27 May 2011

Verse & Vision: Angels Among Us

"If one looks closely enough, one can see angels in every piece of art."  
~Terri Guillemets

The third poem that I chose was more like the retelling of a time-worn story. 

(If you want to read more of my inspiration from the Verse & Vision show, please go to this post or this one.)

The styling of the poem was more in a paragraph with fleshed out ideas and sentences, but the poetry is really evident in the selection of the words in a way that forms a picture in your mind. That is the sort of poetry that really resonates with me. I can see and hear and smell and taste and touch every thing that is being written about. These words from Janet Leahy truly make my senses come alive.

In the Church Yard Beside the School House
by Janet Leahy

A boy in red boots is making snow angels with his
small body. Old ladies on their way to mass, fold
their arms around themselves to keep warm. The
boy jumps up, brushes snow from his jacket, smiles
with delight at the perfect forms carved into the snow.
Behind him the church bell tolls, a black hearse arrives,
carrying the most recent dead. Now the boy turns
to watch the procession of mourners. His eyes fix
on the people walking behind the casket, their arms
wrapped around each other. He knows something
of death, his grandfather, his dog Cyrano. He knows
when people die they need angels. As the church doors
close, he falls into the snow and spreads his wings.

patina-ed wings from MissFickleMedia (thank you Shan!)
sterling silver heart
snowflake cracked quartz rounds
black onyx irregularly faceted nuggets
sari silk wrapped beads with Swarovski crystals
hand made clasp from galvanized steel wire


I know something of death.

I remember vividly the day that my grandmother died. 

I was a smug 18 year old away at UW-Eau Claire for my train wreck of a freshman year. Coming home at Thanksgiving, my parents insisted that I go to see Bousha ('old lady' in Polish, but a term of endearment to us). I didn't want to go. While there, my dad asked me to address her Christmas cards. I did it, but grumbled as I went, each envelope met with a heavy sigh and rolling of the eyes. When the last envelope was addressed, I rushed to leave. She held my hand in hers and promised me to come home soon. Her cheek was soft and smelled of powder when I kissed her goodbye. 

That was the last time I ever saw Bousha.

Just two weeks later I made my way down the great hill from my dorm to my afternoon classes. On the way I made a detour to the bookstore and bought a card for Bousha. It was a Boynton with a funny little cat on the front.  I trudged through the wet snow that darkening Friday afternoon to the class I dreaded the most: algebra. I knew that if I made it through this class, the weekend could officially begin and finals would be the following week. Lots of studying to slack off on for sure.

I wasn't particularly engaged in this class. It actually felt like they were speaking a different language. As the minutes ticked by on the large clock above me, and the professor droned on like the teacher on Charlie Brown, I suddenly felt very anxious. Trying not to attract attention, I dug out the card for Bousha and frantically started writing her a letter, glancing back up at the clock with each word. I remember telling her over and over that I loved her. And also that I was sorry that I hadn't spent more time with her at Thanksgiving. Could this class get any longer? Could time tick by any slower? Stuffing the card into the envelope, scribbling her name and address, licking the stamp, I bolted out of my chair as soon as the clock struck 3:00 and raced down the hall to the lobby where the postman was just collecting the last mail for the day. 

I felt light and happy climbing that slushy hill. I didn't even care that the wind was biting into my bones. I felt at peace.

As day drew into evening, I was alone in my communal dorm room hanging white lights on the window, the sounds of Christmas carols coming from my clock radio. My roommates were across the hall giving Diane a perm in the bathroom. The phone rang. I was surprised to hear the voice of my older cousin Mike, who lived in Minneapolis. I only saw him at holidays and I didn't think he even knew I was at this college.

"Do you need a ride home?" Mike asked.

"Sure! That would be great. I have finals next week, but that would be so awesome because then my parents won't have to trek over here," I said. "When are you thinking of coming home?"

There was a brief and awkward pause on the other end of the line. 

"Uh... um... I thought you knew," said Mike in the most apologetic voice. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Erin. Grandma died this afternoon. I thought you needed a ride home tomorrow for the funeral."


The phone dropped to the floor and me with it. I may have managed to pick it up and tell him that I had to call him back. 

Grief gripped me and would not let go. I tried to stand but couldn't. Crawling across the hall, I leaned into the bathroom door and collapsed in heavy sobs on the cold, white porcelain tile. 

Diane rushed to me, hair dripping wet with the acrid smell of permanent solution piercing my nose, and grabbed me, holding me up in her embrace. 

The only words I could choke out between heaving sobs were, "Grandma... died... no!"

To this day, I cannot stomach the smell of a perm without that memory bubbling to the surface.

