang it on the refrigerator so I would read it every day.
My husband and I made up, and we decided to go out to the river and barbecue. I sat on the love seat, putting on my shoes and listening as Amber and her younger brother, Toby, talked in the next room.
“Sissy!” he said. “I can’t wait to die. I can’t wait to die and go to heaven and be with Jesus. I am going to be sooo haaappy!”
“Nooo, Toby,” Amber told her younger brother. “You’re not gonna die; you’re not gonna go see Jesus!” Then, as though bragging, she said, “I’m gonna go see Jesus first!”
A little puzzled by my crazy kids, I went out to the car.
During the forty-five-minute drive to the river, Amber told me about how she could not wait to eat the carnitas I was going to make. They were all excited, but Toby was soon asleep, snoring away while Rafa, the youngest, just played quietly in his seat. Amber held out for a while, but eventually she joined Toby, and in the rearview mirror I watched her fall fast asleep in the seat behind me, arms folded on the door, cushioning her head.
I made a complete stop at the intersection of Highway 46. There were no cars to the left, and only two or three far away to the right. As I slowly pulled out from the stop sign, I heard my husband call out, his voice heavy with fear, “No! No! No!”
I looked left, and all I saw were headlights. I looked forward again, gripped the steering wheel as tightly as I could, and floored the gas pedal, praying that the car would miss us and we would just fly over the road.
I woke up, still in the van. My husband was asking if I was okay. I nodded, and he jumped out of the vehicle, running around, yelling for our kids.
“Amber! Toby! Rafa!”
I felt a sharp pain in my neck and found it hard to move. Slowly, I shifted my body to the right and saw my Toby sitting there in his chair, covered in blood. He looked dazed, but he was coming to. Then I noticed that up above him, over the third row, was my son Rafa. He was dangling from his car seat. The impact must have busted his seat from the seat belt and flung him across the van, leaving him wedged in the back corner. I remember being confused, wondering how in the world he had gotten stuck up there. Then I noticed that the van’s back door was wide open. Thank you, God, for not letting him fly out of the back of the van.
That was when I thought of Amber. At first I just called her name, but soon I was yelling it. I wasn’t trying to wake her; I was grieving. I knew she was gone. I felt it.
A woman came to the car and tried to help me. I told her, “No, please, go check on my daughter.”
She crawled her way to the back of the van to hold my daughter. Her son sat in the passenger side of the car, holding my hand, and I asked him to pray with me. I asked God to please not take Amber. I promised that even if she was sick, I would take care of her for the rest of my life. I pleaded with God, telling him that I could not live without her. My pleas rang out, and some bystanders told me to stop screaming. They said that Amber had a pulse, but I knew she was gone. I knew she was not coming back.
At the hospital I could hear Toby screaming somewhere nearby. I was desperate to find out what was wrong with him, and the doctor rushed in with news.
“Ma’am, he has internal bleeding, and we are going to rush him to emergency surgery.”
I asked about Rafa because I could no longer hear him crying or screaming, and the doctor explained that they had just finished intubating him. He had bleeding on his brain, and if he made it through, he would probably have brain damage. Please, Lord, don’t take all of them. I know you have Amber now but, please, not all of them.
The medication kicked in, and I started to drift away. Familiar faces of family members swept across my face. Soft voices told me it was all going to be fine. Louie, my ex—Toby’s and Amber’s father—arrived, and I told him Amber was gone. He said that I was wrong, that I must not think like that, and that he would go and check. I closed my eyes and prayed that I was wrong about her, pleading with God to change what I sensed had already happened. Time drifted. Prayers slowed. Then I heard Louie’s voice, very soft and shaky, calling my name, “Victoria.” I opened my eyes and saw both my husband and Louie on either side of me. My husband grabbed my right arm, and Louie grabbed my left. Louie said, “Amber didn’t make it.”
The days that followed are still a blur to me. I know I slept in Amber’s bed, inhaling the only bit of her that was left in this world, wrapped in her covers, clutching onto the picture she had drawn me hours before she died, weeping until sleep took over.
By the time we buried Amber in the plot next to my grandmother, my boys had recovered fully from their injuries. Toby had suffered fractured ribs, a fractured jaw, and a torn spleen. Rafa had fractured ribs and a torn spleen, too, as well as bleeding on the brain. When Rafa came home from the hospital, he stood on the steps outside our house, stared up at the sky as if he was watching something, waved, and said, “Bye, Sissy!”
