Feb 4, 2014 12:40 The mystery woman and a nail-biting fishing experience The mystery woman and a nail-biting fishing experience by susan hodges| Special to The Advocate Feb. 04, 2014 Comments I stood there trying to determine if I had everything to go fishing. I had never done this before. I went down the list: fishing poles, tackle, ice chest, minnow bucket, long net and fishing license. My husband, Woody, had always been the one to make this list. We had been fishing in Grand Isle for many years. This time, it was different. I had lost my husband, best friend and fishing partner in April to heart trouble. I often read stories about people receiving a sign — a butterfly or a flower — that all was well with their loved one. Each day, I longed for a sign. One thing for sure, I was going to continue fishing. I was taking a nephew, Houston, with me, but I was the one in charge this time. I tried to convince myself and my nephew that I was ready and in control. We arrived around noon after buying our bait. I pulled to the side of the road where we had caught many fish previously. We were just baiting our hooks when a Wildlife and Fisheries agent pulled up. He said he had been on the highway since daybreak and no one was catching anything. Not feeling very optimistic, we cast our lines. In a matter of minutes, I had a bite and so did Houston. We both pulled in redfish 18 to 20 inches long. Shortly, we pulled in our limit of fish and the ice chest was full. I realized I needed to clean the fish, which I had never done before. We drove to the fish-cleaning station. No one was there. We emptied the ice chest. I started doubting myself and wondered where to start. Out of nowhere a car came riding across the parking lot and a lady jumped out and asked if we had caught any fish. I said yes and she asked to see them. I said that I had lost my husband last spring, and I had never before cleaned fish. She offered to help. She told me that I needed to use my fingernails to grip the fish. Now I am a lifelong nail-biter. “I don’t have fingernails,” I said. She looked at me and replied firmly that it was about time I quit biting my nails. I was shocked because my husband was always after me to stop. After the fish were cleaned, I said I hoped my husband was looking down and was proud of me. She looked at me and said, “How do you know that he didn’t send me here to help you?” She then kissed me on the cheek, walked to her car and drove away. I stood there in disbelief. Eventually, I started to cry. I felt that I had been touched by an angel. Did Woody send me the fish and the lady to help? As time has passed, I have come to believe that something special happened on that island that day. Was this the sign I had longed for? My husband was a very practical person. He would not have sent me a butterfly or a flower. He would have sent something useful, like fish. I am learning to clean fish. And if you are wondering if I stopped biting my nails, the answer is no. But who knows, maybe I will eventually let go of that bad habit and make Woody proud. Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to the Human Condition at firstname.lastname@example.org or The Advocate, EatPlayLive, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810. There is no payment, and stories will be edited.