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Monday, November 4, 2013

Angels

Angels In My Life


angel, stamp, christmas, cards, ink
My Angel Stamp
A golden Angel sits at the top of our Christmas tree.  She smiles down at us as we gather below in celebration of the Christmas season.  The old traditional icicle ornamental tree topper from many years before no longer carries the sentiment it once did.  The Angel is our family’s new tradition, a symbol of protection and God’s Love.

I ordered an Angel stamp and gold ink to use on our Christmas cards.  Two weeks later, there was a funeral in our small town for a fifteen-year-old girl who died in a tragic accident.  During the service, her mother read a poem she had written.  It was about an Angel.  I returned home after the service feeling very emotional, trying to make sense of it all.  The mail carrier left a package on my doorstep, the angel stamp had arrived.  I opened the package and found myself thinking about Angels.

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I first knew of the physical presence of an angel when I was about eight years old.  My family was traveling across the desert by night during a violent rainstorm.  I was sitting with my head on my mother's lap as lightning bolts lit up the sky.  My father lost control of the car and we started skidding sideways into a ditch and directly toward a telephone pole!  My mom told my dad to let go of the steering wheel and let the car go its own way.  I saw the huge telephone pole that was getting closer and closer when suddenly the car miraculously changed direction by 90 degrees, rolling in reverse, and narrowly missing what could have been a fatal crash into that pole!

The six of us were badly shaken but unharmed.  The wheels of the station wagon were embedded in mud.  While waiting for help to arrive we had time to recount what had happened.  I remember my other saying that a Guardian Angel was standing at the pole and had kept us from crashing into it.

The idea of God sending an Angel to protect our family seemed very reasonable to me.  However, this was my first realization that I was the recipient of Divine Intervention by an Angel.  Ever since that night, I am aware that Angels are present and most certain they play an important part in my life and the lives of others.

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My mother took my little sister and I to visit her sister for the summer.  Our little cousins were the same ages as the two of us and we considered them our "twin cousins".  Muffy Sue, my own "twin" cousin was suffering from Leukemia.  Though I did not know the severity of her illness until I was much older, I knew she was very sick.  We had to take her to the hospital for lots of tests and she took medicine, constantly.  However, when she had good days we got to play in my Grandma's sprawling gardens and go on outings to the parks, the circus, and the zoo!  The four of us played all summer long and became very close.

One day we went to the petting zoo and the lambs and goats got into a scuffle and frightened Muffy.  She was terrified of lambs and goats from that day on and would cry every time she saw one.

During my Kindergarten year, my Mother woke me up in the night to tell me that Muffy had gone to heaven.  I could not understand why God had not kept her from dying, because in all of my 5 year little life I had never prayed for anyone as much as I prayed for her.

Years later, I learned that just before Muffy died, she told her mommy that she could see all the little lambs and could she go and play with them?  Her mother told her that yes, she could go play with the lambs.

I know that Muffy is among Angels, but often wish that she were here.  I wonder what she would be like today and how she and I would influence each other's lives.  I think of her when I see lambs... and when I think of Angels.
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My doctor shook his head in amazement that I was still pregnant at 34 weeks gestation.  I was carrying triplets and the pregnancy was challenged by many factors including preterm labor symptoms.  He suggested a scheduled Cesarean Section the next day but I convinced him that I could make it one more week to give the babies more time to develop.  I wanted my babies to have the heath advantage of being five weeks premature rather than six weeks.

Two days later my husband was called out of state.  His father had just suffered a heart attack and slipped into a coma before his son could make the 2000 mile trip to go see him.  His parents were scheduled to come out and help once the babies were born.  I was afraid they might be born while their daddy was away.

The triplets waited until their father's return to be welcomed into the world.  We celebrated their birth and felt determined that no matter what challenges our family faced, these precious lives would remain safe.  Their arrival gave us all hope at a most difficult time. There was a lot of praying going on.

