My Real-Life Angel

by Eric Ebacher
(Omaha, NE)

Off and on throughout my early life, I wondered if angels or miracles truly existed; in January of 1995, I was introduced to someone that I, later in life, truly believed would be a real-life angel, someone who would watch over me and would be with me throughout my life.

Her name was Stevie, and as mentioned up front, I was introduced to her in January of 1995 when I was in the fourth grade. Over the next year to 18 months into fifth grade, we would see and talk to each other from time to time, but things became heated later in fifth grade when we were rivals playing a math-based computer game; when that rivalry finally wound down, coming to an end in March of 1996 (I ended up winning), that rivalry turned into a friendship, one that we both thought (and hoped) would last for the rest of our lives, but instead, only lasted the next few years: the remainder of fifth grade, all of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, and the first half of our freshman year.

But Stevie was more than a friend; at times, Stevie would sit down with me and tell me what it takes to be a friend to someone aside from her, and what I would have to do to become friends with others.

In January of 2000, I transferred schools, returning to the school district (Fort Morgan, CO) that I had attended before moving to Stevie's home town (Wiggins, Colorado), but still kept in touch with Stevie whenever it was possible to do so with an occasional phone call, letter, or postcard; however, it wasn't the same as when we saw each other in the hallways and in class when we went to school together the previous few years.

Then in mid-to-late July of 2000, I moved back to my hometown (The afore-mentioned Fort Morgan, CO), and it was at that time that I realized that I would never see or hear from Stevie again.

Then tragically, about a year later (June 27, 2001), I had returned to my apartment after running errands one afternoon and hadn't been home more than 15-20 minutes (if even that), when suddenly, the phone rang, and in the course of the conversation, one of Stevie's siblings (her brother Dutch) gave me the news that I had hoped never to hear: just days earlier (June 25), Stevie had suffered fatal injuries in an accident returning home from a rodeo in another town (Greeley, Colorado); by virtue of not wearing her seatbelt, Stevie was ejected from the car and killed pretty much instantly.

After hanging up the phone about 20 minutes later, I just broke down sobbing; the one true friend I'd ever had was now dead, and I had almost nothing to remember her by except for the rivalry we'd had in fifth grade and a few other memories aside from that. When I tried to tell my mom what had happened, not long after, I could *barely* keep myself from crying, and at one point, when she went to hug me, I just lost it again!

Over the next two days, including the day of Stevie's funeral (held at the cemetery on June 29, 2001), with exception of a brief period when I managed to compose myself long enough to sing the song "Angels Among Us" (which moved everyone, or almost everyone else at the funeral to tears), all I could do otherwise was at least try to choke back tears myself; however, in that attempt, and by now having collapsed on my knees, a small voice inside my heart (Stevie) was saying "Eric, I know you miss me, and I know you're trying to choke back the emotion in your eyes, but don't hold it back, because it will only make things worse. If you feel the need to cry, let it out; it's okay! I watched over you here on Earth after you left, and now, I'll continue to watch over you as your angel in Heaven. It's okay now."

After that, the tears just continued to fall, by now, even more profusely, and I could not stop crying, nor did anyone try to help me up off the ground until the service was almost over. One of the boys standing behind me during the funeral actually came over, put his hand on my shoulder in a comforting manner, and said "Eric, it'll be okay; just cry it out if you need to."

In the nearly 20 years since Stevie's death, I feel that she does continue to watch over me from Heaven and that she helped me see that by believing in angels and miracles, things would turn around for the better.

I promised Stevie from that point that I would do everything in my power to turn my life around for the better. In some respects, they have. Junior year of high school, I buckled down and turned in my work when it was asked for, and as a result, for the first time in my life, I ended up on the honor roll, followed about 18 months or so later by graduating from high school. In recent years, things have only gotten better, given that, slowly but surely I went from living at home to having my own apartment; again, a testimony that, if we ask the Lord to send His angels, over time (not right away), good things will come.

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