will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
~~ Maya Angelou
Happy Independence Day and belated Canada Day wishes!
so this wasn't at all what I intended to write this week. That
seems to be becoming my mantra, though! I think it's probly a
good thing, however, to still get random inspiration so often
about a TV character last seen in 2003. :-)
Independence Day approached, I found myself thinking about the bits of
history that have unfolded during my own life. I ended up
back on some pretty vivid memories of my grade school
during Desert Storm. So those memories prompted this story
though this isn't at all based on a real occurrence. Although I
guess ya never know, do ya?
case, this is also my first
entry in a new feature that (at least for now) I'm calling "Brushes
with Andrew." I got to thinking how, with Dyeland, many things
have aligned in such a way that there may have been moments in the past
and one of the Dyelanders or Sibling Citiers were so tantalizingly
close (i.e. Mick served in WWII,
Andrew was very
active on the war front) and, of
course, they didn't realize it.
one such story of Andrew being only one degree away from a future
friend yet right where he
needed to be to deliver a message of love in a time of war.
Fitzgerald glanced at the clock. 2:45. In half an hour
the final subject of the day would be finished, the week would end, and
she would be off... off to say good bye. Tears sprung to her eyes
but she quickly brushed them away, not wanting to alarm her students at
the small, Catholic grade school where she was teaching for a third
She had become adept at throwing on a calm mask in the weeks since her
husband, Ian, had went to a far-off military base to prepare for
rattled teacher was grateful that at least the final class was
religion. That period usually went smoothly
enough. In third grade, religion class meant
sharing a Bible story, fielding a few questions, offering up a few
prayers, and then settling the children down with a
ridiculously anachronistic image of Christ to color. Of
course, not even a realistic depiction would have ended the day that
way. The Lord inevitably ended up with neon pink skin or a polka
dot robe. Eleanor was convinced He didn't mind. Who
wouldn't reach for the most vibrant Crayola crayons when they spent the
bulk of their days in staid, blue and white uniforms?
course, there was the splash of color augmenting many of their white
shirts: the flag pins in red, white, and blue with a yellow ribbon
backing them. Eleanor swallowed a lump in her throat as she
surveyed the room. Each pin seemed to call out the message that
ran through her own mind: "Come home, come home, come home..."
She stooped behind her desk, pretending to look through a drawer as she
drew in deep, calming breaths.
children, clear your desks," she directed after regaining her
composure and moving to her feet. "I want you to listen to me as
you a very important story." She gave a stern look to a boy
who continued to doodle. With a sigh, the boy put his crayon and
paper away and directed his attention to the teacher. Satisfied,
Eleanor took up the classroom Bible and began to read about an
angel's dramatic appearance to St. Joseph, warning him to flee
Bethlehem with his wife and child.
see, kids, just as God sent an angel to protect Joseph and Mary and
baby Jesus; so He also sends angels to protect you and help you.
In fact, each of you has a guardian angel. Do you remember
our prayer to our guardian angels?" Eleanor prodded hopefully.
She'd tried her best to teach them a variety of prayers and hoped
heads solemnly nodded back.
say it now, okay?"
of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule, to
guide. Amen,'" twenty one voices prayed in unison.
good!" Eleanor praised. The children beamed. "So does
anyone have any questions about our story?"
teacher patiently and creatively fielded several questions, delicately
sidestepping the more sobering aspects of the story of the Flight from
Egypt. There were fewer questions than usual and Eleanor moved
onto the next segment: the prayers.