Though our babies had only routine health complications due to their premature birth, their Grandpa remained comatose.  We spent every possible moment in the Neonatal Intensive Care Ward with our three babies in incubators; two of them were on ventilators.  Two thousand miles away, our extended family took vigil in the Cardiac Intensive Care Ward with Grandpa.  We longed to be with them and they, with us.

The two weeks we spent in the NICU taught us extraordinary lessons about life and death.  Each day held moments of joy and sadness, love and fear.  Tragedy and miracles are regular occurrences in such an environment.  We rejoiced with families when a baby was sent home.  We cried and held our babies close when a family was sent away with empty arms, never to hold their own baby again.  I am convinced that the staff of doctors and nurses who work for such great causes know they work amongst Angels.
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As our babies grew, I was determined to continue my independence as much as possible.  The idea of being responsible for four small children was terrifying! The oldest had just turned five and his three siblings were lively five month olds.  Knowing I was faced with the many challenges of raising a large family, I took a deep breath and decided to continue onward.  It was time to see what I could manage on my own so I packed the children into our new van, buckling the babies into their car seats.

We started out on our new venture to my parent's house, 100 miles away.  I was mentally prepared for a lot of stops and delays as I would need to tend to the children's needs.  I was not completely comfortable with driving after a bed-ridden pregnancy followed by a life that kept me housebound, and new car that I was just getting used to operating.  My mind was whirling with thoughts of how I would manage the next couple of days as I made stops at each of the stop signs along the country highway.  Some of the intersections had two-way stops and some had four-way stops.

The next thing I knew there was a loud BANG!  I opened my eyes form what I thought was a split second blink to see no front end on the van and smoke curling up from where the engine once was.  There were people running toward us.  With no time to spare, I unbuckled my seat belt.  The next moment found me unbuckling babies from their car seats and handing them one by one to total strangers that came to help.  I felt like I was in a dream and had no idea of what had just happened.

A women and her daughter had been passing through and they were the first to come to our aid.  Her first words were that no one was hurt, which was all that mattered.  She invited me to bring my children to her car while we waiting for the police to arrive.  She helped me hold and calm the babies.  Realizations started sinking in of what had just happened.  Though I had stopped at the stop sign, I had continued as a semi was approaching from the left.  The impact of the collision had caused my van to spin 180 degrees across the intersection. Miraculously, everyone was unharmed including the driver of the semi.

Through my humiliation came intense anger. Most of my family had almost been wiped out in a moment.  My error had been no different from the mistakes many of us make in any given day.  A lapse in judgment, a wrong reflex...  Why was the fragility our mortality being thrown in our faces once again?  After all we had been through with the loss of my father-in-law and the fight to keep our babies alive?!

Instead o feeling gratitude that we were all alive, I felt angry and afraid.  I would not talk to anyone about the accident.  I lost faith that tragedies can have purpose even when we do not understand what that purpose might be at the moment.  I felt I would never trust myself again.  I would not acknowledge my Angel.
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A few years later, my recently widowed Mother-in-law had a near fatal accident.  She was just starting to settle into a routine of leaning to live on her own without the companionship of her beloved husband.  After recovering form her injuries, she and I shared our feelings and thoughts about each of our accidents.  We had gone through similar experiences and we shared a special closeness as we shared with one another.

I had finally realized that I was wasting precious energy trying to figure out what purposes these incidences have.  It was at this pint in my life that tI stopped searching for reasons and learned to accept all that has happened.  I was finally ready to acknowledge my Angel.  It seems that when we think we are in control of our lives, circumstances humble us and make us realize that something much greater than us is at work.  I believe the Angels are sent to us to guide us through these times.  They help to protect us and keep the presence of God alive in our hearts and souls.

No longer am I surprised at the presence of Angels.  I have learned to expect them and welcome them.  Whether they take the form  of the woman who let me wait in her car with my children, or of the halting of a child's intense fear, or the words that surprisingly pour from one's lips as they find just the right thing to say to comfort someone, these Angels are all around us.
Christmas tree, angel, tree topper
Angel topping the Christmas Tree
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On a well-traveled country highway, about two miles east of Stockton, California, there is a white cross that marks the place where a life was lost.  Just west of that marker is a house where a wheelchair bound man lives.  He often sits outside on the side of the highway with his big black dog, waving at people as they whiz by in their vehicles.  Many of them wave back.

