"Mommy! Mommy!" I tried to scream out. As my mouth framed the words, my voice refused to utter the sounds I so desperately struggled to form. My feet and hands felt like lead and my veins as though they were filled with ice; a numbing paralysis had settled over me as I struggled to return to consciousness from a deep sleep. Slowly, objects in the room swam into view--the iron bedstead, the tall bureau, other familiar objects that began to stand out against the blur of the darkness of the room I had been sleeping in. As I began to feel the blood warm my small body once again, at last I called out in desperation, "Mommy! Mommy!"

The curtain covering the doorway parted and the stream of light coming from the next room framed my mother's silhouette as she entered the room.

"What is it, Clifton?" I heard her skirts making a soft rustling sound as she moved swiftly toward my bed.

"What's the matter?" Her voice sounded tired and worried, as it well should be. My sister, Ruth, and I had contacted measles that spring and were both critically ill. As my mother sat down upon the feather-ticking mattress, I sat bolt upright and grabbed for her comforting form, for only her nearness could dispel the fear that I felt from the startling scene I had just witnessed.

I wrapped my arms around her, my heart throbbing in my throat, as feeling began to surge back into my trembling body, shaken with sobs.

"Oh, Mommy, Mommy," I cried.

"Tell me about it, honey," she said as she held me close and stroked my hair, reassuring me with her touch.

"Mommy, I just saw two angels come and get Ruth ... and, oh, Mommy, they took her away. I saw them float up."

Mom held me away from her gently and said, "Are you sure now, Clifton? You were probably just dreaming."

As she talked, she put her hand against my forehead to see if I still had a fever.

I stated emphatically, "No, Mommy, I really saw it. They came and got Ruth."

Ruth was my baby sister, just two years younger than I. Though just barely two years old, she was such an intelligent child; it was she who had taught me how to talk. Now, her angelic face was covered with red spots and her curly brown hair lay limp and tousled from the perspiration of the fever of the sickness. Her usually sparkling brown eyes were fixed in a vacant stare.

It had been a hard winter that year and she and I had been sickly for some time. The drafty, three-room, shot-gun type house we lived in made the winter months very difficult. We had had more than our share of colds and flu. The cold chilly winds of winter would blow up through the rough floor of the hillside house which was supported by stilts on the downhill side. Now that spring had arrived, the measles had hit.

In the last day or so, Ruth had become increasingly worse, and so my mother and father had moved her into the other room. Just that evening when my father had returned home from working in the coal mines, Ruth came to greet him. He picked her frail little body up in his arms and she turned her eyes toward him so pitifully that he couldn't bear to look at her. He laid her down on the bed and walked outside the house weeping, his heart gripped with fear. Instead of recovering from the measles as a child normally would, she had developed complications and as the hillfolks of the Southwest Virginia area would diagnose it, they "went in on her."

I had grown sleepy and been put to bed for the night. My mother, the doctor, and some friends were gathered in the room with Ruth, praying for her recovery. My father, whose fear became great that he might lose both of his children, had gone to the woods to pray.

Now as my mother was speaking, her words failed to convince me that what I had seen was not real.

"But, Mommy, I really did see it! These two angels came and they had on shiny white dresses, and this light was all around them, and they got hold of Ruthie's hand…and, Mommy, she wasn't afraid of them either. She just looked at them and smiled. Then they all looked up at heaven and as they looked, they started floating up. I did see it. Ruth had on a white gown and it had ruffles on the bottom. I watched ... I even saw her little feet hanging down from her gown. I watched them until they got too far for me to see."

At this moment, cries came from the other room, "Esther! Esther! Come quickly! It's Ruth!"

Hastily gathering me into her arms, she rushed into the room where my sister lay upon the bed, her tiny feet showing beneath the ruffle of her white gown. Stooping down over her still form, the words "She's gone!" broke the silence and wrenched forth an unutterable sob from my mother's anguished heart. Soon the room was filled with the wailing of those who shared her heartbreak.

When word of Ruth's passing reached my father, who still knelt in the woods agonizing in prayer, fear filled him for his only remaining child. Since the time of his conversion, God had called him to preach and he had steadily resisted the call. Now feeling that God was punishing him for his refusal to heed Him, he called out desperately in prayer, promising that if God would spare his son, he would preach the gospel. My recovery was assured.

A few days later, my mother and father sat amazed, recalling the vision God had given me of Ruth's passing, wondering why God had chosen to grant such a vision to such a small child.

As I look back to that winter of 1921, I realize it was the vision of seeing my baby sister Ruth carried into heaven by the angels that was burned deep into my mind and marked my memory with an indelible brand that would haunt me for years to come as I tried in vain to live the life that I chose for myself.

 

From: THE MIRACLE OF MURLIN HEIGHTS by Clifton E. Snodgrass, pag. 7-11, Whitaker House 1976, Springdale Pa, USA.

 

 

Index