They went around the room, some children petitioning prayers for sick
grandparents or frenzied parents. Together they prayed the "Our
Father" and then came an addition that was only a few weeks old.
anyone like to lead our prayer for the troops today?" Eleanor asked,
one of the children would. She couldn't trust herself to keep the
building tremor out of her voice. To her relief, a girl raised
her hand. "Thank you, Molly. Go ahead."
little girl crossed herself, her teacher and fellow students following
suit. "Dear God," she began, "please protect all of our soldiers
and help the good people in Iraq and Kuwait so they don't get
hurt. And please be with the soldiers' moms and dads and other
family. And their friends. And help em to know there are
angels with them. And please bring the soldiers home soon.
a chorus of childish voices and one wavering adult's echoed.
the prayer finished, Eleanor gratefully seized upon the stack of
coloring book pages. While passing them out she noticed one of
quieter students seemed to want to ask a question but hesitated.
Once finished, Eleanor approached the small girl who was nervously
twirling a ring about her finger.
Eleanor encouraged, "you look like you have something on your
mind. Do you have a question ?"
little girl's face reddened at the attention but she nodded.
you like to ask it? Maybe I can answer. It is my job
to answer questions, after all. And yours to ask them," Eleanor
gently prodded with a kind smile. She was forever trying to break
the girl from her shell
and hoped that would do the trick.
The child seemed to struggle with herself as to whether her query was
worth bringing up. After a few moments, she settled in the
affirmative. "There are angels watching over the soldiers,
right, Mrs. Fitzgerald?"
smiled brightly. "Yes, I'm sure there are. Angels watch
over everyone, remember?"
nodded vigorously but then looked curiously at her teacher.
who watches over the angels?"
blinked. She wasn't entirely sure where this conversation was
going. "Well, God watches over them. He created them so He
cares for them."
they see Him when they're on Earth?"
began to feel a bit ill-at-ease. She was no theologian!
"I'm not really sure but maybe," she responded, hoping that would
satisfy her student.
just think... it must be sad to see war." JenniAnn
continued. "For anyone. Even angels."
directness and even the touch of desperation in the normally placid
child's face alarmed Eleanor and hit the part of herself she was trying
to keep in check. Before she could say anything, the child
mom says we can help the soldiers by writing them letters and sending
them packages and wearing ribbons to show we miss them. So we do
hope they know we care about them. Mom also says the
angels are helping them, too. But if people help us, aren't we
supposed to help them back? Do we ever get to help the angels
back?" JenniAnn implored.
calmed. It made a certain sort of sense that JenniAnn would ask
such questions. Young children were very attuned to the ideals of
and reciprocity. The teacher could handle questions of manners
much more easily than she could plumb the mysteries of the
universe. "Well... Maybe the angels get some of those
and packages, too." She hoped that would suffice.
nodded and directed her attention to her crayons.
Eleanor it was obvious the girl was not content with the answer but had
drawn back into her shell. Patting her hair, Eleanor left her to
minutes later, the bell rang and the students rushed out. Their
teacher was left alone to brace herself for what was to come: a journey
see her husband and bid him farewell.
Eleanor sat in the terminal of Omaha's airport,
anxious. She had driven as fast as was legal from the school only
to discover her flight was delayed. A precious hour had been
stolen from her already. With little else to do, she found
mentally going through the events of the day.
There had been the staff meeting. She smiled
as she recalled all the well wishes from her co-workers. Morning
classes had gone well. Lunch
duty had passed with little of note except a minor fight at the
fourth grade boys' table. Then math, then science, her break
while the children were at gym class, and, finally, religion
class. As an exercise in distraction, Eleanor found
herself thinking over JenniAnn's questions. She felt a little
guilty when she realized it had never occurred to her to want to do
anything for an angel. She had grown up Catholic, praying the
same prayer she taught her students. She'd always taken for
granted that an angel watched over her. But she realized she
couldn't remember a single time she'd whispered so much as a thank
The woman was startled out of her musings by a man
taking a seat three chairs away from her. She looked up and
noticed he was wearing a khaki uniform. As she stared, he caught
"Hi," he greeted with a warm smile.