At some point I told my husband that as soon as I had woken up after the accident, I knew that Amber was gone. Whether it was a mother’s instinct or the bond that I had with my daughter, I don’t know. But I knew. My husband told me that Toby knew too.
“What do you mean, ‘Toby knew’? How could he have possibly known that? He’s only six years old.”
My husband explained that as he carried him out of the vehicle, Toby had cried out, “Papi, I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!”
“No, Toby, you are not going to die. Papi is here. The ambulance is coming. Don’t you hear them coming?”
Toby told him, “But my sissy is dead; my sissy died already!” How could he have known that?
One night as Toby and I were driving alone, I started to talk with him. I asked him how he knew about Sissy dying. He glanced out of his window behind the passenger seat. I could see him thinking, remembering. Then, finally, he looked my way with a smile and said, “Because, Mommy, I saw her wings start to grow. They were baby wings and then grew into big wings. Not big wings but like her age wings.” I was shocked. Then he said, “You know why Sissy died, right, Mommy?”
I replied, “No, Toby. Why?”
“Because, Mommy, Sissy wanted to save us. She woke us up from the accident because we were all dead.” I took it in and remained quiet. I didn’t know how to respond.
In the middle of October I invited my sister over for dinner. I made barbecued carnitas, Amber’s favorite. My sister and I sat on the sofa, and she looked concerned as she spoke.
“How are the boys? Are they talking? Do they miss Amber?”
I told her that the boys were fine and that we talked about Amber all the time. I told her what Toby had told me the other week about seeing Amber’s wings. I called him over, and he told my sister the same story. Just when I thought he was done, he looked down.
“But I was scared, Mommy.”
“But why, baby? Why were you scared?”
“Because I saw the angels too.”
I told him those were God’s angels, and we don’t ever need to be scared of them.
“Mommy, I was scared because I saw them taking Sissy, and I didn’t wanna go. I wanted to stay here with you.”
My sister and I looked at each other in awe.
Days later Toby and I were alone again, and I got to thinking about what he had said about the angels. So I asked, “Toby, remember how you said you saw the angels too? What were they doing? How many were there?”
He turned away and started pointing in the air right in front of him, as if he was counting. Then he looked back at me. “Six, Mommy. There were six angels.”
I started picturing the six angels in the car and the five of us. It didn’t make sense, so I asked, “Six angels? Man, that’s a lot of angels. What were they doing?”
He shyly looked away and then placed his left hand on his left hip and said, “There were two right here.” Then he placed his right hand on his right hip and said, “There were two right here.” He grabbed his ankles—“One right here”—and then put his hand behind his neck and said, “There was one right here.” He held out his left hand with his palm facing up, his right hand on top of it, also with his palm upward. “They all had their hands like this under Sissy, and they were going up, up, up, and up. And that’s how I saw her wings, Mommy. They were coming out of her back, and it didn’t even hurt her. And Sissy looked see-through, like Casper.”
I was speechless again. My six-year-old son would never have known the significance of such a thing. Such a vivid vision could only come from God.
Not quite a year has gone by since Amber passed away, but so much has changed for me. I have become a better mother, a better wife, a better daughter, friend, and person. My encounter with my angel, Amber Brooke, has initiated my newfound faith. I have a new passion for life, and I have found a new way to love—through Christ.
I used to think that I could never survive the loss of a child. Now that it has happened to me, I can say that I have learned how to live through the pain. I have learned how to lean on God as I give my child back to him. It has changed everything for me, and I no longer fear life and all its challenges. Nor will I fear the Enemy and all his wickedness that lurks in the corners of every neighborhood.
Most important, I no longer fear death. I know that God reaches out to each of us, providing us with comfort and reassurance, reminding us that though the journey may be sudden or unexpected, at the end of our travels we will find ourselves with him, finally at home. I believe that is why he gave my little boy a last picture of his sister that he could understand and remember, one that he would later use to encourage me. I know that we are not angels, but even so, it still amazes me that God did what he did. He gave my little son a picture that he, with his childlike faith, could understand. The image of his sister growing angel wings sparked so much faith and trust in Toby that it sparked faith and trust in me as well. What God in his gracious kindness showed Toby changed everything.
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