ANGELS AMONG US
I had a welcome guest last night. He hadn’t visited in awhile, even though he knows my door is always open for him, and I would so love to see him more often. I can’t predict when he will show up, but it always seems to be at the perfect time.
Be careful what you wish for. I think I have given this admonition a few times before.
I had a dream about my dad last night. He stopped by our house for a casual visit, as if he had never been gone. All my dreams about Mom and Dad—and there aren’t many—are always in the context of a normal gathering, interaction or visit. They are still on earth in my dreams, never having left.
In this dream, my dad stopped by our house just as I discovered a water leak. It appeared to be coming from the top floor, draining two floors below to the basement. I immediately brought it to my husband’s attention, my Mark of all trades and master of all—especially plumbing, and he was more concerned that we get going to wherever we were going at the moment. “We’ll take care of it when we get back,” he said.
Now, if you know my husband, you know this is preposterous, he would have been on it in a cloud of dust; no hesitation. The plumber from my hometown even showed up in my dream, and took a look at it. He couldn’t figure it out. My husband did take the time to check it out, but couldn’t find the leak, either.
My dad–my brilliant father, took one look and found a faulty plug on a nonexistent toilet in a nonexistent bathroom in our home.
Any essence of creativity for today’s blog didn’t show up yesterday, as I was trying to get it going. I had several started, and several waiting in the wings, but nothing came together. I thought perhaps I may have to crap out for this week, and try again next week. I am at the mercy of this fickle force; if it doesn’t show up, there is nothing I can do to find the words.
At the end of the day yesterday, I prayed for some spark of inspiration, some guidance; some ideas. I woke up with ideas swimming this morning, courtesy, I’m sure, of my dad’s visit.
I put the Thanksgiving/autumn decorations away yesterday. I felt a bit blue, as Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. My husband suggested we get started on the Christmas decorations, and this made me even more blue. I wanted to enjoy the space between the holidays with a bit of nothingness; I wanted to savor the lingering Thanksgiving tidings before hauling out the Christmas ones.
I feel strongly about the meaning of Christmas, but I don’t feel so good about how our society commercializes it. I struggle with this every year. I languish in the element of gratitude Thanksgiving brings; enhancing the practice of giving thanks can only be a positive formula for the striving toward peace on earth that Christmas should bring.
I decided to change one thing to try to keep the spirit of Thanksgiving more alive all year.
Several weeks ago, I found a Thanksgiving angel created by Jim Shore, one of my favorite artists. He has become a favorite because Dad used to buy his pieces for Mom, having discovered them at their local drug store/gift shop. He had bought her several pieces which we divided among us, and I have added to them with my own. Mom loved angels. We decided to engrave one on her side of their tombstone.
When I found this “Joy In The Harvest” angel, I knew she needed to come home with me. So she did.
When I put her away yesterday with the other Thanksgiving decorations, it brought me down. When I woke up this morning, the first thought I remember was this: Get the angel back out and leave her up all year. Put her by your parent’s picture. Perhaps that was the parting message Dad left me in the dream, right after he diagnosed the water leak. Perhaps he wanted this special piece from the special artist displayed.
So, I did. But this presented a new problem.
I have a small, family-heirloom table that serves as an altar; a shrine for my parents. It is crowded already, as there are pictures, multiple other angels and small keepsakes to remind me of, and honor, Mom and Dad. Mom’s favorite saint–Saint Francis, as well as his prayer, is honored there, too.
“Give away one thing of great value,” was the advice given on a favorite daily calendar.
As these words from several months ago rang in my head, I knew what I must do. I must part with one angel to make room for this one. “One in, one out,” is the rule I try to live by when adding new possessions. This is hard, and just this morning over coffee, my husband reminded me that I don’t necessarily need to one in just because I one out. We will table this discussion for another day.
Today, however, is a special day. December 2nd is my neighbor Diana’s birthday, and she, too, loves angels. She speaks the language of angels, understands loss and forges on, having lost a son 21 years ago, the same way I lost my parents.
This beautiful angel, a gift from a family friend, was given within a floral arrangement at my parents’ funeral. Her beauty must be shared, so I am passing her on to my angel of a neighbor, Diana, in honor of her angel in Heaven, Mark.
This gratitude thing can be hard. Some days, I don’t feel very grateful. If I didn’t sleep well, which is a hit-or-miss affair at age 52, and especially if certain joints have decided to act up again, then I lose my focus. I find myself angry because sleep escaped me, which makes everything gray and more uncomfortable.
I take some quiet time each morning to write, especially by hand, in a journal. One practice that I keep is this: write down three things I am grateful for, three things I haven’t written before, as well as all the big ones I write every day. Most days, before I do this, I wonder what on earth I will come up with. I think I can’t possibly think of three new things again, yesterday and the day before were hard enough.
Yet, I do. I have become skilled at taking a glass that is half-empty, and calling it half-full. It’s all in how you look at it.
And the how you look at it is the key.
It is your choice to see the glass as half-empty or half-full. No one gets to dictate those thoughts inside your head. It is always your choice, and I am here to testify that I have tried it both ways, and half-full always feels better.
When I get really desperate, when I feel there is no way I can possibly find even one more thing to be thankful for that I haven’t yet written down, I get quite creative with my gratitude. Among the things I have written down on these lowest of low days include:
*electricity: there was a planned power outage from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
*French press coffee during this power outage, courtesy of my husband heating the water on the gas burner on his grill in order to press the coffee, our morning life-giving drink.
*six 25-cent CDs at a garage sale from several of my favorite artists
*no sign of bedbugs after being exposed to them (again) on a home health visit
*a beautiful, intricate spiderweb on the porch
While it has taken me a long time—years—to sense gratitude for the following, I can say, with peace, I have arrived at a place where I am thankful for these gifts:
*my parents didn’t have to leave each other behind when they died
*they didn’t have to suffer for one moment, like so many of my patients do
Angels are among us, within us and all around us. If you don’t sense this, turn some thoughts around. Look around. I hope you find them close, within your own home, even. If you are lucky like me, you will have one or more as your sister/sisters.
Perhaps you may even have one next door, like I do.
Happy Birthday Diana
May every day be Thanksgiving Day for you. May you take the spirit of gratitude into the Christmas season with you to find the peace that is within, so that you may do what you can to create peace on earth, just like Mom and Saint Francis asked us all to do.