We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds. -- Anton Chekhov
I’d never had any real trouble in my life. No legal problems, health issues, accidents or fights. My life was all pretty tame. Sure I’d had anxiety and a little depression once, I was fired from a job during college, I broke an arm in high school. But nothing serious. Not even a traffic ticket, or a stay in the hospital or more than a few months of meds. I’d had steady employment too and earned enough to buy a house and, with my Edna, raise a family — three kids. Like everybody else I’d read about terrible things happening to other people like being run over by a drunk driver, or being in a plane crash or being wrongfully accused of a crime. All that stuff seemed so far away as if I was watching a TV show. Didn’t apply to me at all. Not part of my life experience. None of my family or friends had experienced anything particularly out of the ordinary. Yeah sure a cousin died in an industrial accident and a friend got cancer and a few other people I knew suffered various minor mishaps, but it was all run of the mill stuff and never touched my immediate family.
But my luck ran out. Fact is I always knew I was a lucky guy. Meeting Edna, for example. That’s a story right there, but suffice to say it was a series of fortunate circumstances that led to our meeting and what became a gloriously happy marriage. Also the good health and absence of injury can be ascribed at least in part to luck. No illusions about it, dame fortune had smiled on me since the day I was born and until the day I died.
I was on my commute home. It was a Friday and I was looking forward to my weekend and relaxing and spending time with the kids. It was going to be one of those rare weekends with no plans, no obligations. Completely free for me to set my own agenda. Usually there’s a recital, or soccer game or dinner party or a big chore on the schedule. Not this weekend though. What could be better?
I was sitting on the subway train reading the evening paper. There was a story about a hiker who’d gotten lost and survived for six days in the mountains before being rescued. One of the many “glad it wasn’t me” kind of items that I’d been reading all my life. At one stop I noticed this big burly guy getting on the subway car at the same time this even taller, bulkier fella was getting off. They bumped smack into each other. They started to exchange angry words when -- whattaya know -- they recognized one another. And they were not friends. Not at all. In fact it just so happened that they were real bad enemies. One cussed at the other and the other cussed right back. The bigger fella threw a punch and tagged the other guy on the shoulder. So the guy that was hit pulled out a knife. This was happening just a few feet in front of me. If I’d wanted to see this confrontation, I had the best seats in the house. In fact, it was like watching live theater up close only it wasn’t a play but a dangerous situation. So like I said the one guy who had been getting on pulled the knife. Well the other fella backed up a couple of steps and what does he do but pulls out a gun. The knife carrier immediately lunges at the gun wielder trying to stab him. The other fella moves back to avoid the blade and then fires his gun. But he’s off balance and the bullet whizzes past his enemy and hits me right in the abdomen. So ended my string of luck.
What had happened between those two after that is a mystery to me. I bled like crazy and was in considerable pain until I passed out. For reasons unclear to me it took forever for me to be attended to and transported to a hospital. By the time I got to the emergency room I was done for. I died on the gurney just as the attending doctor was sorting out my situation. It was a permanent end to my mortal luck.
So now I’m an angel. Not since I was a little kid and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” did I believe there was any such thing as an angel. That was basically all just bible stuff as far as I was concerned. I always thought that the main messages of the bible were just great but that the stories themselves, like of Jonah and the whale or Lazarus being brought back from the dead, were just that, stories, stories meant to teach a moral or shine light on theological point. Now I don’t know because here I am an angel and so anything is possible.
Backtracking a bit, what happened was when I died my soul lifted out of my body and I saw a bright light. Just like you hear people talk about when they come back from being clinically dead. Before I headed for the light I looked down and saw my earthly body on the gurney and the doctor and two nurses looking at me. It was weird all right, but I wasn’t the least bit frightened or sad. Somehow the thought of Edna and the kids having to mourn and then make do without me didn’t make me tear up or anything. I was overwhelmed with a sense of happiness and wholeness and acceptance. It sounds insensitive and self indulgent that I should be oblivious to my family's suffering but it wasn't. Trust me on this, some day you'll see.
