Joan Clayton’s grandmother lived along the highway during the Depression, and Joan cannot estimate the amount of poor travelers she fed. “A lonely and hungry person moved Granny’s compassionate heart,” Joan recalls. And the aroma of fried chicken drifting through the air tantalized those “down on their luck,” and acted as a signpost to her house. Many offered to work for a meal, but Granny never required it. Helping those less fortunate was just part of her life.
“All the people who knocked on Granny’s back door were men,” Joan explains. “All but one.” When Joan was about ten, she opened the door one day to the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. Wearing high heels, a lovely long cream suit, and a silk featuring flowers and a ruffled collar, the lady was exquisite. “She even smelled good,” Joan recalls. “I stood motionless, gazing in wonder.” Where had this person come from? Surely she hadn’t trudged down that highway….
“Go call your grandmother,” the lady told Joan. Her voice was sweet, and she was smiling.
Still staring, and not moving an inch, Joan obeyed. “Grannyeeeeeeee!” she called over her shoulder.
Granny came from the kitchen, shaking flour from her apron. Like Joan, she was spellbound at the newcomer’s appearance. “I have no lodging for the night,” the lady in cream explained. “Could you take me in?”
“Of course,” Granny answered, already ushering her in. “Joan, go and catch a plump pullet for supper. Then you can snap the beans.” The lady was staying! At their house! Joan was thrilled as she did her chores. And when she set the table with the Sunday dishes, Granny caught her eye and smiled. Both realized that something special was going on.
During supper the lady seemed at ease, but she didn’t talk much, Joan recalls. When Granny asked about her destination, the lady simply replied, “I have been given a charge to minister.” After dinner, she retired to her room (where Granny had used the very best linens) and said goodnight. It was mysterious and lovely, all at once, Joan thought.
Granny got up before daylight every day, and the next morning, Joan did too. “I didn’t want to miss a minute of being in the lady’s company, and smelling that wonderful scent,” Joan says. As soon as the bacon was ready, Granny sent Joan to their visitor’s door to announce breakfast. Joan knocked gently, but there was no answer. She knocked a bit louder. The door slipped open, and Joan peeked inside.
Oh, no. The bed had not been slept in, and the lady had disappeared. But the sweet smell of her presence still lingered in the room.
“How did she leave without us hearing her?” a disappointed Joan asked her grandmother a few moments later. Granny’s front and back doors had Venetian blinds attached only at the top, and whenever anyone came in or out, the blinds made a racket. Yet neither of them had heard a sound all night. “And when I answered the door yesterday, she told me to call my grandmother. How did she know about you?”
Granny had the answer. “An angel came to visit us last night,” she said. “You never know when you entertain angels unaware!”
Joan believes that because her grandmother reached out to hungry people, God blessed her with an angel’s presence that day, perhaps to encourage her in her ministry, perhaps to let her know that He was pleased.
Joan's grandmother lived a long full life, and immediately before she died, Joan sensed the presence of the beautiful lady again. “As Granny slipped away, an aroma filled the room, the same sweet fragrance I had smelled the day she knocked on our door,” she says. For awhile Joan sat there quietly, holding her grandmother’s hand and feeling an awesome peace. Granny’s angel had come again.