On a brisk April morning in 1988, my husband and I stood in the living room arguing. I don't recall what started the whole thing, but I rambled on incessantly, The Man's face a picture of sheer frustration.
Suddenly I announced, "I'm getting out of here!"
"Go," my husband said, shrugging his broad shoulders. "Do whatever it is you want to do."
Still muttering, I stomped to the pantry, grabbed an old loaf of bread, stalked to the car, and drove to a little duck pond, twelve miles away.
This particular duck pond sits in the center of the cemetery where my father-in-law is buried. For some reason, the pond drew me during difficult times. Maybe it held an answer today.
A parade of ducks waddled to greet me. While I reached in the back seat for the things I'd brought, they nosed around my feet, searching for whatever treats they could find.
"Just old bread, you guys," I said, shooing them out of the way.
The entire congregation trailed me to the small cement bench next to the pond. Hungrily, they eyed me as I unwrapped my meager offering. In minutes, the crumbs were consumed.
As the ducks sashayed off in every direction, I sat under the Texas pines thinking about the argument I'd walked out on. All my life I'd heard the seventh year of marriage was the toughest; that men and women often contracted the seven-year-itch, or something similar.
I dared not define my own ailment, except to acknowledge that my marriage had tarnished over the years. The reasons varied, but my tendency to drone on when enough had been said didn't help matters. I always wanted to have the last word—at any cost.
Often I vowed to be different, spending weeks with Ecclesiastes 3:7—a time to speak and a time to be silent—taped on my bathroom mirror. But before long, I'd find myself stuck in the same old rut: talking when silence was in order. Inwardly, I longed for change.
Watching the ducks in the pond, their reflections a kaleidoscope of colors, I had a thought: If only I could behold my own reflection, like the ducks in the water. If only I could see myself.
Breathing a silent prayer, I asked God to let this miraculous thing happen.
It was while I prayed that I heard a car approach. The engine sputtered a time or two, then died. Turning, I saw an elderly man crawling out of an ancient, ramshackle Cadillac, the vinyl roof peeling off in great chunks.
Tall and lean, the man moved briskly around the front of the car, swinging two loaves of white Wonder bread in his hands. He wore a red flannel shirt, sleeves clasped at the wrist, and jean britches, about an inch too short. Quickly, he laid the bags of bread on the hood of the Cadillac, opened them and began flinging whole slices through the dazzling sun, like tiny white Frisbees.
"You come here often?" I called across the lawn.
He cupped a hand to one ear.
"Do you come here often?" I said, louder.
Tossing the final slices, he stuffed the plastic wrappers in a garbage bin and walked to where I sat.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," he said, squatting beside me. "I still didn't hear you."
"I just wanted to know if you come here often," I repeated, suddenly wishing I hadn't said anything.
"When the weather's nice and not too hot," he said. I found it unnerving that he didn’t look directly into my eyes when he spoke, but stared curiously at my forehead.
With nothing better to do, we gazed across the pond, while a cluster of ducks gathered at our feet, honking at a lofty volume. So loud was their honking I considered jumping up and yelling, "SHHHH!"
I glanced at the old man. He smiled, but said nothing. I wished he would leave.
As if reading my mind, he sprang to his feet and said, "I gotta split." Then he pointed a bony finger at the chattering ducks, and, in an irked voice, said, "You know, them crazy ducks just don't know when to hush."
With that declaration—and a wave in my direction—the old man sauntered to the waiting jalopy, brought it to life and clanked off in the distance, a flurry of leaves chasing after him.
What did he say? Did he say those crazy ducks just don't know when to hush?
Suddenly, I recalled my impromptu prayer—my desire to see myself. Had God sent the old man as an answer to my prayer? Did I sound much like the honking ducks to my husband?
In my heart, I knew I did. And I had the strangest feeling that I had just entertained an angel.
A gust of wind whipped around my legs as I hurried to the car. The little ducks stood quiet now, like monuments scattered across the ground, their silence speaking volumes to me.
When I arrived home, my husband lay sprawled on the couch looking worried. "Hi," he said, his voice even. "Where've you been?"
I hesitated. "I went to the cemetery."
"Cemetery!" He half-laughed. "Are you planning on killing me?"
"Nope," I said, planting a kiss on his puzzled face, "but I sure got some great pointers on keeping you alive."
Adapted from the book, Whispers From Heaven (Pacific Press), by Dayle Allen Shockley.