Eleanor blushed as she realized she'd been
caught. "Hi. Umm, sorry I was staring. My... my
husband, Ian, is shipping out Monday and seeing your uniform... I
it made me think of him. You
see, I'm going to see him but my flight's been delayed and I'm worried
it will be again and... and..." She shook her head and brushed at
wayward tears. "I'm sorry, my name's Eleanor." She
forced a smile.
The stranger held out his hand. "Andrew.
And there's no need to apologize. I understand."
Eleanor took his hand and for the first time looked
into his eyes. She felt instantly that he did understand.
"Have you been over there?" she asked.
Andrew nodded. "Yes and I'll be going back."
"Is it... what's it like over there? I mean...
if you think you can talk about it."
Andrew shifted nearer, leaving only one chair
them. He sighed. "It's difficult. But it's also very
rewarding. I'm a chaplain so it means a lot to me to bring
comfort to men and women who are giving so much for their country and
the good of others. It's an honor."
Eleanor wanted to ask more pressing questions but
didn't want to force the chaplain to relive painful memories nor was
she entirely sure she could handle hearing them. She returned to
the topic that she had been stewing over when Andrew had
approached. "So... as a chaplain, can I ask you something?
It may sound strange."
Andrew chuckled. "Sure. I'm all for
strange questions. It's a great way to pass the time while
waiting for a plane."
Eleanor beamed at him, appreciative. "You see,
I'm a third grade teacher at a Catholic school near here so we've been
for the soldiers and the people of Iraq and Kuwait," she began.
"I think that's great."
"Yeah. So today we were learning about the
angel's appearance to Joseph in Bethlehem so the little girl who
offered our prayer today prayed that the soldiers know angels were with
"I hope they always know they're not alone."
Eleanor nodded. "Me too. But then
another little girl asked me a question I wasn't sure how to
answer. She wanted to know how we could help angels. She
seemed very determined about it. We
teach the kids to be considerate and to return kindness with
And I can't think of anything much kinder than spending your days
watching over and protecting someone! So how would you answer
that? I mean supposing angels were real. I believe in them
but if you don't then... hypothetically?" Eleanor wondered at the
enigmatic grin that crossed Andrew's face at her last words.
"Oh... I believe in angels, alright," he assured
her with a smile. "It sounds like you've got your hands full with
one but I think it's great when kids ask questions."
Eleanor shrugged. "She's generally very quiet,
not much of a handful at all. I guess that's why the intensity
with which she asked me got under my skin a little. And she also
seemed a little distressed by the possibility that seeing war would
make them sad. How do you respond to that? I'm not an
angel! I have no idea how they feel!"
Andrew's eyes clouded for a moment.
Unbeknownst to his new acquaintance, his mind was wandering back over
wars long past and some more recent. But in another moment the
trouble was gone from his eyes and he looked over at the teacher.
"I think, if I were you, I would tell her that, yes, sometimes angels
do get sad because they feel so much love for people and don't like to
see them hurt. But they also see so many beautiful things.
They see immense bravery and unselfishness. They see friendships
grow between the men and women serving together and the joy of those
who are being helped. And the whole time they know that, no
how things look, the Father is always in control. Always.
And He loves them and He loves their assignments."
Eleanor raised an eye brow at his use of the word
"assignments" but let it pass without remark. The rest of what
said made so much sense and touched her deeply. Not only did it
give her an ideal answer for JenniAnn, but it cheered her to think that
at every victory and every heartbreak an angel would be beside her
husband. Tears of joy came to her eyes and she couldn't keep
herself from scooting over and hugging the chaplain. "Thank you,
will tell her that."
Andrew returned the woman's hug. "Good and as
for her other question, I would remind the little girl that angels can
be every where. Just like it says in the Bible. If you say
thank you to a stranger who is kind to you or hug someone who you
appreciate, you never know, maybe you just hugged or thanked an
angel. And maybe, every so often, an angel meets a human and the
two have a talk. Maybe that talk helps the angel as much as the
Eleanor smiled at the tenderly worded rendition of
Hebrews 13:2. "That's perfect. Thank you, Andrew.