The next part is kind of hazy. I clearly remember seeing my dad (who died four years ago, my mother is still hanging in there) my grandparents and various other deceased relatives and friends. It all seemed quite happy although at no time did I have a sense of exactly where I was and what was happening. And no, we weren’t all on clouds. To tell you the truth I don’t know where we were. Physically I felt at the same time like I was in perfect health and like I had no physical feeling at all. There was certainly no pain, or hunger or thirst and the closest thing to emotion was satisfaction and the sense of acceptance I mentioned before. I had no thoughts of the future and the past was my Earthly life and I felt like I could look at all 47 years all at once and see everything that had ever happened to me like it was a three dimensional movie.
Time was not a thing at all. It just didn’t exist and no I can’t explain it other than to say that the whole concept of seconds, minutes, hours, days, years etc. was totally gone. That absence felt just great.
So like I said I saw a bunch of people who had pre deceased me and we had happy communications (even my Uncle Ron who I’d never gotten along with) and without saying a single word. Talking, per se, didn’t exist, ideas and concepts were exchanged with what I guess you'd call mental telepathy.
One of the messages I got was not from anyone I’d known. My sense was that it came from some higher authority. Not God, but an entity of some importance who sort of told you what’s what. I was quickly given to understand that I was to serve as an angel and that I would know what to do when I got there. Next thing I know after receiving that communique I’m on the job and what an interesting one it is. The first thing about it is something you’d never guess. Sure I’m looking after a few people on Earth, and no they can’t see me or hear me, but the really odd part is that I’m not serving in the time period I left or even a future one. No sir, I’m back in the 18th century. On top of that I’m in France. City of Caen in the Normandy section, close to where the D-Day landings were.
I never spoke a lick of French when I was alive but darned if I can't understand every word anyone says. And if there’s someone speaking a language other than French or English, I get every word of that too.
I’m mainly responsible for these two brothers and their sister. One of the boys is in his early twenties and his siblings are in their late teens. They still live with their parents and a baby brother but I don’t oversee the rest of the family. The parents run a shop and its a pretty big one and they need their older children to help out. The oldest is supposed to take over the shop. The other lad in my charge is hoping to move to Paris soon, he wants to be a writer. Seems the girl is destined to marry but she's the sharpest of the lot in my estimation, always has her nose in a book and keeps a detailed diary. If ya ask me she could be a pretty fair writer herself.
As to my specific duties, well that’s pretty hard to explain. Now there are certain things I can protect them from and others I can’t. For example I see a tree is about to fall on one of them as they’re walking I can influence them to stop and think about something so that the tree hits the ground before they're under it. Or if one falls off a horse and is about to break their neck, I can twist them mid air so that they get nothing worse than a bruise. Things like that. I don’t, however, have complete power. Some things will happen and I’ve no control over them try as I might. I figure that those things are God’s call.
But I get to do more than bail them out of jams. I listen to their prayers (believe me it helps, I just can’t tell ya how) or give em a nudge when they’re thinking of doing something. For instance it could be something they should do and I can influence them to do it, or it could be the opposite and I can deter them. These things are my call. I’m surprised at the autonomy I have as an angel. Except of course God, or whoever, can override me. Sometimes I’m trying to help them but they do the wrong thing anyway. I don’t question why. That’s not my role.
I’m also there to listen to their musings and I have access to their inner thoughts. You’d think it was kind of weird but it’s just part of what I do. Now you may be wondering how it is I can oversee three people who are not usually at the same place at the same time. The thing is I can be with all of them simultaneously no matter where each one is located. Sounds weird but that’s just the nature of my current existence. I don’t question it or wonder about it.
The rest of the family has an angel too. I can’t see let alone interact with the angel but I can feel her or his presence. I also know that not everyone has an angel. I’m guessing Hitler didn’t and serial killers don’t but it’s not the kind of thing I can be sure of.
I like my, for lack of a better word, “life.” I feel lucky to be guardians of such nice, smart and attractive people. I also know — and don’t ask me how — that I’ll have other such assignments and that I’ll always feel contentment and best of all I’ll see Edna and the kids at some point.
It’s kind of a strange thing. Here I am dead and I feel just as lucky as I did when I was alive. Actually, even more so.