Thomas had troubles enough. Every time he approached my office, he knew he was in trouble because of the sign overhead. Now, however, Thomas had more troubles.

The previous Saturday, he had witnessed a puzzling event involving his mother, who lived at an assisted-living facility and had been failing.

“I gotta get it off my chest,” Thomas said.

Over the weekend, Thomas and his wife were shopping when Thomas’ cellphone rang. His mother’s nurse called to inform Thomas that his mother had dramatically declined. He and his wife left a shopping cart full of merchandise and raced to the assisted-living facility. There they found his mother barely able to be roused.

For the next several hours, Thomas and his wife sat by his mother’s bedside but she didn’t respond to them in any fashion. Then his mother opened her eyes and stared straight ahead. Thomas and his wife looked at the foot of the bed where his mother was staring but saw nothing.

Thomas’ mother then spoke, slowly and resolutely: “Me, too. Hurry, hurry. Please! … I can’t sing that.”

Afterward, Thomas’ mother closed her eyes and did not speak again. Thomas and his wife looked again at the foot of the bed but saw nothing.

As Thomas and his wife were leaving his mother’s room after hours of vigil, they found a nurse in the hallway and described what had transpired with Thomas’ mother. The nurse showed them the goosebumps that came up on her arms as Thomas repeated what his mother had said. “Angels. Angels are what she saw,” blurted out the nurse, nodding vigorously as she spoke.

In my office, Thomas looked at me, puzzled. “Angels? I don’t know what to think.”

I told Thomas that in my area of medicine I had seen individuals, some approaching death and others in many different extraordinary circumstances, who claimed to see angels.

I explained to Thomas that in the Bible there are many examples of angels appearing to people in momentous situations. One such experience occurred to Elisha, a prophet who followed the famous prophet Elijah during the eighth century B.C. These were dark days after the nation of Israel divided into a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom.

At that time, the northern kingdom was battling the neighboring nation of Aram. The king of Aram sent a large force to capture Elisha because, through his actions, he had seriously affected the outcome of several assaults by the troops of Aram. The army surrounded Elisha’s house and waited for orders from the king.

In the early morning when Elisha’s servant went outside, he was devastated to find the house surrounded by hostile forces. The servant cried out to Elisha, “Oh, my lord, what should we do?” (2 Kings 6:15).

But Elisha was calm, for he saw that the hills above his house “were full of horses and chariots of fire” (2 Kings 6:17) — angels protecting him. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered his servant. “Those who are with us are more than those with them” (2 Kings 6: 16).

What could be the purpose of the angels — if they were angels — that Thomas’ mother’s spoke with? Thomas was originally skeptical there had been angels. He had neither heard nor seen anything in the room.

All he knew was that his mother had never recovered after his father had died. She would talk of little else. She wanted to join her husband in heaven. I suggested that Thomas’ mother may have seen angels, and his mother was telling the angels she wanted to join her husband (“Me, too.”) and entreating them to escort her to heaven soon (“Hurry, hurry. Please!”).

“Maybe you’re right,” Thomas replied to me.

The words that Thomas’ mother spoke that Saturday were her last before she died five days later.

What about the song Thomas’ mother spoke about (“I can’t sing that.”)? Was it a hymn of thanksgiving the angels were to teach Thomas’ mother to sing as the heavenly gates finally opened for her?

Dr. Delvyn C. Case, Jr. is a hematologist/oncologist, writer, playwright and director, and consultant to the Department of Spiritual Care at Maine Medical Center in Portland.