By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Catholic author Anne Bardsley asked for stories about signs from loved ones that helped the storywriters heal their grief. “Heartstrings from Heaven: Book Two in the Angel Bumps Series,” is an anthology of 58 short essays that convey tenderness, warmth and touches of humor.
Among the storywriters is Joanne Salemink, the secretary at St. Bernadette Parish in West Branch, who shares a gently humorous reflection of her mother’s burial service. The two writers met during an Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton in Ohio.
“I’m a humor writer at heart, but I had a nudge to share stories about signs from my mom after she passed,” said Bardsley, a member of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in St. Pete Beach, Florida. “When I told people my stories, they got goosebumps and felt comforted. I coined them ‘Angel Bumps.’”
Beginning with “Angel Bumps, Hello From Heaven,” the first book, Bardsley said she chose stories that spoke of unique signs. “I wanted the readers to be aware. Sometimes folks expect a huge sign. In reality, they are often small moments that catch our attention. My message was to listen to their hearts, not their heads. If you find yourself asking, ‘Was that you?’ Chances are you are in the midst of an Angel Bump.”
People continued to ask for more stories, so Bardsley decided to create the second volume. “I decided God must want me to do this. Once again, I put out a request for submissions. This time over a dozen writers from Erma Bombeck’s Writing Group submitted stories that are in the book. I’m a member of this group.”
Salemink’s essay, titled “Bells, Angels and Ice Cream” in the book, “tells about my mother’s burial being accompanied by music from an ice cream truck, which was just perfect for Mom,” she said. “I tend to write about more humorous things, I try to put them in a sunnier light,” added Salemink, a former journalist, teacher and blogger. A wife and mother of two young adults, she works part-time for her parish and for the West Branch Times newspaper.
Salemink’s story “will make you want to find an ice cream truck,” Bardsley told The Catholic Messenger. “I chose Joanne’s story because it’s so real. I loved her mom’s ornery sense of humor. I still smile when I think of her family and friends at the cemetery trying to suppress a giggle when they heard the ice cream truck’s bells. ‘She would have wanted to see us smiling, not crying,’ a friend said.”
Another essay in Heartstrings from Heaven tells the story of a grieving mother who receives a greeting card from a cashier with an unsigned message that brings great comfort. One essay tells the story of dad who visits the pond where his son drowned and finds the message “HI DAD” spelled out in sticks. In yet another story, a 3-year-old answers the phone and tells his mother afterwards that he was talking with his grandmother, now in heaven. He told his mother, who was missing Grandma deeply, that she said to say she loved both of them.
Each story conveys a message of God’s presence, love and hope — and the existence of “thin” places, where the barriers between heaven and earth, the spiritual and material, are especially porous.
You can find “Heartstrings to Heaven: Book 2 in the Angel Bumps Series” on Amazon (https://tinyurl.com/2p9hxef8).
Meanwhile, Salemink, who has self-published two novels, hopes to write an adventure-mystery novel about First Lady Lou Henry Hoover, an Iowa native whose husband, Herbert, served as 31st president of the United States (1929-1933). “She was just an amazing woman … a very intelligent woman, very compassionate and kind. She was a terrific organizer and must have been a force of nature.” Stay tuned.