47: My Two Guardian Angels

47: My Two Guardian Angels

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

My Two Guardian Angels

Angels are principally the guardians of our spirits. Their function is not to do our work for us, but to help us do it ourselves, by God’s grace.

~Eileen Elias Freeman

Growing up, my parents told me often that I had a guardian angel. The only proof needed? My harrowing birth.

“It’s a miracle that you’re alive,” my mom would say.

In 1987, I was born three months prematurely and weighed a terrifying two pounds, six ounces. The small hospital where I was born did not have the equipment or facilities to adequately care for me, so within hours of my birth I was flown to a bigger hospital 170 miles away. I remained in the NICU for weeks. At first my tiny body needed a respirator and feeding tubes, but gradually my strength increased. My lungs developed, I gained weight, and finally my parents were able to take me home. As the years passed, I grew into a healthy, happy little girl.

“You are so special,” my dad would say. “You must have an angel up there taking careful notice of you.”

But who was my guardian angel?

My grandma Auden believed my angel was her mother, who had passed away nearly three decades before. She and her mother were extremely close, and when she died Auden sunk into a deep depression. She cursed God. She had two babies to take care of but could barely summon the energy to get out of bed. Then, one night she came downstairs and saw her mother sitting at the piano, smiling and serene, her fingers dancing across the keys. Her mother had always loved to play the piano, and Auden was immediately filled with joy. From that moment on, her faith in God never wavered. While she missed her mother, she felt at peace. Her mother’s spirit was still with her, guiding her and keeping her safe. And when I was born, Auden prayed to God and to her mother to keep me safe, too.

Then suddenly, when I was in kindergarten, my beloved Auden passed away from a heart attack. She was only sixty — she had been so vibrant and full of life, and her death rocked our family. I missed her terribly. I began writing to her in my journal, keeping her updated on the details of my life. If I had a problem or felt alone, I asked for her help. Sometimes she visited me in my dreams and we would hug and talk. And sometimes, during waking hours, I would sense an extra warmth in the room and I would feel her presence there with us — particularly when I visited my Gramps, who never remarried and still slept with her sweater under his pillow.

The years passed. I graduated high school, then college, and then I was accepted to a master’s degree program in Creative Writing. I moved halfway across the country, from my California hometown to the middle of Indiana — and ironically, I felt Auden’s presence even more acutely. She had grown up in a small Indiana town, and she and my Gramps had met, married and spent many years in the Midwest. I began feeling her presence with me, not as the grandmother I had known, but as the young woman she had once been.

During my second year of grad school, I fell in love with Thomas. He was kind and thoughtful, and our relationship progressed quickly. At Christmas, we got engaged. Gramps gave me Auden’s engagement ring, which he had carried around in his wallet all these years. “I know she would want you to have it,” he said. I was so moved, so overwhelmed, that I burst into tears. Looking at her sparkling diamond on my left hand made me feel closer to her than ever.

But as the holiday season gave way to the new year, I began to feel unsettled. Thomas seemed to have anger issues and I never knew when he would have an outburst. One time when we were driving, he got so angry that he slammed the steering wheel with his palm and the car swerved violently across the road. Another time he got angry and threw his shoe against the wall so hard it left a mark. He never hit me. And he would always calm down the next day and apologize.

One night in March, I felt unbearably alone. Thomas was upset about something, fuming and stomping around the living room, indifferent to my attempts to calm him down. So I slipped away into the bedroom and curled up under the covers. I loved Thomas, but I didn’t recognize the man I had fallen in love with in that man raging in the other room. I couldn’t imagine living like this for the rest of my life, anxiety eating up my insides. But I also couldn’t imagine my life without Thomas. We shared many wonderful memories, and we had promised to love each other always. I had accepted Thomas’s proposal; I had accepted Auden’s ring. I closed my hand around it so the diamond dug into my palm.

I didn’t want to disappoint Thomas or my family or Thomas’s family or our many shared friends. Moreover, I couldn’t bear to let down Gramps and Auden — they had entrusted me to carry on their love story with this gorgeous ring they had picked out together more than a half-century earlier.

Suddenly, my loneliness dissipated and I felt like I was being cradled by a warm, calming presence. A voice whispered in my ear, “You could never let us down. You deserve so much more than this. This is not okay, and it’s not going to get better.”

I started crying. Auden was with me, my guardian angel. I told her that I loved her and missed her so much, and that I knew she was right. Marrying Thomas, who my gut kept warning me against, would not honor Auden and Gramps — it would dishonor them and their beautiful relationship.

The next day, I broke off my engagement. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I believe it was also the best decision I have ever made. My life opened up again. My anxiety melted away and I could breathe deeply.

I kept wearing Auden’s engagement ring for a few more months, until I graduated and moved back to California. Whenever I felt scared or missed Thomas or worried about the future, I looked down at that small sparkling diamond — beautiful, yet strong — and it gave me courage. Apart from my premature birth, that was the darkest period of my life. But every day, I felt Auden with me, telling me and retelling me that I deserved a truly amazing love, filled with gentle kindness, with no room for doubt or fear.

I gave the ring back to my Gramps for safekeeping until I find the real person I am meant to marry. I have faith that he is out there and I will find him. After all, I have two guardian angels looking out for me.

~Dallas Woodburn

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