I'll tell her that, too."
"Good. I hope the answers help her.
That's an awful lot for a little kid to have on her mind. But
now, I think maybe her teacher has something on her mind, too."
Eleanor studied the man's face. Immense
compassion shown from his eyes. She knew he wasn't asking out of
some requirement to represent the army well. He seemed genuinely
concerned. "I just... I feel such fear and such sadness. My
husband is going to Kuwait and I'm so afraid he won't come back and...
Andrew noticed when her right hand settled on her
belly. He set a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Go on,
Eleanor, I'm listening."
"I, well... I'm pregnant. I'm going to tell
Ian. And I keep
that if he doesn't come home... for this baby not to know his or her
father..." Eleanor broke down into sobs. "I'm... I'm so...
so afraid he won't come home, Andrew."
The chaplain pulled the woman into another
hug. He wished with all his heart that he could tell her Ian
would be fine. He wanted to assure her that they would welcome
their tiny miracle together. But Andrew didn't know. All he
knew was that it wasn't his job to
offer such promises. He could only tell her words that he knew
were true. "Eleanor, let me tell you something. Every
comes home. Some come home to the families they left
behind. And others..." Andrew closed his eyes for a
moment. "Others come Home to their Father in Heaven. And
from there they continue to watch over and love their families.
Forever. No matter what happens, Ian will know and love this
little one so, so much. And he'll love you, too. And God
will never, ever leave any of you."
Eleanor held tightly to Andrew, hoping to draw his
apparent certainty to herself. "Thank you," she murmured.
A voice echoed through out the terminal, announcing
the impending departure of Eleanor's flight. She gasped, pulled
away from Andrew, and stood up.
"Th-that's my flight!" she cried, madly brushing at
tears and smoothing her skirt.
Andrew smiled at her, also moving to his feet.
"I hope you have a safe
journey, Eleanor, and that you enjoy these two days with your
sure Ian will be overjoyed with the news."
Eleanor's face lit up and she nodded
enthusiastically. "I know he will!"
She grabbed her purse and then turned once more to the man who had kept
her company. "Thank you, Andrew, for listening to me and for your
counsel. It means... it means so much to me." She hugged
him again. "Thank you," she repeated. "Are you going back
Andrew nodded. "Yeah."
"I'll pray for you, Andrew. I'm sure you're a
great comfort to everyone over there. Maybe... maybe one day
you'll meet Ian."
Andrew smiled. "I hope so." He squeezed
the woman's hand. "Take care, Eleanor."
Eleanor nodded, strangely pained to leave him.
But her love for her husband propelled her towards the departure
gate. She turned back once to smile at Andrew but the chair he
had occupied was empty. She offered up a silent prayer to God in
gratitude for the calming words and presence of the man of God.
Andrew perched in a tree near the airport,
unseen. He smiled as the plane carrying Eleanor began to
taxi. He knew she must be feeling more at peace, knowing she was
only a few, predictable hours from her husband. He prayed that
their reunion be as joyful as possible and their parting as short in
duration as could be.
As he watched the plane pick up speed, the angel of
death recalled how he had wondered when the Father had transported
him from the Gulf to a terminal in the middle of the U.S. Now the
angel understood. He had been sent to comfort Eleanor, that much
was for sure. But he had to wonder if the Father's purpose had
been multifold. It often was. In comforting Eleanor, Andrew
had been touched not only by her gratitude but also the prayerfulness
a group of children a world away from the war and the concern for his
kind held by one of those children. He wished he could tell that
unknown child that *her* kind had helped him that day in the person of
her teacher. The
knowledge of her wish to help and the memory of Eleanor's hugs and
words of thanks mixed with the ever-present sense of his
Father's love and heartened Andrew. He carried that warmth with
as the plane took off and he returned to the Gulf to continue to carry
the message of God's love in the midst of war.
The photographs used on this
page are from "Touched by
an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon
Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)