10: The Grand Canyon Angel

10: The Grand Canyon Angel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Tough Times

The Grand Canyon Angel

By Maria Norris

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way…”

~Exodus 23:20

I once thought that if I ever saw an angel, he would appear in a blaze of celestial light — a magnificent creature with flowing hair and outstretched wings. He’d carry a mighty sword, and his arrival would be announced by a thundering fanfare. Never did I imagine that “my” angel would be an unassuming fellow in shorts, knee socks, and hiking boots. But his appearance left me every bit as awestruck as if he had been the Archangel Michael himself in all his glory.

My encounter with this heavenly being occurred several years ago in Arizona. I was vacationing at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with my parents, aunt, and uncle. It was a beautiful summer day, and we were hiking the Rim Trail that runs from Grand Canyon Village to Hermit’s Rest. After an easy 1.4-mile walk along the wide, paved path, we reached Maricopa Point. From there on, the trail is unpaved, narrow, and sometimes perilously close to the edge. Beckoned by the scenic piñon-juniper woodland and lack of crowds, we decided to continue along the meandering dirt trail a little way before turning around and heading back to the Village.

We went single file, with my fit, seventy-three-year-old dad leading the way. He had just rounded a bend in the trail when he lost his footing in some loose gravel and started to slide off the edge of the cliff. Fortunately, he was able to break his fall by grabbing onto the branch of a scrub pine growing just below the rim, but unfortunately he was too far out of reach for any of us to help him. My uncle lay flat on his stomach and somehow managed to grab Dad’s hand. But my uncle wasn’t strong enough to pull him up; rather, it seemed more likely that my dad would pull him down — over the edge. So there they were, my uncle and my dad, dangling 5,000 feet above the floor of the Grand Canyon with three helpless females in a panic, not knowing what to do — and no one else in sight.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a man appeared on the path whistling some nameless tune. With his graying hair sticking out from beneath a white fishing cap and knobby knees visible below a pair of Bermuda shorts, he looked like an eccentric, aging college professor. It took him only a second to assess the situation, and without saying a word and barely breaking stride, he reached into the abyss with a long, sinewy arm and plucked my dad and uncle from the brink of death as if they weighed no more than a feather. Still whistling, he continued on his way, leaving us astounded as well as profoundly relieved and grateful.

We all knew something miraculous had just happened. What that mysterious stranger had done didn’t seem humanly possible. Was he truly an angel? Maybe. Or maybe not. Regardless, he was truly heaven-sent.

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