65: Angel in the Butcher Shop

65: Angel in the Butcher Shop

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Angel in the Butcher Shop

I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.

~Tracy Chapman

It was a gray-sky, cloudy day when I met an angel. Although it happened nine years ago, the feeling of peace and his comforting words are still fresh in my memory.

That gray day in early March I felt as I had every other day of late. For months, I bore the terrible weight of unrelenting grief after my father’s sudden death. There was no place, not even church, where I could find a moment’s solace. I prayed constantly, hoping for a little relief, but none came.

On this particular day, I’d done my work as usual. I was in the middle of writing travel stories for a publisher’s anthology. This used to leave me with a feeling of exhilaration, but writing about exotic places to entice others to travel to no longer pleased me. Except for the love of my immediate family, nothing seemed to make me feel fulfilled and satisfied with life. Without Dad in my life, I was just existing.

If Dad could die, then anything could happen, I thought as I drove to the grocery store. Nothing and no one was safe. Even love couldn’t save anyone — not even me.

I began my usual shopping — lettuce and tomatoes for that night’s dinner salad, decaffeinated tea for myself, macaroni and cheese for the kids — but my mind wasn’t really on what I was doing. I was like an automaton.

Suddenly I came out of my reverie. In front of me stood a grocery clerk, complete with nametag and red apron. “You look like you need help finding something,” he said with a broad and gentle smile. “What is it you need?”

I hesitated before saying anything. His large brown eyes were calm and serene. I’d never seen this guy before and I checked his nametag. “Well, Philip,” I said, “I’ve just been wandering around. I don’t really know what I’m looking for.”

“We have a special on catfish,” he said, still with that same, serene smile. “Follow me and I’ll show you where they are.” Without another word, he turned; I followed without saying anything.

He stopped by a display of various frozen fish. “Here they all are,” he said, turning to me with that smile again. “You can have your pick of just about any kind of catfish they make. They have nuggets and whole filets as well.”

As I looked up to see the display, then reached for a package that looked like something my kids would enjoy, Philip said in a low voice, “You know, things will get better for you. You just have to be patient and wait upon the Lord.”

I turned toward him, stammering something in surprise — and no one was there.

I looked all around. Shoppers looking over the dairy case and meat counter were all I saw. No clerk was anywhere in sight, and I hadn’t heard anyone walk away.

Intrigued, I headed toward the meat department to find Philip and ask him how he knew I was grieving — and what he meant by being patient. I pressed the buzzer on the butcher counter and another clerk came out of the back room.

“May I help you?” he asked.

“I’m looking for Philip.”

“Philip?” the man echoed, looking perplexed. “There’s no Philip back here.”

“He had on a butcher’s apron,” I insisted. “He looked exotic — maybe Samoan. He had a nametag on. The tag said ‘Philip.’ ”

“Let me ask the others,” he said, and went into the back room. After about a minute, he returned. “There’s no Philip here,” he said. “We’ve never had anyone named Philip working here. Not at all.” He paused and looked into my eyes. “There something you need that we can help you look for?”

I shook my head. Suddenly, inexplicably, I felt like some of the weight of my sorrow lifted. “No,” I said to the man. “I guess I was mistaken.”

As I walked away, pushing my cart ahead of me, I smiled. I thought I knew who Philip really was. God had sent one of his angels to comfort me. Dad was okay and I would be, too.

I finished the rest of my shopping and checked out, looking around for my angel but knowing I wouldn’t see him. When I pushed my cart out of the store, the sun was peeping through the afternoon clouds. For the first time in months, I noticed birds calling. It suddenly looked like a beautiful spring day, and there was a lightness in my step that hadn’t been there for a long time.

On a day when I was at my lowest spiritual ebb, God sent a comforting angel to bring words of solace to me. Only instead of wearing wings, he wore a butcher’s apron and a nametag.

~T. Jensen Lacey

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