Tired of the cold and joyful at the promise of a weekend of spring weather, I rose from bed this morning and walked barefoot into the dining room to turn up the thermostat. I tilted my head back to let the sunlight from the second story windows fall across my face, bright with possibility but not yet warm enough to banish the freezing night temperatures. As I lifted my eyes, my gaze fell on an angel, and though I couldn’t see her features, I knew she was smiling as she hovered over the room.
Was she real? Yes. One of my favorite artists, Rayhart, breathed life into her, and I saw her on the antithesis of this day—in the middle of the humid Washington summer. Irritable at the heat and wishing for fall, I crossed the grassy field of a local wine festival, sapped of energy and longing for my air-conditioned car and home. But I stopped abruptly when my eyes fell on an array of angels hovering around the opening of the artist’s shaded tent.
Forgetting the heat, I paused in front of the display, intrigued that the artist had created angels so akin to the ones I see in my head when I need them, hazy and surreal but drifting in calm serenity. I bought one for myself and one for my friend, who died unexpectedly last month.
I’ve been thinking a lot about angels in the wake of losing my friend. Are they real? I think so. I think of them as they are present in the stories of Christ’s life—singing at his birth, soothing after his temptations, ministering in his suffering, rejoicing in his infiniteness. And so it is that I can sometimes feel their presence in opaque clarity—singing in my joy, ministering in my hurt, promising in my darkest hours.
There are angels. And then there are angels. It’s easier to believe in the angels we see in tangible ways—those human angels who rejoice with us, who minister to us, who sustain us.
Are they real? Yes. And sometimes they surprise us, coming to us from unexpected places. On the day I lost my friend, I left my office building in tears and ran into a colleague that I don’t often talk with about my personal life. She took one look at my face and hugged me, crying with me over the loss of someone she didn’t know well—crying for my loss.
This week that same colleague lost her 99-year-old great-grandmother, who was a role model and a dear friend to her. She shared with me how this was her first experience in being present at the moment of someone’s death. Almost everyone’s initial reaction to her loss has been that her great-grandmother lived a good long life. And while she acknowledged the truth of that cliché, we talked for nearly two hours about how death, no matter how expected or unexpected, takes our breath away, knocks the wind out of us. And in being accidental angels, we connected in a way that makes us seem more real, more human to each other.
Yes, there are angels. And in the face of the inevitable end of this corporeal life, it’s good to feel the presence of those hazy, intangible ones. But it’s even better to be lifted up by angels of the human variety.
So tell me a story of your angels.