When my parents finally called it was with the realization that I had learned of grandma's passing in the most abrupt manner. As in a twisted game of telephone, the message was relayed all wrong. My parents had called Mike's dad to ask if he might possibly be able to bring me home, and they were waiting for that information before calling me with the news. But Mike didn't know and called me instead. It must have been awful for him to share that shocking news with me. I recall that the two hour car ride home to Stevens Point was mostly in silence. 

For the funeral, I was selected to carry in the half finished afghan that Bousha was crocheting. It was the softest cream colored yarn. She could knock one out in a day or two and everyone had one...every grandchild, friend and maybe even a few passersby. Each one had an embroidered tag that read, "Specially hand made by Grandma." This cream one never got that tag. I laid the unfinished masterpiece with the ball of yarn and the brightly colored crochet hook stuck in it on the top of the coffin. I don't recall anything else.

After the slow motion motorcade to the cemetery, I stood by the graveside that Saturday in the snow, my toes numb from the missing socks I forgot to pack in my haste, wishing to be rolled into my own blue and white herringbone blanket. 

Retreating to the warmth of my grandmother's house to go through the motions of selecting what to keep and what to give away, I heard the mail slot open. I wandered over to retrieve the small stack on the floor. And there it was: my card. 

I sat down on the mauve velour couch, the one that was only sat on during holidays, and opened the card. As I reread those words that I so hurriedly wrote, the emotions flooded me. I let the tears roll softly down my cheeks. Bousha never read these words, my apology at being so rude, my love for her.

But I think she knew.

I wish that I had kept that letter. I think that I likely threw it away because my emotions were so raw, and it was stunning to read it at that time. Plus, I didn't immediately connect that Bousha was guiding me that day.  I found out later that my parents were with her in the hospital when she died. And it was around 3:00 pm on Friday, the same time that I felt so frantic to get that letter posted. 

I do believe in angels. I believe that there are angels among us working to push us in the direction that we need to go, and supporting us when we feel that all is lost. It is not just astral spirits with wings and bright lights, but those that are among us working every day. They are in the checkout line at Copps Food Center when picking up the $20 bill that fell out of my pocket and giving it back to me... there is one that makes my coffee at Emy J's each morning named Mindy with a bright light of sweetness and an extra dose of happy to wake me up... I see them in each person who deposits a bag filled to the brim with food and toiletries at the special collections my church does for Operation Bootstrap... and I can see them on the television when they rush to help a local woman rebuild her horse barn and clean up her farm after the tornado that touched down not far from where I live. I believe that even when we least expect it there is an angel there watching out for us, those special guardians that we loved in life who are looking down on us from heaven, but they are just as certainly right around the corner or down the street keeping an eye on us. 

And sometimes we are called to be angels when we touch another person's life and make it better. 

I most certainly think that Bousha was reaching out to me to let me know that it would all be alright and that was why I had that sudden urge to contact her. And although it was my words in my hand writing that I read on that card that cold December day, I feel that really it was her telling me she loved me. Her first act as my guardian angel.

So now it is your turn...
Do you believe in angels?
Have you ever had an experience where you felt protected and loved but could not explain it?
Are you open to the possibility of angels among us?
How have you been an angel to someone else?
Do tell!

Enjoy the day!


Alice said...

What a lovely poem. And your necklace is just gorgeous! MissFickle's wings were the perfect choice for the focal.

Like you, I've never been comfortable at facing difficult situations in person. My paternal grandfather was in the nursing home when I was around the age of 27. He hated being there, and never let any of us forget that. Eventhough he was only a few blocks away, my husband and I rarely visited him. He was nearly deaf, and that, coupled with his anger, made it more than difficult to enjoy a visit. When he died, I felt regret that I did not swallow my uncomfortableness and visit him more often. I didn't put myslef in his shoes to know what it is like to be somewhere you loathe, and know you are going to die there. I've always regretted that.

And, yes, I've had times where I've felt protected, comforted.....a strange but wonderful feeling.

Have a lovely and safe holiday weekend!

Unknown said...

Such a gorgeous Necklace Erin! Prey tell you are ever brimming Girl! I wish I could say that Ive had some experience that I *know of with an Angel, but The Lord said that "Many have entertained Angels unawares"! And so they are with us..in time of trouble in our lives I believe.
I worked as a Nurses Aide when I made Scotland my Home with my Scottish husband. I worked in this Beautiful Big old Victorian house that was turned into the Home in Aberdeenshire. It was hard for me at times because one or two would ask me.."Why am I here" because they (1 or 2) still could walk and do everything, and that was hard to see. I believe the Lord in all of His Love has been so gracious to the elderly. Many were forgetful and dreamy and so they were ok, so thats what age mercifully does to many of the Old..thankfully! But unless I hadnt worked in the Home I never realized many things. Sometimes we just dont know! You know Love never dies Erin, I believe and she is in the arms of Infinate Love now! That was beautiful ox

Beth Hikes said...

