“We see only the links in the chain one by one, without seeing how they are interconnected. The day Jesus allows you to catch a glimpse of the whole golden chain, the marvelous succession of events, you will thank Him and bless Him.” (I Believe in Love)
Growing up I mostly did not believe in God. For several years in my life I even believed that those who did have strong faith must be gullible or unintelligent. A few years back I had a conversion experience that changed my life and set my family and I on a new path. Since that conversion there have been moments where God has graced me and shown Himself to me. I have had experiences that could not be explained away.
The following is the story of one such event where God allowed me to see His fingerprints and the weaving and unfolding of His story. This is the story of my friendship with Mrs. Irene.
Several months ago, there were young men going door to door selling alarm systems. I am terrible in these types of situations. I am the person who invites Jehovah’s Witnesses into her home. I can’t hang up on telemarketers. I could never walk past the mall dude trying to sell straighteners. I worry too much about what those people might think of me (but I’m working on it).
We live in a very humble 1,000 square foot home, and our neighborhood is like “neighborhood watch” on steroids. If a dog farts on our street there is a press release sent out immediately. We did not need an alarm system.
When Braden, the salesman, walked over and introduced himself to Marvin and I we told him we were not going to buy the alarm system. Braden said he understood, no pressure, and Marvin and I invited him to sit down while he waited for his ride (he was dropped off in our neighborhood) and immediately I jumped into Diana mode and began interviewing him.
I find people’s lives and their backstories fascinating and this guys was no exception. Braden had an accent (northern sounding) so that was where my line of questioning began. Over about an hour conversation, I learned that he was Mormon. He explained a bit about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and we talked about his dating life and his college major and where he lives and how he got the job walking around neighborhoods selling alarm systems. He was a young guy, maybe 21, and he had a good, sweet soul. Marvin and I liked him immediately.
At some point in the conversation, I asked him if the little old woman who lived two streets down had purchased an alarm system. We did not know that woman personally and, at the time, I didn’t know why she popped into my mind. Marvin and I sometimes take the kids for walks around the neighborhood and twice she had been checking the mail while we walked by. We made small talk when we passed her by, so we knew that she lived alone.
Braden said it was funny that I brought her up because he was really hoping she would buy one. She had mentioned to him that she could use the alarm system since it came with an alert necklace and she had fallen a few times recently. Braden said that the little old woman had asked him to come back later–she wanted to talk to a friend to see what their opinion was first.
What happened next surprised me: Marvin said, “We would like to pay for her to have it.”
Marvin is a really thoughtful guy and he is always aware of people who might need help. He’s the kind of guy who always gives money to the homeless guy on the corner. I’ve sent him for pizza before and found out he had to make two trips to the pizza place because he ended up giving our pizza to someone on his route home who seemed like they needed it. I’m not surprised when he does something selfless and thoughtful, but paying a monthly bill for a woman we did not know seemed crazy–even for him. We ended up buying the alarm system with the agreement that Braden would not tell the woman who had bought it for her. That was that.
Fast forward several months. It’s the middle of the night and Dane wakes up because of (what we think was) a nightmare. He isn’t calming down despite Marvin and I’s best efforts and eventually we decided to bring him to our bed. Dane has never spent the night in our bed (aside from his days as a baby) that’s how rare this is for him and for us. It takes a few hours before he finally settles down enough to fall asleep. My alarm goes off the next morning and I am exhausted. I’m running on 3 hours of sleep and (because I am no saint) I’m also very annoyed. I handle little sufferings terribly–basically kicking and screaming and crying and complaining. At this point I am feeling very frustrated that I’m the one who has to jump out of bed and get everyone dressed and pack lunches and wake up kids and handle breakfast. Marvin sees me sulking and asks me what’s wrong and I go into a “woe is me” speech about how much I do and how little he does. He asks me how he can help and I ask him to get Dane and Juliet dressed–something he does not normally do.
Marvin dresses the younger two and helps me me with my morning responsibilities and now, thanks to my husband, I am actually ahead of schedule–which never happens. I strap the kids in their carseats and head off to bring our oldest to kindergarten.