Seeing him has caused me to wonder of his condition... and his story.  I have admired how he chooses to spend his time; making contact with the folks that are probably strangers to him.  Does he have any idea of the impact he has on so many of us that notice him? Does he realize that his presence interrupts our fast-paced thoughts long enough to cause another look at the speedometer or to cause a new awareness of our surroundings?  How many lives might he have changed in one brief moment?  Or even saved?

He must have an Angel close be to keep him from harm.  Or is he the Angel?

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This story was written on a typewriter in 1995.  In 2005, my daughter came home from school with her writing assignment.  It is about her Angel.  I have chosen to include it as the sequel to my story. 
My Angel

      Driving along a busy highway on a sweet, sunny day, I observed the familiar scenery of orchards and shrubs and the occasional house peeking through tiny holes of soaring oak trees.  Wisps of wind coming from the open window tickled my face as I inhaled the fragrant aroma of the fresh spring morning. I turned my head to peer out the adjacent window.  A movement caught by the corner of my eye lured my curiosity toward the front, where I noticed a man perched near the side of the road outside of a cozy, pastel-colored house.  As we approached, his appearance became more obvious to my vision. The man was in a wheelchair…and he was waving.

I had a whirlwind of questions about this peculiar sight.  Who was this mysterious man waving at?  What was his name?  Why was he in a wheelchair?  Of course, these questions had to remain in my mind for the remainder of the afternoon, because the car had stopped and my mother, rushing us out of her old, blue mini-van and wishing us a wonderful day at school, interrupted my thoughts.  Throughout classes, during lunch, and until the last bell rang I thought about this man.

I awoke the next morning to the smell of fresh apple pancakes and coffee.  I went through my ordinary routine, forgetting about the man from the day before. At 7:40, my siblings and I raced out the door and scrambled into the van for another school day.  It was not until my brother curiously asked about the “waving man,” as he called him, that I remembered.  We all decided to look for him as we approached closer to the site where we first saw him.

Sure enough, the waving man was sitting in his timeworn wheelchair waving vigorously at passing cars.  I was able to get a much better look, and what a sight he was!  Upon long, dark, straggly hair rested a unique, black leather cap. His skin appeared tanned and rough, and his eyes drooped under heavy eyebrows.  He wore a tattered, soft-brown leather jacket with leather fringes dangling from the arms.  His jeans were a faded blue, and a beautiful black Labrador dog sat at his side.  The only thing new about him that I happened to notice were his bright blue and white sneakers.  I waved at him as we drove by, and I thought I saw the corner of his mouth turn up into a smile.

For the next two years, no matter how extreme the weather, we drove by the waving man each day, wondering many things about the events of his life.  He transformed what was a boring drive to school into an exciting and entertaining twenty minutes.  Regardless of where the waving man was from, we were grateful we had the opportunity to share our morning drive with a stranger who gradually became less of a stranger with each “wave” we exchanged.

Many years have passed since I last witnessed the warm presence of the waving man.  He vanished as quickly and mysteriously as he appeared. To this day, I am in awe at his exceptional desire to be a part of our world, despite the challenges of everyday life. I saw in him never-ending courage and deep compassion for the world and the different people who lived in it.  This man taught me a valuable lesson about cherishing life, and I now know what it means to truly live.  His disappearance doesn't bother me, because I know he was my "angel," and has gone to shine brightly on other young, eager souls as he did on me.

2 comments:

musicnj said...

Angels are a real presence in our lives. God tells us this in the Bible. Sometimes when I am driving,there is that voice inside that tells me: "go this way, don't go that way." I usually listen to that voice. Those times when I disregarded that inner voice, I have been in car accidents, bad traffic, or seen things better left unseen.
God cares lovingly for us...we just need to listen and pay attention.

Vicki said...

Beautiful, sweet stories, Cheryl. Thank you for sharing.