I was relieved to get home and change out of my work clothes after a busy day when I got the phone call that changed everything. Before I could even say hello, my mother frantically told me that my troubled younger sister Ashley had disappeared without a trace after an unexpected release from a treatment facility. She was last seen wandering the streets in a vulnerable state of mind days before and no one had seen her since. “What do you mean Ashley is missing?” I cried out. The room started spinning, my heart began racing, and panic set in. I was outraged to learn the local police had refused my parents’ request to take a missing person’s report. Ashley was considered an adult who was lost voluntarily. I got on the next plane home – determined to find her myself.
The early days of searching were a blur. We tacked up homemade flyers on telephone poles and in storefront windows. We checked hospitals, jails, and shelters, being turned away due to privacy laws. We talked to the homeless on street corners and anyone willing to look at our flyer. Checking with the morgue to inquire about any unidentified Jane Does became a new daily routine. The days turned to weeks with no sign of Ashley and eventually I had to return to my job in California without answers.
I was consumed with worry with each passing day and haunted by a premonition I’d had 5 months prior to Ashley’s disappearance. As I hugged her goodbye after a visit – I was struck with a sense that I would never see her again. I was shaken but with no awareness then of why or how to prevent what was to come.
Shortly after Ashley went missing, I got another call that brought me to my knees. My grandfather was dying and had only days to live as the cancer took over. I was overcome with sadness as I raced back home to see him one last time.
My Granddaddy was the only sense of stability I had growing up. He was a minister who wore his heart on his sleeve and prayed deliberately with his parishioners as if their troubles were his own. And while I quietly hoped his words of faith were true, I carried a deep sense of abandonment and anger about the chaos of my childhood. I often wondered where this invisible God my Grandfather had devoted his life to was hiding.
Sitting at his bedside, I never felt more alone. I was angry the police would not help my family, about to lose my job and grief stricken about his impending death. But even in his final hours, my Grandfather wanted to pray for me and assure me God had not forgotten my sister. I was silently thinking to myself God would never hear those prayers. I didn’t believe He existed.
I will always remember our final exchange. My Granddaddy reached out to take both of my hands. He said, “God answers prayers – sometimes the answer doesn’t come right away, but it comes. You just need to get quiet. Listen.”
I wondered “How could he have so much faith while he is suffering and so close to death?” But I sat silently, listening to him with tears rolling down my face, as I held on to his frail hands for the last time. ‘Libba, everyone has a purpose, including you – and when I get there – as he pointed to the sky – I’m going to see about that.’
My Granddaddy Bob died the next day. It was only a few days later that I began receiving heavenly messages and signs, having coincidences I could not explain and becoming aware of the presence of angels. I was no longer a skeptic.
Although I lost my job and Ashley was still missing, I was consumed with the idea that I needed to ‘do something’ about the injustice of her disappearance and that my Granddaddy was about to make good on his promise.
I had no idea then of the dark and dangerous journey I was about to embark on over the next ten years but there is no doubt in my mind today that I was divinely guided every step of the way.