I don't think that I thought about angels much until recently. In the past, they seemed to be these beautiful creatures that as children were told lived in heaven. Since Rachel died, I have thought about them quite a bit. Some people have told me that Rachel is an angel in heaven now and others say she is playing with the angels. Ken and I tell the boys that she is in Heaven with God watching over us. A patient of Ken's gave us the book "Heaven is for Real" which is a great, short read. I recommend it if you have not read it because it gives such a wonderful view of what heaven is like through the eyes of a child. I no longer fear death as I did before because I know that my beautiful daughter will be waiting for me there. I hope that she has met many angels there and knows how much we love her and miss her.
That brings me to the reason for my post.
About a month ago, I went to a Breast Surgery conference in Phoenix, AZ. A couple of days before that, I was sitting in my office, not doing the paperwork I needed to do (kind of like right now.....), but rather looking at the SOFT website. I was on a page that had listed speakers that had been to their conference in the past. One of those speakers was Richard Paul Evans who wrote the best selling book, "The Christmas Box." Now, I had never heard of this book before so I was intrigued. The book tells the story of a family who moves in with a widow right before Christmas and was about slowing down to parent well and without regret. Although that was the initial message, it evolved into a beloved, comforting story for bereaved parents. In the book, the widow goes to visit the daughter's grave in which there is an angel monument. This is a work of fiction but the angel is based on one that used to exist in a cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah. After the book became a national phenomenon, many people wanted to visit the angel but it was apparently washed away in a flood. Mr. Evans decided to have a new angel statue commissioned which now is in a different part of the same cemetery.
Once I heard about this angel, I wanted to see it so I found the angel website. I was then amazed to discover that not only was there the angel in Salt Lake City, but there have been other angel statues built across the country. Curious, I looked to see if there were any near El Paso.
There was no angel in El Paso. However, there was one in Phoenix.
I looked for the address and found that the cemetery in which the angel statue was located was only a mile from the hotel where I would be staying.
I have never believed in coincidences and feel that things happen for a reason. I am not sure if that is true but it is what I believe. I have struggled to find the reason why Rachel died but maybe her short time here on earth was to inspire those she left behind. One of the things that I would like to do is to help others who have been in the same or similar situation as us.
After discovering the angel in Phoenix, I knew that I needed to visit the statue during my stay in the city. The conference was very busy so i did not get a chance to visit the statue right away like I had planned. I started to think that maybe I was crazy to want to see this angel statue and decided maybe I should not go. Then on the second to last day I was there, a silent auction was held. I have been to these conferences many times and I have to admit, I usually walk around the auction items and don't pay attention to them at all. For some reason, this time, I walked around to see what was there for auction. Nothing really caught my eye until the end when I saw a large painting of a angel statue titled "The Healing Angel".
I couldn't stop staring at it.
I knew that this painting was meant for me so I bid on it right then and there. I went back later and saw another bid and then bid higher. I decided to stay there and make sure no one else bid on it, lest I lose the painting. Happily, I was able to buy the painting and I drove it back with me to El Paso.
After that, I knew I had to see the angel statue and drove over right before I got on the road back to El Paso. I was very nervous for some reason about seeing the statue but once I got there, I felt an overwhelming sense of both peace and sadness. The statue was placed in the middle of a rectangular garden. There were some memorial benches and other inscribed monuments around the small garden as well as plaques with the names of children who had died. As I looked at the names and the dates of birth and death, I noticed that they ranged from babies to adults. I looked around for a while and thought how nice it would be to have one close enough that I could visit it when I was feeling sad and missing Rachel since we are so far from where she is buried.
It then occurred to me that maybe I could find a way to have something like this in El Paso! It would be a peaceful place that bereaved parents could go and think about their children and a way for Rachel to make an impact in the city in which she was born. I am trying to figure out a way to get this project started. It needs a committee of people and community support but I know that God will lead me to the right people I need to find. I so want for other parents who lost their child/ren to know that they are not alone.
I read in the local paper yesterday that a local soldier from Ft Biggs here in El Paso returned home. Unfortunately, it was in a casket as he was another casualty of the war in Afghanistan. The paper ran a story about how his wife and parents were waiting for him at the airport and how upset they all were. The story touched my heart deeply because it doesn't matter what age a child is when you lose them...2 days or 28 years old. He or she will always be your child and the hurt is terrible. My heart goes out to that family and I hope that God gives them some comfort in this time of sorrow.
The other day I was in church and we were singing a song that made me think of Rachel. Most songs at church make me sad these days so it was nothing new. I then heard the words I will comfort you in my head.
I will comfort you the voice said again.
I believe it was God telling me that I can rely on Him to be my source of comfort. All those angels around me in statues and paintings are reminders that I am not alone. We are not alone.
And He will give us comfort in our time of sorrow.