As I pass the little old woman’s house, I notice there is a cop car in her driveway. I feel a nudge to turn around and check on her, and since I’m actually early, I do. I turn around, pull into the driveway and get out of the van (and leave my kids in their seats). As I start walking towards her house I notice the police officer is standing at the front door. I yell out to him.
Me: Hey! Is everything alright?
Police Officer: I’m not sure. I’ve knocked but no one is answering.
Me: Well, go in because she falls sometimes!
PO: Do you know her?
Me: No, I don’t. I live just down the street.
PO: Come with me!
I find it odd that the police officer asks me to accompany him, but I do. He asks me to go first into the house. I walk into the house and call out “Hello?”. We hear a voice coming from the back. We walk past a television tuned to EWTN and find the little old lady laying on the floor in the bathroom.
We ask her how she is and how long she has been on the floor. She says she has not been on the floor very long. She apologizes for pressing her alert necklace and says she knows she’s been “pressing it too much lately”. The officer and I assure her not to worry, that’s what it’s for after all.
The little old lady’s eyes water and she looks up at me and says she’s having a really, really bad day. She found out yesterday that she has stage 4 cancer and she’s really scared. My mind returns to the television set turned to a Catholic station and I remind her that God has a plan. She says that she knows He does, but sometimes that plan is just really hard to accept.
We help her off the floor and by this time the EMTs are here. I remember my kids in the car and tell her and the officers that I have to go, but that I will be back to check on her later this morning.
I bring Elaina to school and Dane to Mother’s Day Out and decide to stop on my way home and check on the woman. When Juliet and I arrive we find her sister is visiting from out of town. The sister and I chat a bit and she tells me that after yesterday’s diagnosis the woman will no longer be able to live alone. This presents a problem since the only family member nearby is the woman’s son who has a job and is unable to stay with her full time. The sister whispers to me that the doctors have given the woman only 2 months to live.
The woman tells me her name is Irene Davison and asks me for mine. I tell her I live right down the road and my name is Diana Vallette. Her mouth drops opens and her eyes water “so you are the angel who blessed me with this alarm system.” I am embarrassed that she knows it was us and I give Marvin all the credit. She asks me how we like our alarm system and I have to tell her that we do not have one. “I just cannot believe someone would do that,” she replies. I am glad that we have been able to help her and especially glad that the alarm necklace came in so handy.
On my way out, I remind the sister that we live only two streets down and we are happy to help in any way we can. The sister says “thank you, all we really need right now is to figure out which family members will take which shifts.” I open my mouth and out comes the following crazy sentence: “I have 3 kids so I cannot help during the day, but I am happy to take a few night shifts.”
Marvin comes home that afternoon and I fill him in on my day. Days pass and I often find my mind wandering back to Mrs.Irene. Her house is on my route out of our neighborhood and I see that she has had many visitors lately. I decide to pop in one morning and drop off a box of donut holes. I leave my name and number on an envelope in case they need help with anything.
A few days pass and I receive a phone call from Mrs. Irene’s son Pete. Pete asks me if I was serious about my offer to stay overnight with his mom. By this point Marvin and I have spoken about the possibility and we have agreed it’s something God is calling us to do.
Since that phone call 5 months ago I have slept every Sunday night and Tuesday night at Mrs. Irene’s house. We’ve had chats about her late husband, her son that passed away in infancy, her faith, her love of God, her anxiety about her impending death, her children and many, many other things. I’ve grown to love the color purple, Bluebell ice cream and EWTN.
So, you see, because a nice guy named Braden was selling alarm systems and because Mrs. Irene popped into my mind at that exact moment and because Marvin is a good guy and because Dane had a nightmare and I got no sleep and because I was mad and Marvin helped me and because I was early that morning and because Mrs. Irene got bad news the day before and because she did not have family nearby and because I speak before thinking and because her family really needed help….because of all those pieces fitting together, I made a friend who has forever changed me and I was able to walk alongside that friend during her final months on Earth.
I’m sad to report that Mrs. Irene passed away this morning. She was a woman of great faith who loved gardening, dancing and good food. She had old fashioned values and described herself as a Cajun girl. She taught me a lot about humility, Catholicism and patience and I will miss her.
I humbly ask you to pray for Mrs. Irene and her family, especially her son Pete, who has inspired me with his selflessness, and her two other children Ellen and Robert.