The Messenger - From Angels I Have Seen - by J. L. Moore
I was excited about a new home and starting first grade.
After years of working in low paying jobs, with little to no incentives or opportunities for advancement, Father packed us up and moved away from the small Nebraska town we had called home to the promise of a better life in Denver, Colorado. I was 6-years old and excited about a new home and starting first grade.
For a few weeks, we stayed with some of Mother’s friends. They had a house with an efficiency apartment in the top of their house. It had one bedroom located off the entryway/ hallway/closet. The bathroom was located at the far end of the hallway / closet in the eve of the roof. Father always let out a series of curse words whenever he was in the bathroom, right after bumping his head on the low, sloping roof. The living room and combined kitchenette were on the far side of the apartment; a long, narrow room with barely any natural light.
Forced to sleep in a baby crib shoved to the side of the hallway closet, was the worst part of staying here. I was 6-years old for crying-out-loud! My feet hung out one end and, the rest of my body was curled up like some sort of twisted pastry. It was cold, drafty; and worse yet, totally dark. I was terrified, and just knew that something was going to get my legs as they hung out of the end of the crib, but there was no room inside the bars of my night time prison. I would lay in the darkness listening to spooky whispers just knowing something was making gruesome plans for me. I hated it and my daddy felt terrible for the situation. I remember him and Mother arguing about the fact that I should have a proper bed, but Mother said we couldn’t afford to spend the money.
Soon we left the apartment and moved to a small two bedroom house my folks had purchased. It was a tiny little place, but it was ours and I had my own room. Father took me to a furniture store a few days after we had moved in and let me pick out my own bed. I chose a twin bed with a white padded princess headboard, adorned with gold buttons. When the bed was delivered, mother had a fit and told Father to send it back.
“I’ll do nothing of the sort,” he said. “After what she’s had to sleep in, she deserves a bed fit for a princess.”
I loved my new house, my room, and that bed; and I slept in it for years. Now, I was ready to start school. Looking forward to the first grade, I was broken hearted when told I would have to start kindergarten due to my late birthday.
I had no doubt there were ghosts lurking in every dark corner
The biggest challenge for me was to find my way around the school. To a tiny kindergartener, the 2-story brick school house seemed like a medieval castle, and I was terrified of getting lost. I never raised my hand to take the lunch count to the office or leave the room without the security of the rest of my classmates. I had no doubt there were ghosts lurking in every dark corner, and they were waiting for me to get separated from the other children, so they could do whatever ghosts did to young children. I knew they were there, because I could see them out of the corner of my eye bolt across the hallways and disappear into the darkness.
Even in the company of my classmates, I would walk as far from the dark corners and as close to the brightly lit areas as possible, even if it meant I would get in trouble for not staying in line.
By the time I made it into the third grade, I had become quite comfortable with finding my way through the school building. However, I still avoided the dark corners where I saw wispy tails of shadowy figures rush to hide. I felt I could out run them now, but I didn’t need to push my luck.
In the spring, Father found a new job. The little cracker-box house in the city was sold, and we moved into a brick house in a suburb just north of Denver. The house had plenty of room for our family that had grown with the birth of my baby brother. I thought we had moved to paradise! We had a sizeable house, a big yard, and best of all, the sweetest neighbors ever.
Helen and Dan lived in the house next door to ours; an older couple whose kids were grown and gone. They all but adopted our family. Mother and Helen became best friends, as did Father and Dan. Helen was like a grandmother to me. A retired school teacher; she loved for me sit next to her on her couch and read to her. She would make my favorite cookies, and each day when I got home from school, I would change into my play clothes and race over to her house for my afternoon snack. If I struggled with my lessons, she was there to help me out.
Dan laughed and played with my brother; he liked getting in the middle of the floor and pushing toy cars all around with him until he got fussy. It was nothing for Dan to change a diaper or give him his bottle, they loved us kids, and we loved them right back.
It broke our hearts when a large moving van backed up to their house and loaded all their belongings. I cried inconsolably when they left despite mother’s reassurances that we would see them again. Unfortunately, that was a promise she couldn’t keep.
