Angels Unawares

Fear and hope, despair and wonder meditate side-by-side in my mind. I don't know what to do with all of these feelings. And so, I come again to the page, this confessional, this banner in the sky.


After learning my younger brother is sick, I think about canceling a long-scheduled gathering of our Episcopal parish supper club. The last thing I want is a house full of cheerful people gathered around the piano singing Christmas carols. But Buck and I don't cancel the supper. Instead, we clean house and make dinner.

Twelve guests arrive at 6 p.m. Sunday evening. The invitees include the regular group, plus our rector and his wife, along with another favorite couple.

These fellow travelers bring chocolates, music, wine, and stout, generous hearts that have gloried and suffered in this stunning adventure called life. They infuse me with renewed strength for the journey and mysteriously knock flat the spiritual cynicism that has recently become the amniotic fluid in which I float through life.

Two good friends, Patsy and Tom, bring us a music CD of the Choral Society of Pensacola performing Johannes Brahms' German Requiem.  Its power shakes me, blasts me apart, and puts me back together again. The music presses on my bruised places. Only later do I realize it is a poultice.

The Baritone soloist sings. . .

"Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.
Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand breadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee.
Surely every man walks in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heaps up riches, and knows not who shall gather them.
And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and there shall no torment touch them."

I suck air sharply through my teeth, over chapped lips. My burning eyes are on fire. And yet, I feel joy. Strange. And for a moment, anyway, I feel part of something vast. 

My brother is 55. His doctors believe he has bladder cancer. He will get the full pathology report, with staging and recommended treatment regimen on December 16. His young son, a second year college student majoring in History and Russian, is a gifted guitarist.

I talked with my brother this morning. This time of waiting is hard for him; for all of us.  He is taking medication to control pain. But as he told me about the moral support of friends and family, their calls and cards, and conversations, it became clear that he feels more connected and loved right now than he has in many years. And that is something. It is not everything. But it is something.

We all held hands in a circle Sunday night while our Rector, Neal Goldsborough, offered a blessing before dinner. I looked at all those dear faces and wanted to drop to my knees and wash their feet.

 IMG_3266 IMG_3276

Ivy played, while Betty, Patsy, Bob, Buck, Adele and others sang. We all hugged goodbye at the door. They thanked us for a lovely evening. In my heart, I continue to thank them for a loving evening. Seems to me they were a dozen-strong strike force of angels on a mission.

12 thoughts on “Angels Unawares

  1. Your strong character rewarded you in the end. Although you didn’t feel like entertaining, you prepared for the evening because you’d committed to do so. You honored your friends by inviting them into your home and they honored you back by filling your heart with unexpected joy.
    I send you and your brother my love. I’m sending enough for both of you to wrap up in and draw comfort from during this most difficult time.
    (Your home is much more than lovely and your guests look like beautiful children of God).


  2. Said a prayer, lit a candle, crossed my fingers and waved back at those ladies around your piano. We’ll be thinking of you and your brother’s family. Remember to breathe.


  3. Friends are the warmth of life. You’ve warmed lots of folks in your time and now in your winter, that warmth is being reflected back.
    Your brother is in for a rough time but there is hope, there is always hope. Every kind and stage of cancer has a survival rate. Even if the percentage is small, your brother is not the norm and it’s reasonable to think he can recover. Hold on to that light.


  4. All things are possible and all things work for good. What a blessing of being touched by God through your friends. It was difficult to read though the tears in my eyes.
    I’m still praying for your brother and your family.
    By the way, seems that Buck is always surrounded by beautiful women, how does he do that?


  5. Beth, so sorry to hear about your brother. I shall have you and your family in my thoughts and prayers this week.
    How thoughtful of your friend to bring along the CD. Could there be music more mesmerizing than the Brahms Requiem? As soon as the orchestra begins its drone and the chorus slips in with “Selig sind (Blessed are)”, you’re in for a quick trip to heaven.
    Will be thinking of you.


  6. This is touching, suffused as it is with thankfulness, and reminds me that it’s impossible to hold both gratitude and anxiety in our hearts at the same time. Thank you for reminding me to be thankful.


  7. Comfort in friends is a great balm and strength. You’re clearly very fortunate in these friends – as indeed they are in you. I don’t pray, but strong secular vibes are coming from here to you at this difficult time, Beth.


  8. I am so sorry to hear of your brother’s illness and send healing thoughts and prayers his way. And I’m really sorry that I haven’t been to visit in such a long time. I had no idea you were still blogging and only learned tonight when I was over at Deb’s TalkattheTable. I hope that you are well and that you are still writing.


Thanks for stopping by. What are you writing about today?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.