Years ago, I read an account in the book Go Out in Joy by Nina Herman, about a young patient she met when she served as chaplain in a hospital. The little girl was slowly dying and Nina ministered to her spiritual needs. She laughed and cried with her, prayed with her, or just sat at her bedside and held her hand through the pain and agony of a long, lingering illness. Nina mentioned that the child had a great love for ladybugs. Her hospital room was filled with an assorted collection of ladybug posters, ladybug hair ornaments, ladybug pens and pencils, and anything at all that sported the tiny black and red bug. When the child finally died, Nina was crushed. She had become strongly attached to this child, and now that she was gone, Nina, the faithful minister, underwent a serious crisis in her own faith.
Was this beautiful child really in heaven? Was she living elsewhere in a more glorious dimension? Or was she just dead, cold and forever gone in the dark, dank tomb? Nina continued to wrestle with doubts for twelve grim months. Finally, on the anniversary of her little patient’s death, she went to the gravesite and sat near the tombstone. Eyes closed and heart in prayerful supplication, Nina begged the Lord to speak to her about this special child and her own special need. As she opened her eyes and looked down at the tomb, her eyes beheld her answer, a tiny ladybug scuttling animatedly across the gray slab.
“She’s alive,” heaven reassured Nina, “as alive and as vibrant as this tiny messenger. She’s alive, more than she’s ever been before!”
Nina left the cemetery that day a new person, filled with hope and happiness and new-found faith in God’s promise of eternal life. *
There is, however, as Paul Harvey might say, the rest of the story. That part involves my own experience. I was leaving the funeral home one hot summer day en route to meet my friend whose mother had died. She was not at the funeral parlor so I decided to go to her home to try to offer whatever reassurances I could.
“Lord, I prayed,” as I headed toward her home, “what should I say? What should I do? Please guide me. Let me be Your messenger to this downcast soul today.”
As I prayed, I lowered the window to let in some outside air to cool off the sweltering interior of my vehicle. That was when I noticed it , a tiny ladybug crawling up the lowered glass into the car! I held out my hand and God’s “mite of a messenger” crawled right into my awaiting palm. Her tiny presence sparked a memory and I knew now what I had to do and say. I delivered the miniscule messenger, along with Nina’s story, to my grief-stricken friend.
“Your mom, too, is alive,” I told her as I concluded Nina’s story, “as alive and as vibrant as this colorful little witness. She’s alive, more than she’s ever been before!”
My friend smiled through her tears as Jesus’ assurance of eternal life rejuvenated yet one more soul. Ever since then, the ladybug symbolizes for me the promise and the reality of eternal life.
Postscript—On the tenth anniversary of the death of my friend’s mother, she went out for a bicycle ride to be alone with her thoughts and memories. As she meditated on her mother’s life and remembered the ladybug which had brought her comfort in her dark hour, a ladybug gently lit on her arm, the first and only one she had encountered since that day ten years before! “I know,” she told me, “it was Mama’s way of reassuring me once again.”