I had a most bizarre dream.
Dan and Helen had left just before school started. When I got home from school now, I was disheartened by the fact that I could not go next door to see Helen and sit at her table eating cookies while she got dinner in the oven. However, she wrote letters to us and Mother would read them aloud to me as I settled for a snack at home. Getting a letter from Helen was like receiving a gift from a special friend.
The weather turned cold, and snow had come early that year; it was getting close to Thanksgiving when I had a most bizarre dream. I had always had dreams and always dreamed in color, but not like this. This dream had a different feel to it; it was vivid and in every moment of this dream I was acutely aware of what was going on around me, what was being said, and how I felt.
My birthday was coming up, the first week in December, and I received a birthday card from Helen and Dan. Mother held it out to me when I came in the door from school; her face was pained and her eyes were red. She sat down at the table with me and began to read the card out loud; it had been written by Dan, not Helen, which was unusual. Mother read each word very carefully and slowly.
“I hate to inform you of Helens passing. She died quietly at home with her children at her side just as she wanted.”
“What?” I shrieked!
Mother read it again, and this time I burst into uncontrollable sobbing and buried my head in Mother’s shoulder. At that moment, I felt strong arms engulf me and the overpowering smell of roses filled the air. Peacefulness fell over me like a soft, warm blanket. I lifted my head and found I was sitting in the lap of the most beautiful creature I have ever seen, recognizing it immediately as the night visitor in my room when I was four. Her voice was like wind chimes ringing in the breeze, but strong and reassuring at the same time. She glowed from the inside out, her eyes, her skin, even her beautiful flowing robes.
“Don’t be saddened,” she said, “Helen is in heaven now with Jesus and all the angels.”
“But why did she have to die?” I asked, not with my voice, but from someplace deep within myself.
“Helen was very sick and had been for a long time. She has gone home and is no longer in pain. You must be strong now.”
“I will,” I answered from that deep place.
Suddenly the angelic visitor was gone, the divine light was fading as was the beautiful scent of roses, but I heard her whisper to me once again, “be strong.”
I woke up in that moment, and when I did I heard myself say, “I will be strong.”
I was not afraid, in fact, I was filled with a profound peace and I went right back to sleep.
The next morning I remembered every detail of the dream and shared it with Mother. She sat patiently listening before giving me a quick hug around the shoulders.
“Helen is fine,” she said, “we just got a letter from her yesterday. It was only a dream silly girl.”
Mother was probably right, but it had been so real, the smell and the glow of the angel. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, it clung to my mind and wouldn’t let go.
I stopped in my tracks and felt the blood rush from my face.
A few weeks later birthday cards began to arrive from grandparents, friends and family members, even one from Don and Helen. Mother held it out to me, but there was no pain on her face or red eyes. It was only a birthday card, signed by Helen with a $10.00 bill. I did notice, however, that Helen’s handwriting was not as neat and perfect as I remembered.
I didn’t honestly think about it too much, I was just happy to receive the card and to know she was well.
The weeks drug on toward Christmas. The anticipation of Christmas break was simply painful, and excitement grew every day. During this time, the Christmas tree was set up, decorations put out, and I helped Mother bake cookies when I came home from school.
Finally, the last day of school was over, and I hurried home through the cold and snow. I came in the door kicking the snow off my boots as I pulled off my coat, scarf and mittens. Mother was sitting at the kitchen table, her back to me. She didn’t say a word and I knew immediately something was wrong. I placed my boots neatly on the rug by the door, pulled my scarf through the arm of my coat, and stuffed my mittens in the coat pocket before hanging it on the hook above the rug.
As I made my way into the kitchen, Mother looked up. I stopped in my tracks and felt the blood rush from my face. Mother sat with an unfolded letter on the table, her face filled with pain and her cheeks streaked with tears. She dabbed her eyes with the handkerchief she had in her hand and motioned for me to come to her.
I sat down in the chair across from her, and she began to read the letter from Don that had been tucked inside a Christmas card.
