By Alvin Stenzel
Recently, I met an angel.
No, really, I am serious.
Angels are real.
I not only met one, I got to spend a lot of time learning about some really important things. In fact, I learned that I . . . . . but wait, that’s the end of the story, not the beginning. Let me start over.
I have always been blessed, more I think than most people would say about themselves. Still, I’ve had my share of pain and disappointments and maybe even tragedies. I’ve been through one of those recently, and it did leave me questioning my “place” in life.
It led me to question myself. I am 63 years old. I’ve had a good life. I’ve accomplished a lot. But, yes, I’m tired. Maybe I’ve pushed as far as I need to go. Maybe it’s time to “retire,” not just from work, but from . . . . effort. Let’s just rest now, until it’s all over.
Suicidal, no, not in the least. Depressed, no, I don’t think so, just tired.
And then . . . the angel.
It wasn’t some miraculous parting of the clouds and a winged being descending from the sky. It was . . . more like a normal, regular person, at least that’s how it seemed at first.
And it wasn’t some great voice, speaking from beyond. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t overwhelmed. It all felt . . . comfortable.
The best I can describe is that it felt like meeting a person who was brand new to me, yet knew everything about me. It was like being seen “new” and fresh and free of past failures and disappointments. No, they were not forgotten, or even forgiven, just not part of the “here and now.”
“So, you’re tired,” the angel said. “I’m sorry. Are you hurt? No? OK, just tired. You need a rest. OK, let’s do that.”
So, we rested. We talked, we watched sunrises and sunsets, we even ate and drank and I slept a lot. The dreams got better, because I knew my angel was nearby.
To be honest, I had the best time of my entire life. It was grand!
Finally, my angel asked me, “So, how are you feeling now? Are you rested yet?”
I had to admit, I did feel better.
“Good, then it’s probably time that you get back to work. You and I never get to rest but so long, you know.”
“Wait,” I said, “What do you mean ‘you and I’?”
“Come on,” the angel replied, “You’ve had your break. I covered for you. Ready to get started again?”
“I don’t understand,” I replied. “What do you mean, get started again?”
“You know,” the angel replied. “Back to doing this angel thing. Being there for someone else. Helping out when you’re needed. Being the angel for whoever needs you next.”
“But . . . . I’m not . . . I mean . . . I never . . . I . . . . . . . “
I looked at the angel, and suddenly I realized, this wasn’t an angel standing in front of me. It was just . . . a really, really, really good and kind person. It was another normal person who had come to me in my need and had given me rest and had, for a wonderful time, shared . . . . life.
“You mean you’re not . . . . You mean . . . . I am . . . . “
“Of course,” she replied. “What do you think angels are? You think someone sends down shining winged visions to bring great messages and solve the world’s problems? You ever seen anything like that? It doesn’t work that way, at least not these days.”
“It’s a lot easier and more effective simply to ask one of us to take on a responsibility once in a while and do a bit of good work for someone. Think back. How many times have You done this before?”
She was right. I’d done that many, many times. But did that mean . . . had I been . . . ?
“But wait,” I said. “This can’t be right. I am so very, very far from being an angel. I mean, I’ve done a LOT of bad things, too. I’ve hurt people sometimes, even the ones that I was trying to help. That’s hardly what I would call angelic.”
“Don’t be so literal,” she said. “I never said angels were perfect. We’re all just humans. We make mistakes. We fail, sometimes even while we’re trying to be . . angelic. But that’s kind of the beauty in it all.”
“If we go about our work looking very human, and do our best to help out the best we can, we usually never even get noticed as angels. The world gets a little better. Somebody gets a little help and manages to struggle on. Sometimes we even make a BIG difference. And nobody gets “crazy” about meeting an angel. That would only complicate things.”
“But,” I asked, “Are we always angels? I sure don’t feel like I’ve been an angel recently.”
“Exactly,” she answered. “You’re always human, but you’re not always an angel. Sometimes there is a need for you to do something, and sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes, you are free to come and go as you please, and sometimes . . . you may even need an angel, yourself.”
Wow, I marveled. It all made so much sense to me. I HAD been a good person for someone else, many times in my life. And many times there had been others who had been so very good to me, and had helped me through difficult times.
There WERE angels in this world, and I had been one. And apparently, maybe I needed to be one, again sometime.
“One last question,” I asked. “How does this happen? How do I know . . . when?”
“Don’t worry about that,” she replied. “When the time comes, you’ll probably not even realize it. The opportunity will be there, and it will happen, or it won’t.”
“And, do I have to do it?” I asked. “Is that my duty, to do what is asked?”
The angel smiled, and answered in the sweetest voice I have ever heard.
“Free will, dear one. That’s what makes being an angel so very angelic. It’s all about free will.”
“You can say yes, or you can say no, and you will be loved just as much. But it’s so very angelic to be able to say yes.”
So, we walked back out to the water, and we sat, and we watched the sunset. I wasn’t sure if we were being angels at that moment, or not, but I couldn’t imagine being any happier.
And, I realized, I certainly wasn’t tired any more.
And, I decided, I definitely hope for the chance to be an angel again, some day.
About the Story
A few years ago, I was going through a very bad time in my life. I was alone, depressed, and while only 63 years old, I wondered what meaning life still held. Then, I met a new friend. As the short story (in the form of a conversation) relates, this friend slowly helped me rest, recover and reorient. It took time, but it became a beautiful experience. My story was written to honor my friend and what she has meant to me.
Alvin Stenzel is a retired CPA living in The Village of Pinellas. He spent most of his life working in the DC area and living in suburban Maryland. He is the author of several motivational books, as well as poems and articles for newspapers and magazines. His most recent book is his first novel, The Crystal Pond.