February 2016

The Day the Angels Disappeared

They would sing to me.  A song with no words, and deeply familiar.  There were so many. Choirs of them.   I would sing with them, and other times I would just sit in awe.   Words fail to describe the power of them.  The closest I can come is JOY, and that is like describing a technicolor  3-D IMAX movie as an old black and white film.  Beautiful, glowing with light, enormous, ethereal?  These words seem insulting when describing them.  How old was I?  I was young enough that I didn’t have words to describe it to anyone, or even think to try.  I assumed it just was.  Didn’t everyone visit with Angels?

When I would go to sleep they would come to me.  Or I would go to them, I am not sure.  The memory is strong yet fuzzy.  Similar to how I see without my glasses.  I can capture most of it and imagine missing pieces, but it always seems to be at a distance.

As a small child, napping was a wonderful place to go.  Sleep something to welcome.  Maybe it was all a dream.  If that is so, then I only had one dream.  The same each time I fell to sleep.  There was no other.

And then one day.

I have two vivid memories.  They happened around the same time, but since memory is fluid, I can’t say for sure.

The first is standing frozen in front of the TV.  My parents had been so excited that a popular children’s movie was airing.  ‘The Wizard of Oz’.  They put it on and probably thought it would give them some much needed adult time to catch up.  They left me to watch by myself.  The witch and the monkeys haunted me for years.  The purposeful meanness, so hard for me to digest.  I couldn’t leave the room and I couldn’t bear to watch.  I was sweating and shaking.  I did not know that feeling before.  Unfortunately, I have known it many times since.  Fear.

The second memory happened chronologically after the first.  Yet, it could have happened the other way around.

I remember going to take a nap.  As soon as my mother left the room a bee landed on my covers and began to slowly crawl towards me.  It was the biggest bee I have still to lay eyes on.  I could not move, or run away or even call for help.  I just lay there sweating and watching.  This horrible, terrifying, hairy monster walking up my covers to where I lay, helpless and horrified.

I don’t know how it ended exactly.  The bee did not harm me.  I just know what happened next.

My mother had to go back to work.  My sister and I were put on a bus in the morning to go to a day care center.   I remember the sick feeling in my stomach.  My younger sister just one and a half years old.  She was screaming and clinging to my mother’s neck.  They peeled her little arms away and strapped her in the van.  I watched my mother get back in the car and drive away.  My sister kept crying.  They told her to stop in a commanding  voice.  She couldn’t.  Her little chest heaving and hiccuping.  The woman driving the bus reached back with a ruler and spanked her legs, telling her more sternly to stop.  She cried harder.  She spanked her again.  It continued back and forth like this until the end of the ride.  Then they took us to separate rooms.   I did not see her again until later, as they put us on cots to nap.  I lay there missing our bright kitchen where my mother and sister and I would sit eating lunch.  I missed riding my tricycle up and down the sidewalk. I missed getting up from my naps to tip toe into the kitchen where my mother would leave fresh bread cooling.  I missed my mother.  I heard my sister crying.  I got up to comfort her.  I needed to get comfort as much as to give comfort.  They caught me before I got to her.  They spanked me and put me back on my cot.  My sister and I had never been spanked before.  No adult had ever struck us.  They told me to stay there and not get up.   I swallowed my sobs as quietly as I could.  I already learned what happened if they heard you cry.  I did not get up again.

The Angels never came back.   I have only seen them again in memory and imagination.

My mother did not stay home anymore.  Day care became our foster care.

The loss was gargantuan.  My whole body would ache at the missing of them.  What did I do wrong?  Why did they leave me?  Please come back!  Some how I knew it was over.  Going to sleep became something else.  I did not welcome naps.  I would run and hide to keep from going to bed at night.  These early memories have been a powerful force shaping my path and direction as an adult and mother.

It took a long time to put all the pieces together.  To understand what happened.  It was simple really.  I came to know forces we must battle here on earth, whether we like it or not; fear, doubt, hatred.  It takes innocent faith to see Angels.  You must trust completely.  Children are born in this pure state, and then life happens.   We spend the rest of our time searching for the way back.

This is not a story I have ever shared with anyone.   No one goes around talking about their experience with Angels.  How do you explain your grief at losing something that people don’t believe exist?   I am not sure if I was even able to share my grief of what happened to my sister and I at the hands of irresponsible cruel caregivers.  If my parents are upset by this I would tell them this was no failure on their part.  In fact, I would argue quite the opposite.  They did something so right.  They were able to protect me from fear and doubt until I had long term memory to store my Angels.

As powerful as those traumatic memories have been in my life, the memories of Angels have been more so.  I have cherished this memory of my Angels all of my life.  Evidence of a power so great and filled with light that words cannot define it.  I wonder if we all are born wrapped in this gift of love.  Meeting with Angels while we sleep.  Easing the transition to a physical world filled with fear and gravity.

In a rather low point in my life, I took a workshop called “The Illuminated Heart”.  One of the exercises within the meditations was to call your Guardian Angel to be with you on the journey.  Focusing on it this way, I felt the presence of something so big and familiar that it brought tears.   I recognized the Angel as being with me all my life, just out of focus and on the periphery.  This realization was a game changer.  I know I may never see Angels again as I did with the clear eyesight of innocent faith.  But I know they are with me always.

I had a conversation with my son, Zeke, this week before he fell asleep.  He had been listening to a story about witches and was having trouble sleeping.  As I searched for how to help him, I shared my story.  It is the first time I think I have shared it with anyone and it prompted me to write about it.  He listened and had many questions about the Angels.  I struggled for words to explain.  He immediately fell asleep.  He slept through the night and awoke to tell me how he had asked his animal friends to help him defeat the witches and bad guys in his dreams.  Maybe he connected with his Guardian Angels.  He walked taller the rest of the day.

In Judaism there is a bedtime prayer that calls 4 Angels to guard you.  It is ancient and meant for protection during the dark night.  I do not know the entire prayer in Hebrew.  Even though it is a prayer that is intended for you to say for yourself, I call the Angels to come guard my children before they go to sleep.  Then I recite, the Shema. I have done this every night for more years than I can remember.

I call upon you Hashem, put the Angel, Michael on the right, Gabriel on the left, Uriel in the front and Raphael in the back, and above my head the Sh’khinah (Divine Presence) (3x ) Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad) (Deuteronomy 6:4)

It is the last thing they hear before they fall asleep.  As I go to sleep, I call the Angels for my children that are now away from home and then myself.  This may not be religiously correct, but it is my way.

I want my children to hear me call the Angels by name, every single night.  In this world, there is a constant battle raging between light and dark.  Between faith and fear.  While we cannot insulate ourselves or our children from the forces of dark, I firmly believe that light and faith are the stronger force.  Just the memory of Angels can be powerful enough to beat back the dark.  Just the possibility of light can give us the hope and courage we need to face down fear.  May your Angels always be close, guiding you and giving you light for the way.