Oh Erin, what an amazing necklace to tell such an important story of loss and angels. Yes, I do believe that the spirit works through people and things to move us...where to I'm not sure! I look for them every day. Sometimes I listen to them and sometimes they patiently wait for another opportunity for when I'm open to the message :) xoxo Beth

rosebud101 said...

Angels? Of course, where would we be without them?

Cynthia said...

Well, as I read the poem and view your necklace, I was prepared to comment about the haunting beauty of both. But, then I read your story of your grandmother passing and I was completely moved. I read it as I was eating my lunch. I had to stop eating, so I could read un-distracted. And when I was finished, tears were rolling down my face. (hopefully my co-workers did not notice the crazy lady crying in the corner!!) I was so moved because it's a touching story, but also because I do believe your grandmother was reaching out to you at that moment, as if to tell you "it's ok, I understand". I hope that you still have a strong relationship with her, and that she continues to watch over you.

lynsey said...

Erin Your necklace is truly beautiful.

Your story touched my soul, I, mercifully have not yet had that feeling of utter grief, but i have watched others go through it. The subject of angels is something i have pondered, it is warming for the heart and soul to believe that there is someone or something watching over us and protecting us. But i feel, as you say we need not look always to the heavens, but see the angels whom dwell around us and within us.

About 5 years ago i was the victim of a violent man, this man almost took my life in the physical sense, but did murder my soul. 2 years ago i believe i met an angel in the form of my partner Benjamin. Through his patience, care, love and understanding my soul was restored, and because he helped me find my strength i am now realizing my dreams, sometimes our Angels are closer than we know.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous necklace Erin, it's, well, heavenly! I definitely believe in angels or maybe it's that I believe the souls of those who love us and have passed are still here watching over us. But then, that's an angel isn't it? Lovely story.

Brandi Hussey said...

Beautiful, Erin, both the story and the necklace. Actually, I'm in tears over here, and this is all I can write that's coherent.

Marieke said...

Normally I'm a bit of a blog-lurker but this time your story moved me to tears and I simply had to comment.

My Opa which is Dutch for Grand-dad died when I was about 8 years old. I always felt we had a special bond, he was a sweet uncomplicated man but one with great whisdom and one of the things I remember very well was the fact he always gave us good advice.

I remember while being a teenager whenever I was feeling sad or having troubles of some sort, I would have these long inner-conversations asking "Opa" for advice on how to handle the current situation. This always brought me peace and quietness in some of the difficult situations I had to deal with, so yess I believe there are angels around or even within us helping and guiding us.

By the way also wanted to let you know you are a huge inspiration to me and I love the necklace, it's gorgious!

Jennifer Cameron said...

Your story really touched me. That rarely happens...in case you were wondering. I felt like I was in the dorm room taking that call with you and now maybe the next time I smell perm chemicals I will be reminded of your story.

Beautiful necklace. I have lots of sari ribbon, but no confidence or knowledge of how to use it even though I love it so much in other's designs.

Lori Bowring Michaud said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Erin. Yes, I believe in angels. We lost our oldest child, our son TJ, 7 years ago on May 9, Mother's Day. His injury was totally unexpected. The following year when our oldest daughter graduated from high school, she attended Project Graduation on graduation night. There was a psychic on the harbor cruise her class attended. When my daughter sat across from the woman, who didn't know her and didn't know her name, the woman told her that she had recently lost a brother. The psychic told my daughter to tell me that every time I felt a warm feeling on my right cheek, that my son was giving me a kiss.

The year after that my youngest son attended his Project Graduation; a different psychic, again not knowing my son or his name, gave him the same message.

Three years ago I was visiting my son's grave and having a pity party for myself. There had been lots of clover growing there and I had looked for four-leaf clovers for several years. In my misery I made the statement aloud, "stupid clover, there are never four-leaf clovers here". I looked down and found one, then another, and another. I found ten that day.

Yes, I believe.....

Cindy said...

Erin, your post is really moving and so touching. I tell you, I feel as if it were written from my heart, if only I could write as eloquently as you. You have an incredible way of expressing yourself. I lost my Grandmother at the same age, while I was in college. We were so close. This really brought back memories.
Your necklace is over the top amazing - I am really in awe, Erin, at your talent.

swopemelmel said...

Oh dear, I am so glad i'm working late and there are very few people around because that post moved me to tears. I absolutely believe in angels and have always been told that when you think you see something out of the corner of your eye, that is your guardian angel. swopemelmel@aol.com


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