Virgil Gibson, of Meeker, Oklahoma, was a special man. Everyone who knew him recognized his kindness, generosity and spiritual strength. “If anyone needed anything, they would call us,” Kathleen Gibson says. “They knew Virgil would help.” One of his hobbies was collecting stuffed animals. Every Christmas he would give them all away to needy children.
Kathleen was his biggest fan. “I always believed that God had brought us together,” she says, “because we married after knowing each other just two weeks, and Virgil loved me unconditionally for 31 years.” Virgil was a truck driver, who had named his company, “A Wing and a Prayer.” Kathleen drove with him as often as she could, and nearly always after their son grew up. “We were a team not only in trucking, but in life,” Kathleen says. “Where you saw him, you would see me.”
In 2001, Virgil developed some health problems. But he didn’t want to retire. Kathleen could drive, and he would go along. “He told me that he would rather be with me on the truck than any place else, especially if anything ever happened to him,” Kathleen says. Early in January, 2002, the couple drove a load from Chicago to Jacksonville, Florida, and had to stay there over the weekend before they could pick up another load. This was not unusual. Kathleen and Virgil passed the time in their truck, watching television and enjoying each other’s company as usual. On Monday morning, as they left the truckstop restaurant, Virgil stopped. “I’m dizzy,” he told Kathleen. Suddenly, he fell to the ground.
“Virgil!” Kathleen cried. Quickly she reached into his pocket for his nitro pills.
People ran toward them. One trucker called an ambulance, while others surrounded the pair. Kathleen knelt on the pavement, with Virgil’s head in her lap. The scene seemed surreal. How could this be happening? She couldn’t lose Virgil, God, she just couldn’t! Looking up, she noticed an older couple approaching. The woman was carrying a Bible, and the man held blankets, which he tucked around Virgil’s still form. Quietly, the woman began to pray.
The paramedics arrived, and as they applied electrodes to shock Virgil’s heart, the woman drew Kathleen away from the scene. “Your husband is with God now,” she said quietly. “God is going to put His arms around you, and help you through this grief.” No, it wasn’t true! But somehow Kathleen knew that it was. As Virgil was put into the ambulance, the woman led Kathleen back to it. During the long ride to Ed Fraser Hospital in Macclenny, Florida, Kathleen continued to pray: “Please God, save my husband..I love him..I need him.” The doctors did all that they could, but the unknown lady at the truckstop had been right. Virgil entered Paradise that day.
Kathleen was exhausted when she finally left the emergency room. There was so much to do, so much grief to bear, and she was alone in an unfamiliar city. How was she going to cope? But when she approached the waiting room, she saw the couple from the truck stop! “We’re supposed to be here,” the man explained, brushing aside Kathleen’s surprised thanks. “We knew you’d need a ride back.” She looked at them closely for the first time. Two ordinary, grey-haired grandparent-types perhaps in their mid-60’s. She had never seen them before. But somehow, despite the shock and grief that was just beginning, she felt comfortable, safe, even, somehow, loved. The lady was still holding her Bible. “Come,” she told Kathleen. “You need to eat. You have to keep up your strength.” Kathleen could do nothing but obey.
Her newfound friends barely left her side for the rest of the day. They took Kathleen to a local mortuary to make the final arrangements. (Virgil had wished to be cremated) With their help, Kathleen contacted her sister, who instructed her to stay in Jacksonville until they could come to her. The couple also moved their truck right next to Kathleen’s. She noticed that they weren’t pulling a trailer. “We don’t need one right now,” the man explained. Oh. That was strange. “Have you been driving long?” Kathleen persisted. The woman smiled. “Not long at all,” she answered comfortably.
None of it made sense. Surely they were supposed to be driving a load somewhere. But when Kathleen realized that they were going to stay all night right alongside her, she broke down. “I’m so sorry for being such a burden.” She began. The couple wouldn’t listen. “This is what people are supposed to do for each other,” the man stated. “We’re just getting you over this hump,” his wife pointed out. “But as long as you keep God Number One in your life, you’re going to be just fine.”
Kathleen knew that. Once again, despite her sorrow, she sensed an unexpected peace.
When Kathleen awakened the following morning, the couple and their truck were gone. “I asked the waitress if they had come in to eat breakfast,” Kathleen says, “but she hadn’t seen them since the night before when they were with me.” Perhaps they simply hadn’t wanted to awaken Kathleen. She would miss them, she realized. Without their kindness and steady reassurance, she wondered how she would have coped.
It wasn’t until Kathleen was back in Meeker and life was beginning to settle down, that she began to wonder more specifically about the pair. Where had they come from? How had they seemed to know so much? Most important, had she adequately expressed her gratitude to them? Fortunately, she remembered the name on the truck they were driving. She would contact their boss, tell him how lucky he was to have workers who were so good, so caring of others.. But when she phoned Information, she received a surprise. There was no such listing for this company anywhere in the country. Nor, through any of her contacts, has she been able to locate the company or the drivers.
“I’m still looking,” she says today. “But I don’t think I’ll ever find them.” Not in this life, perhaps. But on the highways of the world, it’s good for all of us to know that angels are there.
Copyrighted 2002 by Joan Wester Anderson. For more stories, check the website at http://joanwanderson.com.