The Angel Book

The Angel Book

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

The Angel Book

Helping one another is part of the religion of our sisterhood.

Louisa May Alcott

In 2002, I watched a friend named Patti Dawes walk a lap around the fitness track at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. Patti, a young military wife, is a cancer survivor, and this symbolic victory lap was in recognition of her struggles. We were part of a team of women I had organized to participate in the Relay for Life, an all-night, twelve-hour event that is one of Canada’s main fund-raisers for the Canadian Cancer Society. From start to finish, a member of your team is always on the track.

I had just met Patti a few months earlier and was happy to have her join us. She is a generous, soft-spoken, gifted lady, and I had several conversations with her before this event about her bout with cancer. My heart was so happy for her as she traveled around the track with some of her friends. To show her that she had the love and support of all our team members, I presented her with a long-stemmed red rose from the whole team to carry on her victory lap. With a young family (two boys, ages three and eight), Patti had so much to be thankful for.

Just a year later, the words no one wants to hear were voiced: her cancer was back. Over the next few months, I watched the look on Patti’s face change from sheer terror to reluctant acceptance. I marveled at the calm with which she faced her battle, and I admired her for the way she handled this incredibly difficult time.

To those not part of the military community, it can be hard to describe the bond that exists between military wives. As has been said many times over the years, in the military community, your friends become your family and your family becomes your friends. It’s your friends that you call on in times of need because, most often, your family lives too far away to “be there” for you on a regular basis.

The walls of Patti’s hospital room are covered with photos and greeting cards. Anyone who ever visited her home knew how much she loved angels, and her friends picked up on that, bringing angels as gifts to watch over her. Wherever you look in her hospital room, a wonderful collection of angels gives visitors the same comfort they give Patti, who makes it easy for friends and family to visit her by putting them instantly at ease.

Patti’s friends showed just how much she means to them recently. Seven of her friends from the military community banded together, and, knowing of her love for angels, borrowed angel costumes, complete with halos and wings, and set out for Home Fires Park at CFB Petawawa along with a photographer. The setting was well chosen, since the park and monument are dedicated to military spouses and it is the first of its kind in Canada.

I happened to be sharing the hospital room as a patient with Patti when she was presented with her Angel Book. As I lay there in the next bed, I listened to her laugh as she looked at the results of their angelic photo shoot. These photos were like none I’d ever seen. The faces of her friends were filled with a genuine joy. You could tell that they were having a great time creating these special memories. Angels hugged trees, held hands around a lilac bush in full bloom, lay on the grass and sat on park benches.

I was so moved by Patti’s special angels that I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful keepsake calendar those photos would make. I was released from the hospital a few days later, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The next time I visited Patti, she loved the idea. I went home and got on the computer, turning the photographs into Patti’s Angel Calendar, and made one for her and each of her friends. I only had one picture of Patty herself, and I decided to use it for the cover.

The photo was taken in my home with a group of military wives. As I prepared to crop the photo to a manageable size, I realized that she had been standing in front of my Christmas tree—a tree I decorate each year with crocheted angels. And, of course, those angels were in the photo with her, telling me that they would watch over Patti, and everyone else who received the calendar born of our love for our friend.

As military wives, our hearts really do beat as one. We continue to pray for Patti as she fights this difficult battle, surrounded by all the love and support we can give her.

Dianne Collier

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