I had just finished speaking to a parish group, when a woman approached me to talk. “You speak about God experiences,” she said, “and I don’t think I’ve ever had one.” We chatted for a while, and then she told me a most poignant story.
Her 28 year old son had died in 1993 of AIDS. It was at a time when people didn’t know much about the disease, and even healthcare workers were afraid of it. The resulting isolation of patients and their families made it all the harder to face the ravages of the disease and the inevitable death sentence it then brought. One day, she told me, her bedridden son started to tell her about all the people who were crowded in the hospital room with them – people who were visible only to him. When she realized what was happening, she asked him: “Is your grandma here too?” “Yes,” he replied, “she’s standing right there.” This loving mother courageously advised him, “If she asks you to go with her, don’t hesitate – go with her.” Soon thereafter, the young man slipped away within himself, and then died. She found great comfort in knowing he was not alone at his transition, but was welcomed by his beloved grandmother and the company of the saints.
I placed my hand on this woman’s shoulder and said with a smile, “Don’t tell me that you haven’t had any God experiences…that’s what grace looks like.” She smiled in return as we both savored the richness of God’s Presence.