I have had encounters with angels. Several times. This is the story of one of those encounters.

Many years ago, I was just coming out of several years of heavy drinking that very nearly killed me. I was so very fragile emotionally, physically and spiritually. I started going to a 12-step program in Seoul, South Korea, where we were living at the time, and there I met a fellow alcoholic with more than 25 years of sobriety, who would have a great impact on my own recovery.

We called him “Father Bob” because of his wisdom and the fact that he was a pastor. He was a huge, older man, with a greying beard and huge hands. He made me think of Ahab from “Moby Dick” or how I imagined Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea.”

Every time I would share my sob stories with Bob — about the sad facts of my life and how terrible things were — he would just pat my hand, chuckle and say with his deep, gruffy voice, “Ahh, it ain’t that bad, Pam, just work the steps,” referring to the 12 Steps. Well, that would annoy me to no end. He just didn’t get it. He didn’t understand how horrible my life was. How nobody loved me. How terribly I was treated — on and on and on — and, each time with the same gruffy voice and a pat on the hand, he’d chuckle and say, “Ahh it ain’t that bad, Pam, just work the steps.”

Time and again, it was the same thing.

Later that year, as my family and I were preparing to return to France — my husband’s home country — I was nervous and scared. I always had a difficult time there and was afraid that without my support system in place, I might relapse. I said goodbye to my friends and sponsor, and off we went to France for the summer.

Now, this was before the days of the Internet, Facebook and text messaging. The only way to communicate then was through mail or the telephone. When you left, you were out of touch, which is part of why I was so nervous, and felt so lonely.

While in France, I had a dream one night. One of those dreams that are so vivid they seem real. It was incredible. In the dream, I found myself in a classroom, which was odd and highly prophetic because I would soon find myself beginning a teaching career. But at the time of my dream, I hadn’t yet even considered teaching. So there I was …

in my dream …

all alone…

sitting at a student desk …

in a French classroom.

I didn’t quite know why I was there. Suddenly, in walked Father Bob. When I saw him, I shouted in joy, “Bob, what are you doing here?” I was so happy to see him.

In the dream, he approached me with a smile on his face, sat down at the desk next to me, smiled and patted my hand in his familiar way, and with the same, familiar gruffy voice said. “Aaaah, Pam… you’re going to be just fine. You’ll be alright.”

And with that, he walked away … and I woke up. I felt so much joy and peace when I woke up. It was wonderful.

I have been journaling for as long as I can remember. And I was particularly prolific in my writing that year as I worked though the steps, my emotions and my relationship with God. The first thing I did when I awoke from my dream was to journal the experience. I was just so amazed at how vivid it all was.

And that dream truly helped me get through my time in France.

At the end of summer, I returned to Seoul, I went to my first 12-Step meeting after vacation. I could not wait to tell Bob about my dream and how it had encouraged me to stay sober and well.

He didn’t show up and I finally asked one of Bob’s good friends if they knew where he was. With a look of sadness, our friend told me that Bob had passed away over the summer from complications after emergency surgery. I stood there in shock, unsure what to say or think …

And then it hit me. I knew.

I asked my friend what day Bob had died, but I already knew in my heart when he left this world for “home.”

He told me the date.

I went back home and checked my journal entry of my dream visit with Bob. As I looked at my journal and saw the date, tears began to form in my eyes and flow down my cheeks as I glanced at the date and confirmed that Bob had died on the very day that I had the dream. He visited me in my dream to encourage me one more time before heading off to Heaven.

He came to me as an angel.

I never forgot that dream or how God sent Bob to me to share love, encouragement, a view of the God’s future plans for me to be a teacher and the knowledge that I was never, ever alone. What a gift!

I miss Bob and I can’t wait for the day when I will see him again and we can marvel at our encounter between two worlds …

… when he was my dream angel.