When You Really, Really Need an Angel


“There is a secret medicine, given only to those who hurt so hard they can’t hope. The hopers would feel slighted, if they knew.” —Rumi


For two weeks, going on three weeks, now, I’ve been on high alert regarding the health of a friend. He was traveling on business in Taiwan, when he felt a bit sick and then very sick and then was diagnosed—to his utter surprise and horror—with leukemia. He wasn’t well enough to travel. His wife and son traveled to him. At first it was terrifying, then it was whatever comes past terrifying, and all of it was going down like a movie, just crisis after crisis in a completely foreign land.

I was very, very far away from them, these friends of mine. And even if I weren’t, I was the kind of helpless that anybody is, in the face of a serious health crisis. I kept looking at my hands and wanting to beat them against things. As much as they can plant seeds and make bread and cut little kids’ fingernails, when push comes to shove they’re pretty much good for nothing.

I just don’t have hands good for working miracles.

It wasn’t with a miracle in mind that I sent a message to another SheLovely, a writer who lives on the other side of the world from me. Cindy Brandt just happens to live in the same town where my American friend had fallen sick. I messaged her and said, “I don’t know what you can do, if anything. But I think this is the kind of situation where you call out every favor you can find.”

Within a day she was translating what at the time seemed might be the final moments of a total stranger’s life. And two weeks later I think Cindy might be closer to my friends than I have ever been.

I don’t have any idea what angels are except when I need them. I mean, I think I always need them. But sometimes I really, really need them. And then it seems clear enough exactly what an angel would be.

A go-between, a protector. A comforter. A person who speaks the language. A personification of God’s spirit, and God’s love. Someone who shouldn’t by all rights be there, but is anyway.

I think what I’m telling you today is that I believe in angels.

I believe in asking for angels, and I believe in receiving them. I believe in trying to send them to one another. And I believe in trying to be ready to be an angel, too, though maybe no one ever is truly ready for that kind of work.  You don’t get there by imagining yourself into the heavenly host.  

I think you only really know what angels look like when you need them. Which is part of what Jesus was getting at with the Sermon on the Mount, and Rumi, too, with his promise of a medicine only for those who hurt so hard they can’t hope.

Blessed are the wounded. Blessed are the weak. Blessed are those with no hands, and no words, because they will see the face of angels.

I can’t help but think, though, what global community could be like, if channels of communication were opened like this, at an interpersonal level across the globe. If we could be the early response system, to one another, in this way. How many bedsides would be less lonely? How many problems better translated? How many people in crisis might feel a tiny bit less alone?

If only God’s angels were freely on the move?

Forgive me, my friend’s situation is not one to be known only in the name of Christianity. There are prayers that are not Christian prayers, and hopes that aren’t prayers at all. But I speak for myself.

This whole thing, of humans caring for other humans, is just so beautiful, and so fraught with potential. It nearly frightens me. The point at which I don’t have words is also the place where I am witnessing the vibrant and excruciating preciousness of life. It becomes soul language, and as such is both a transformation and a call, to each of us, to remember how to welcome angels.   

EDITORIAL NOTE: It is with deep sadness that we learned of Rick’s passing on Oct. 23, 2015. Our sincerest condolences go out to Rick’s loved ones, family and friends. We are so grateful for women like Cindy Brandt and Esther Emery who LOVE fiercely and make this world a smaller and much more beautiful place, especially during times of pain and grief.  

IN MEMORIAM: Rick Osborne, Richard Alvy Osborne was born in Southern, Idaho is 1967 and died in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on October 23, 2015 at 1:46pm. He was smart, intense, caring, funny and had a flare for the dramatic which is unique among introvert engineers. He leaves behind his wife, Kimberly L Shute of nearly sixteen years and teenage son, Gabriel Osborne Shute. He also leaves behind his mother, Judy Osborne of Oakley, Idaho, a sister, Shellie Brauburger/Papp and a niece Tanessa Papp among a host of other siblings and nephews and nieces too numerous to list.

He was a member of the US navy for six years in his youth and learned a lot about the world. He graduated from the College of Southern Idaho with an Associate’s in Electrical Engineering. Then he went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Theatre Arts from University of Idaho, Moscow. Throughout the years he worked in theatres for pennies. When he and his beloved decided to bring a child into the world he returned to school once more to gain the elusive Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from UMASS Lowell. That degree prepared him for a career at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island.

While away on business, wrapping up a four year long project, he fell quite ill rather suddenly. He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and was too sick to travel back to the US. He fought for one month with the help of an amazing, dedicated, knowledgable medical team until he lost the battle against mostly so many treatments at once. Rick, as he preferred to be called, love to read, play volleyball, body surf at Second Beach, play with animals, bike ride, make drip sandcastles, play and win strategic board games, play video games and spend time with his only son of whom he was so very proud. He loved his home, friends and family and felt so blessed to be held by his loved ones’ messages during his rapid decline.