Fifteen years have passed since one of my more memorable encounters with my angel.
I say this with certainty and the belief that angels are assigned to us whether or not we ever realize it. Only an angel could have guided me through the worst illness I’d ever faced. I felt certain that I would not die from it, but knew I had to fight to live through it. The sickness had come out of nowhere and for about a year, it brought me constant pain in every joint. I was physically wasting away, fast. Doctors said the illness was completely undiagnosable. I was in the hospital for about the third time that year, and I had also picked up a hospital-acquired infection that kills thousands each year, when my angel encounter happened. It was the night after my third surgery to remove the infection from three different parts of my body. I was drained. My family and community had rallied, and I had no shortage of support, visitors, cards, and prayers, but this particular night, after everyone had left, I felt overwhelmed and alone. That was a strange feeling for me because I tend to prefer solitude and have a realization of God being everywhere and ever-present.
I was in tears, crying deeply because I wanted someone to be with me. As I let the tears come, I could feel a knowing, a remembrance that I’m never alone, and then an awareness that a presence was in the room, near the foot of my bed. I remember smiling big at the thought, and just as I did, my best
friend Cynthia came into the room. She pulled up a chair at the foot of my bed and said that she had been told to come back and stay with me until I fell asleep. Seeing her felt like an answered prayer. It would be years later before I told her about my angel encounters (that night and earlier in my life). Our conversation would be prompted by her telling me that God wanted me to know that my angel was real from the first time I saw it as a child. I hadn’t shared that experience since it happened. There is no way she could have known.
I must’ve been about four or five when I first began to believe. By age six, seeing people and things that others couldn't see had become passé. I had stopped disturbing everyone's sleep with my screams. I also somehow understood the difference between ghosts and angels. I don’t know how I knew, only that I could feel the difference, even if I couldn’t explain it to my mother or five sisters. Mom would usually be the first to arrive in my room as she flipped on the light. I finally realized that the light was not so that she could see what I saw, but so that she could convince me that what I was seeing wasn't there.
But the light didn't scare them or make them vanish. Although they were pretty brazen, they never approached me or seemed to pay me much attention. To my child’s mind, we all seemed to be just hanging out in the same space. I remember in particular the man and woman who hung out at my grandma's house. Even around age six, I recognized that their clothing was from another time or "old and raggedy," as I would describe it to my mother. They would always be side-by-side like they
were posing for Grant Wood's American Gothic, and like the couple in that painting, they looked sad.
The earlier encounter that Cynthia referenced was far more frightening. On this particular night, I opened my eyes just in time to see what looked like darkness, with a face, moving toward me. My child’s mind wondered if it was reaching out to kill me or take me away to the place where nightmares live. What I knew for sure is that it hated me and meant to do me harm. There was no pretense in its eyes. The message was clear: be afraid. I didn't make a sound. I froze, hoping it would not see me, but I could feel its eyes on me. It was coming for me. I now believe that it was an angel of darkness.
I was about to close my eyes and wait for the outcome when a being, human-like in shape and made of light, appeared between me and the angel of darkness. This being of light could be described as the antithesis of the dark being. Despite the absence of wings, I knew intuitively that it was an angel. I could feel love, and beauty, and something that I had not experienced—understanding—coming from it. It knew me and even though there were no facial features that I could describe, it smiled at me. There was no wrestling between the two angels. The dark angel retreated and vanished in the same way that darkness vanishes from a room when the lights are turned on. The angel of light didn’t even seem to acknowledge the dark angel but kept eyes on me until I fell asleep.
I've not seen or felt my angel of light in that form since then. Yet I know that my angel is still with me, just as it was in the hospital that year when my friend Cynthia also stayed by my side until I fell asleep. I still smile at the endless presence, purpose, and protection of our angels.