57: Maybe, Under Some Circumstances

57: Maybe, Under Some Circumstances

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Maybe, Under Some Circumstances

The angels are the dispensers and administrators of the divine beneficence toward us; they regard our safety, undertake our defense, direct our ways, and exercise a constant solicitude that no evil befall us.

~John Calvin

I will call my encounter a she. And you, if you wish, may call her an angel.

An angel? A ghost? A spirit? Or the residual energy that can connect us with another after the self is gone? I truly don’t know. It’s hard to determine absolutes in a story like this.

What I am sure of, however, is that she was a definite presence, that I was her emissary, and that she sent through me an indelible message that spared me the unexplainable, unnamable grief of losing a child.

She had no wings and no halo, no quivering air mass and no sound of bugles. Nothing of the stereotype — just a gentle, urgent presence that lifted me from my troubled vigil and sent me on one of the most contained, most important missions of my life.

For the first decade of my three children’s lives, I was a single mom five days a week. My husband came home on Friday evenings and left again on Sunday after dinner.

Our home was large and old, a late-1800s masterpiece we were restoring as time and finances allowed. It was four stories and had a huge cement and stone cellar. The second level had hardwood doors, floors and trim in each of the large, spacious rooms as well as floor-to-ceiling windows throughout. The bedrooms, similarly large and spacious, and with floor-to-ceiling windows, were on the third floor. That floor also had a bathroom with an exterior door that strangely opened onto a porch along the front of the house. The fourth level was a full walk-up attic space where we were planning to create a loft.

It was magnificence awaiting restoration, but it was old and it groaned and shivered with its age. It was a very vocal house and I was not the bravest of young women. So during the night, as the creaks and whispers seemed to portend skulking intruders and all manner of beings with nasty intent, I tried to sit vigil with a book on my lap.

One night, I had fallen into a cramped, uncomfortable sleep on the couch. This was not something that I had done before. When fatigue won out, I always climbed the winding staircase, checked on my three little ones, and then, my heart and mind clenched in foreboding, slipped into a shallow sleep.

This night, however, as I lay asleep on the couch, I felt a gentle, persistent pressure — curing my normal nightly agitation and wrapping me in a state of perfect calm and silence such as I had never before felt. I lay hushed and unmoving, holding to the perfection of the moment. I was consumed.

And then, gently creeping under my awareness, I saw my name.



I rolled onto my elbow and my book slipped to the floor.


I could feel her message and I could see her message, but still there was no sound. There was only the perfect calm and silence.

“You will need a cold, wet cloth. Put it on the little one’s head. Call for an ambulance. Strip him and wrap him in a fresh sheet and his blanket. Call Mary to stay with the others. You will have to follow the ambulance in your car.”

I moved with an absolute certainty. I wet a cloth and, upstairs, I found Declan thrashing and rasping. His breath came in short puffs of agony; his little face glistened from an effort almost beyond his endurance and from the intense heat of his body.

I called 911 from my room, wrapped him in a fresh sheet and then telephoned my neighbour Mary. She answered immediately. “It’s Robyn,” I said. “Declan needs to go the hospital.”

“I’ll be right there,” she said. “I got up a bit ago. I wasn’t able to sleep.”

I stood at the door with my son in his sheet and a light blanket, the cool, wet cloth draped across his head. There was no panic — just a calm, understood urgency. Mary arrived, as did the ambulance.

“I’ll follow in the car,” I said to my neighbour. I couldn’t tell her how I knew that the rules prohibited me from riding in the ambulance.

In the hospital, I waited until dawn. “We were very lucky. Much longer and he wouldn’t have made it. Convulsions…” The doctor shook his head. “Very lucky,” he repeated.

Declan stayed in hospital for the next two days and then was released on a Friday. His father, Martin, who had driven home to be with us, collected him.

“Who’s the Blue Lady?” he asked me.

“The Blue Lady?”

“Yes, Declan said that she swept the hotness off him with her broom. And she wrote him a letter.”

“A letter? What about?”

“His name. He said that it was his whole name, Declan Liesen Gerland. But he’s three. He can’t read yet. Can he?”

I paused. “Maybe,” I said. “Maybe. Under some circumstances. Maybe, just under some circumstances.”

~Robyn Gerland

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