Walking Evelyn Home
By Arlene Hopkins with Charlaine Martin
Image by Camilo Jaminez from Unsplash.
The ambulance pulled up in silence with only its beacon flashing into our senior community nestled behind the local Catholic church. As residents slept in the early morning hours, paramedics came for a large woman in her late 70’s. Her pale complexion highlighted her stressed condition. Skilled paramedics wheeled the gurney, which held her snuggly wrapped in a light blue blanket, and placed her into the ambulance with care. The elderly woman breathed precious oxygen into her large, ailing body. Then the ambulance sped along the highway to our local hospital. Health issues have plagued her for the last several years, which probably sparked this emergency.
At morning’s breakfast, we shuffled into the dining hall, savoring the aroma of bacon, eggs, and more delicious foods that welcomed us from the kitchen. When we seated ourselves with our breakfast plates, I noticed my friend, Evelyn, hadn’t come in. She was a large, smiling woman with a hump in her back that bent her over her cane. I saw no sign of her. She had not been feeling well for quite some time. Coming to the dining room for breakfast may have been too difficult for her, so maybe she had it delivered to her apartment. My dear friend didn’t show up for lunch or supper, either. Every day I watched for Evelyn, but I was sadly disappointed my chat buddy didn’t come for meals.
After a few days passed, I was quite concerned, so I asked our community manager about her. “Oh, she went to the hospital about a week ago,” she replied. Stunned, I thanked her and wheeled to my apartment on my power chair with tears stinging my eyes as the sunlight glimmered through the trees.
Evelyn topped my long prayer list over the next few weeks. As time wore on, I doubted I would see her again. At best, I thought she would go into a nursing home; at worst, she would die. Either way, I mourned the loss of my trusted confidant and companion. Even though I didn’t want to eat, I dutifully wheeled down to the dining hall anyway.
She spent what seemed an eternity in the hospital, which made me feel lonely. I often asked God, “When will she be able to come home?” I considered this question hoping for an answer. Although I wanted to visit her, I couldn’t drive there to see her.
One evening, with my prayer list in hand, I talked with God about each name. My snowy-haired head began to nod, signaling my bedtime. I washed my night time dose of pills down with a sip of water and then pressed my lift chair’s remote to get up. Hobbling with my walker while pain throbbed in my hip, I turned the corner into my bedroom. Carefully, I eased myself onto my bed. No sooner had my head touched the pillow, I drifted off to sleep.
It barely seemed I had gone to bed when I awoke in the middle of the night. Something prompted me to get up, although I didn’t know what. For some strange reason, I noticed my body lay still in bed as I stood up. Odd, I wondered, Why is my body still in bed, yet I am up? I began walking along a dimly lit corridor, feeling confused, until I found myself in Evelyn’s hospital room. Her room was strangely quiet, absent of the usual hospital sounds. No lights or monitors tracked her vitals—her body remained free of I.V. tubes and wires. Interesting, I thought. Either the doctor plans to send her home, or he expects her to die soon.
My friend lay there crying alone in her bed as I came up to her. She reached her hand out to me for comfort. “Hi, Evelyn. Why am I here?’ I asked her, puzzled yet glad to see her.
“Because I asked for you,” she sniffled, taking my hand in hers. Time stood still for a moment as we talked together. She looked so peaceful when she fell asleep. Her spirit rose from her body while she held my hand. Evelyn began speaking with a calm, steady tone as she stood up beside me. Her lifeless body remained in bed. This whole scene seemed quite illogical and wonder-filled at the same time.
“Arlene, let’s go for a walk,” she said, her eyes twinkling. She always had a fun-loving, friendly nature. It intrigued me that my friend could stand fully upright with no hump on the left side of her back. She also didn’t need assistance from a cane or walker. Well, neither did I. It didn’t make sense, but I liked it. Evelyn looked like herself wearing her usual clothes while a gentle smile adorned her face.
“Sure,” I nodded in agreement. Why can we walk on our own like this? I wondered, keeping up with her stride. We embarked on an exciting adventure.
Strolling along during our conversation, we came to a perfect gleaming white spiral staircase with sparkling gold trim. It swept wide as it wound upward into the clouds. A bright beam shone down to the ground. We stood on its bottom step gazing upward. “Hey, why don’t we go up and see what’s at the top?” my friend exclaimed. Like a curious child, Evelyn started up the closely-spaced steps while she looked toward the top of the stairway. “Come on!” she urged. I wanted to see what was up there, so I began the long climb holding her hand. I certainly didn’t want to be left behind. Now, this seemed crazy because neither one of us had walked up steps for years.
Partway up, a stunning masculine voice from the clouds above spoke to me, “Arlene, I’m not ready for you. Go back.” Not willing to be left behind by my friend, I looked to see the person whose voice I heard. I tried to convince him to let me come, too. After all, I wanted to go wherever Evelyn went.
I pressed on, hoping to change his mind, “Why can’t I go, too? It’s not fair she gets to go and not me.”
This Voice replied, in a calm, firm tone, “No. I’m not ready for you yet.” It was then I realized it was Jesus talking to me. Evelyn let go of my hand and disappeared into the clouds as I stood frozen in shock. I resigned myself to do what He said and began my obedient descent down the grand white stairs, disappointed and overwhelmed. When I reached the bottom step, I found myself back in my bedroom. My body remained in bed, so I sat down on the mattress and lay back down into my body. It was now 7 am.
At breakfast later that morning in the dining hall, we heard the sad announcement of my friend’s passing. I was astonished because my dream seemed so real. When I asked our community manager when she died, I learned that her time of death was 7 am–the same time as my night’s adventure with Evelyn. “Thank You. Lord, for the privilege of walking her to heaven,” I whisper-prayed.
My life changed that night because, even though I believed Jesus was real, I now know He is. I wish I had such an experience with Him earlier in my life. The anxiety I felt before would have evaporated. This Bible verse speaks to my heart about this revelation, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27 NKJV). Seeing heaven is real, I know where my friend is. Prayer means more now because I have deeper conversations with Jesus, who spoke to me that night. He answers my prayers just like he answered Evelyn’s prayer for me to visit her. I trust him with all my needs. I could have died that night and would be overjoyed to spend eternity with Evelyn and Jesus, but it was not my time. My experience walking Evelyn home gives me a greater purpose in my life to share Jesus with people and pray for them.
Arlene Hopkins is the mother of Charlaine Martin. She is now in nursing care at 90 years old. When she had this experience, she resided in the Thumb of Michigan at Sanctuary of Maple Vista, a seniors’ independent living community. She loved all types of needlework, playing Bingo, and petting her cat Charlotte.