After my two oldest children, 21 year old Denis and 19 year old Peggy died in an August automobile accident, I found it very hard to go shopping. Not having the energy or the desire, I found it too painful to go into a store.
Since my remaining child, Annie, was about to leave home for her freshman year at college, I had a few errands to run to get her packed up with everything she needed. So I pushed myself to go out for an hour each day to finish up her shopping list. I didn’t want to see people, I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to stand in the middle of the store, in a puddle of tears surrounded by familiar things that brought back haunting memories of the two children I had just buried.
Then, out of the blue, something very unexpected and wonderful happened. In a local card store, I spotted a darling felt angel that seemed to call out to me, "Take me home." Holding it in my hand, the tiny angel offered comfort to my anguished heart. On the spot, I decided to buy all six angels that were displayed, cleaning out the store’s inventory. This started a new adventure for me and a great healing began in my heart.
No matter where I went, whenever I found an angel, I brought it home. I discovered all kinds of angels: delicate porcelain ones, darling ceramic boy and girl angel sets, cuddly teddy bear angels, shiny silver angels and more. It was the only shopping I could handle in those early months of grieving. Selecting them, buying them, carrying them home, wrapping them ever so carefully, and mailing them to special people kept me alive.
I lovingly sent them to dear relatives, special friends, college roommates, god-parents and other bereaved parents. The angels came in all materials: ceramic, wood, crystal, felt, silver, stained glass, corn-husk, linen and even macaroni. I inscribed each angel with my children’s names and dates and prepared my "first batch" as Christmas presents that first year. Don’t ask where I got the energy from to shop for them, to wrap them all, to label them correctly, and to cart them to the post office. My whole being was consumed with this task.
My house looked like an angel factory! God bless my dear husband. He just smiled and never said, "Enough, already!" He was just thrilled to see me so happily busy doing something that brought me peace. My heart sang as I prepared all my angels for flight to other homes.
Later, when we visited our friends and relatives, it brought great joy to our hearts to see our precious "Peggy and Denis" angels adorning their Christmas trees or mantelpieces. As the years have gone by, each of those dear families annually unpacks our special angels, reminisces a little about our children, reliving happy memories of them and even saying a little prayer for them. Our hearts soar to know that Peggy and Denis will never be forgotten and will be shared with generations to come.
Whether I was painting angels, putting colored ribbon on them, inscribing them with my children’s names, or making them myself as crafts, the process released that awful ache in my heart. Although some people probably thought I was a little wacky, the idea caught on fast and our closest friends looked forward to seeing what "next year’s angel" would be like. As a special treat for us, our friends reacted by gifting us with the most charming and unique angels that they came across in their travels—angels that we never would have dreamed of owning.
Now, ten years later, our Christmas tree truly makes everybody’s heart skip a beat and makes Peggy’s and Denis’ presence such an integral part of this family occasion. It’s amazing what one little idea did for our hearts and for so many others who lost a loved one. A dear lady who calls me "her heart’s best friend" sends me a precious angel each Christmas to say "thank you" for helping her heart when she lost her son.
The good news is: as the years have gone by, angel collecting is no longer limited to Christmas! You can notice this phenomenon at our house. There is definitely a "heavenly" feeling as you enter our home. A magnificent stained-glass angel adorning our dining room window, a comfy angel quilt resting on our easy chair, the most heart-warming framed letters of our children’s names, spelling Peggy and Denis, each letter entwined with angel figures; also, music boxes and trinket boxes, platters, trivets, calendars, towels, night-lights adorned with angels, a basket of reading books about angels—all shout the loving presence of Peggy and Denis in our hearts.
Ten years ago, angels were hard to find. Now, they are everywhere. Do you think I started something?