Coincidence or the guiding hand of God?

By Moira Billinge

Things happen in our lives which we simply dismiss as coincidence and think nothing more about, but there are times when an incident occurs which is so astounding that we know there is so much more than mere coincidence involved. It is on such occasions that, as Christians, we can clearly see God's love, compassion, understanding and mercy at work in enabling that situation – a 'God-incidence', if you like.

Having met over four decades ago, and been very happily married for more than 30 of the intervening years, Paula and Dave had a discussion in which they included their two beloved daughters, Katie and Amy, about their end-of-life wishes. After much deliberation, they reached the unanimous decision for burial, rather than cremation. 

They decided to do their research and went to a cemetery to seek out a site for their eventual interment. Dave joked that one area in particular would be ideal because it was in a sunny spot and very close to a road which meant that the family could wave to him as they drove past.

Dave had always loved nature. He relished the outdoors and took huge delight in the robins that frequented their garden. Not long after the visit to the graveyard, Dave developed Motor Neurone Disease and was lovingly cared for at home over the next few years by his totally devoted family, aided by some wonderful nurses.

He was able to continue to watch and enjoy the changing seasons because the family adapted the sitting room to accommodate the vast amount of equipment now needed as his condition worsened. Dave's bed was placed alongside the wall-to-wall patio windows, so he missed nothing of what was going on beyond the glass panes – and the robins continued to visit.

One day, fully lucid and in a matter-of-fact way, Dave announced to Paula that he was going to see Cissy, Paula’s late mother. Paula told him he wasn't going anywhere and that it was perhaps his low oxygen levels which were making him think that way. However, just three days later – two days before Christmas – the end came very peacefully, gently and quickly.

During Dave's Requiem Mass, the parish priest held the packed congregation absolutely spellbound during his homily. He told them that while organising the funeral, Paula, Katie and Amy revisited the graveyard section that she and Dave had previously considered, to select a plot for him. The area they had looked at was still available, but Paula could not remember the exact spot that Dave had pointed out. They stood at one plot in particular and after a while Paula looked up and said: "Dave, if this is the right one, please send us a sign. I know ... send us a butterfly." Her daughters looked as if to ask: "A butterfly, in the middle of winter?" Taking the hint, Paula changed her request. "OK Dave," she went on, "send us a robin so we will know if we have the right plot." Yet no bird obliged.

Eventually, a man and woman arrived to tend the nearby grave of a family member. After chatting to the couple and explaining her quandary, Paula told them how she had asked Dave to send them a robin to help sort the problem. "Well then," remarked the gentleman, "you have come to the right place – my name is Robin."