“It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you of Helen’s illness and recent death. She had been diagnosed with leukemia a little over a year ago while we still lived in Colorado. She did not tell you because she would not have anyone show her any pity. She loved all of you, and it was terribly difficult for her to leave our home there.
When the doctors said she had only a short time left, she insisted on spending that time near our children. I regret to inform you of Helens passing in this way; she died quietly at home with her children at her side just as she wanted.”
I buried my head in Mothers shoulder and cried, but not uncontrollably. I knew Helen was in a better place, no longer sick and in pain. Mother took the news exceptionally hard and wept on and off for days.
Sometimes she would look at me and ask, “How did you know?”
I had no answer to give her, and I didn’t know if she believed me or if she thought it was all just a strange coincidence.
There are no ghosts following after you
I was 11-years old when the angel visited me in my dreams again, and again she told me that someone close to me was going to die.
The dream was as vivid and detailed as the first. We were walking in a beautiful garden along a bubbling stream; I could hear the water flowing and once again the scent of roses filled the air. Maybe it was because I was older, but I realized immediately that we were not communicating with spoken words. The words were coming from deep down inside of my soul and as we spoke I experienced the emotion of every word.
The angel told me that, in a few weeks, my grandfather was going to die, and just as before when Helen had died, I was to be brave. She assured me that there was no reason to be sad, that my grandfather was going home and would no longer be sick, or walk with a cane.
I don’t remember how old my grandfather was, but he seemed extremely old. He was stricken with Multiple Scleroses many years earlier, and for as long as I could remember, tottered along with a cane. He scared me as a child, he seemed so fragile and was given to coughing fits, in which I just knew he was going to die on the spot. I can’t say I was extremely close to him, but I knew this was going to be terribly hard for my father, and that was my concern. Sensing sorrow for my father, the angel reassured me.
“Give your father lots of love and cry with him”, said the angel, “but let him see that you are not afraid.”
Before she left, she made one more statement that has stayed with me since that time.
“There are no ghosts following after you, only angels assigned to watch over and protect you. The whispers you hear in the dark are their prayers to the Father for you. Do not be anxious or afraid.”
The glowing light and the lovely scent of roses faded away into the night once again.
I did not share this visitation with my parents. I had felt uneasiness between Mother and me after Helen’s death, so I felt it best to keep this to myself, and I was never afraid of the dark again. I knew from that day on that I had angels watching over me where ever I went.
Three weeks later a call came that Grandfather had a stroke and died. We had to travel back to Nebraska, so Father could help his mother and younger brother make the funeral arrangements.
I don’t remember a lot about the days that followed; only that once, my father disappeared from all the visiting friends and family and I found him sitting behind the house in a lawn chair, alone and crying. I wrapped my arms around Father's neck and told him I was sorry, that I loved him and that I would miss grandfather. He pulled me around into his lap and smiled.
“You are such a sweet girl, thank you.”
The evening of the visitation, after so many had come to pay their respects, the immediate family was saying their final goodbyes at Grandfather’s casket. Grandmother stood next to his head and smoothed his hair as she always had, Father and his brother stood next to her.
Finally, she looked at me and said, “Come kiss your grandfather goodbye now.”
I froze. I loved my grandfather, but I knew that was not him in that casket and an intense fear began to rise in me. I looked at my father who could see the panic in my eyes. Grandmother stood waiting, expectation etched into her face. Father came to me and picked me up, then turned and looked squarely at her.
“She doesn’t have to kiss him goodbye, she knows he’s already gone.”
The fear subsided, and I wrapped my arms tightly around Father’s neck as he carried me out of the funeral home.
The next day at the cemetery, those who had come to say their final goodbyes and to affirm their support for Grandmother and the rest of the family, gathered around the grave site. I distinctly remember the over cast sky, the chilly breeze that blew fall leaves past our feet and the overpowering smell of fresh roses. I felt no fear or sadness, only tranquility, knowing that Grandfather was home, at peace, and free of a lifetime of sickness.
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This short story won Third Place in the 2010 - 2011 Alabama Federation of Women's Clubs, State Writing Competetion.
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