Of all the strange coincidences and things that have happened in relation to the loss of many loved ones over the years, the one that intrigues me the most is something that started in 1969 but that I never realized until just recently -- the repeated appearance of a strange man, dressed as a United States Special Forces soldier, who I believe could be some kind of angel or guardian.
I've written about my husband, Scott, who passed away in 1993 at a very young age with brain cancer. When he was very ill at one time during the five years of his struggle, I had gone to my parents' home a few miles away to help them paint their basement and taken my two toddlers with me, which gave us a break from the chaos that our home had become.
If you can picture someone with brain damage, which I liken to dementia or Alzheimer's, but in a very healthy (except the brain) body of a 33 year old military man, that's what we were dealing with at the time. He still had some great moments, though his personality was changed by his tumor and we had some scary moments because of his military training... We just sort of got in the way of his semi-psychotic episodes sometimes and would have to go visit Mom for a little relief, which is what this painting trip was.
I vaguely remember we'd just been to the doctor and had been told that he could live like this for another six months, or the cancer might take ten years or more to eventually kill him. I was 30 at the time, and will be honest when I tell you that possibility was one of the most devastating to me. We were all exhausted from this insidious disease that had taken our charismatic fighter pilot and turned him into a guy who couldn't change a vacuum cleaner bag, not to mention every now and then he thought we were some kind of enemy (this was during the Gulf War, when all his friends were busy doing their jobs, but we were home with two babies and a daddy with cancer). I was probably at my low point, changing diapers and trying to imagine ever having a normal life, but I loved him and was not about to leave or anything.
So on this particular day, we'd gone to Mom's and left him home to watch TV. We chatted about the Gulf War as we painted, as my little brother was deployed also, also a fighter pilot. We heard the back doorbell ring and Mom went upstairs to answer it, but came racing back down shortly. She was frantic. There was a uniformed military guy at our back door, and she immediately jumped to the conclusion my brother had been hurt or killed. I said I would go to the door, and walked directly upstairs to take the brunt of whatever news this man had.
I could see him through the back door window, in full dress uniform with his green beret. I knew he was of the WRONG military service. My brother was a Marine. So as I opened the door I sort of said, "Can I help you?" The man, who I can barely describe -- handsome, military, polite, formal -- didn't introduce himself but said he was looking for Scott (my husband). Those are the only words I remember him saying. I stood there and answered, "He's at home taking a nap today." And then the conversation was just over. I closed the door and went back downstairs to tell my parents it had nothing to do with my brother. And that was the end of that, for many years.
Scott died maybe a year, maybe just a few months later, I can't remember the timeline... I didn't give this another thought.
Fast forward 22 years. We were headed from the funeral home to the nearby cemetery to bury Mom and we'd gotten in the car, the second one back from the hearse. My brother and his family were in the car ahead of us. All of a sudden, as the hearse was about to drive off, my brother jumps out of his car and gestures wildly. I get out and inquire: What are you DOING? He tells me that the song, "Ballad of the Green Berets" just came on his radio. It was a song we'd listened to hudreds of times as kids on our little record player and connected with our dad, who was an Army pilot who'd died in Vietnam). My brother, a very serious person and skeptic of the paranormal, immediately said, "I have to believe that means Dad was there for Mom and they're trying to let us know they're ok by somehow getting this song played." It was crazy... A 60s song playing in 2013. Now, years later, you can't get him to say that again, but I remember how amazed he was at the time.
That incident at Mom's funeral caused me to remember the Green Beret soldier who had come to Mom's door that day in the early 90s asking about my husband. I started wondering for the first time: why did he go to my parents' house, when the military wouldn't have known any connection between them and my husband? Why not just inquire at our house? Why didn't I talk to the guy? I talk to everybody, especially military people?! Why didn't he explain why he was there? How did he get there... No car, back door, can't explain how he left? Mom's home was rather isolated and off the main drag, how could he have specifically known to ask there for Scott? It made zero sense. And why didn't any of us question it at the time?
Talking about it one day with my new husband over coffee on a weekend morning, I also remembered this: when I was 8 years old, just after Dad died in Vietnam, I had bad stomachaches and missed a lot of school. Mom took me one day to the nearby base commissary (the grocery store) and there was this guy. Maybe the SAME guy, dressed in military dress uniform with a green beret on his head... Someone we knew as kids was SPECIAL, like a HERO. And at some point I was alone in a grocery aisle with that man, and he looked at me as a little girl and a feeling of complete peace and wellness comes to my memory. It had been significant in my childhood... What I remember is feeling very special just to have been in the same aisle with this man (who never said a word to me by the way).
Now, at age 59, I wonder if these separate incidents are all related somehow and whether this was the same guy. If this is an angel, does he appear to me as a hero from my childhood? Our family's history of military service goes all the way back to Europe and I mean WAY back (I'm a genealogist). And I've often felt perhaps I have been a man (rather than a woman) in a past life... Probably a military man. I know how weird that sounds, and I'm not even into past lives or reincarnation.
Finally, last year when I was painting a bedroom (always painting, right?) I was thinking about all this while listening to my Amazon Alexa (Christmas music) and suddenly said: "If I do have an angel, won't you send me some sign?" And right then, the line from the Christmas song, "We Need a Little Christmas" played: "...and I need a little angel, sitting on my shoulder..." It happened so fast, I almost missed it, then almost fell off my ladder!
PS, one last thing: on my first date with Scott, I asked him what he did in the military. I knew I liked him. He said, "Do you know what a Green Beret is?" SO of course, that is also significant. He was primarily a pilot when we met, but he had recently graduated from U.S. Army Special Forces School... Or Green Beret training. Is all this connected? I feel it is.