By the time I met Gary, angels were once again a part of my life. I allowed the idea of them to comfort me when I felt alone and inspire me to help others when I could. I was surprised to find how easily he embraced the idea of angels. He had spent many years struggling with his relationship to God and the Jewish religion that was his heritage. Watching him evolve spiritually over time was a beautiful unfolding.
My mother, the one who first talked to me of angels, gave me me the gift of understanding how to care for others. Before her illness, she was one of the most compassionate people I knew. She always put others first and paid attention to the little details that made a big difference. School lunches included a special treat and a note signed “love mom”. She knew when to hug, what questions to ask to find out what about an upsetting incident at school and when to let me stand on my own two feet.
I brought this kind of compassion and caring to my marriage. I don’t recall what the gesture was that inspired it, but one day Gary stopped in the middle of a moment and turned to me. “You know, you are MY angel.” From that day on, he often called me this. When he became ill, we had the chance to witness others also being angels. His oncology nurse, Karen, was this for both of us. Her caring went so far beyond her job description.
After his death, angels poured in from the sidelines of my life. Jasmine Guy who sang holding her baby daughter at Gary’s memorial. All Gary’s friends who shared stories of his life I had never heard. Gina Osher who dragged me from my box of isolation and held my hand as I re-entered the world of the living. Deb T. who kept me busy working in production. My neighbors who took me in for dinners and cut my lawn. My father who understood because he, too, had been a widower at much too young an age. To me, in what they would most likely describe as every day gestures, these people earned their angel wings.
Perhaps my mother’s tale of people we loved becoming angels shining down like stars on us to guide our way is true. Maybe it isn’t. For me, the greater comfort comes from knowing Gary felt so cared for by me, I was like an angel to him. It comes from knowing that when I need help and support there are those who take the time to stop and intervene with their love and thoughtfulness. The greatest comfort is knowing that right here and now, there are angels among us.
The deeper I travel into the community of those whose lives have been touched by cancer, the more angels I encounter. Click here to read about another angel, Jonny Imerman, and how he turned his journey through cancer into a mission to help others who must travel that same road.