Reprinted with permission from Angels on Earth magazine.

“It looks like the whole town of Canastota is on our lawn,” I said to my sister and brother as we peeked through the living room curtains. A crowd had formed for our estate sale. I stepped back from the window, taking a last look around the house our dad had built 50 years ago. Mom and Dad had raised the three of us here in this house, but now they were gone—they’d died within a year of each other—and we had lives elsewhere. Lynn, James and I chose a favorite item or two and agreed to sell the rest of their things.

I’d decided to keep my emotions out of the mix. Memories hovered in every room, not only of my childhood but also of the last months of my parents’ lives. As a nurse I’d seen the human experience up close for many years. But I hadn’t been prepared to watch Mom and Dad slip away. Now all the things of my childhood would disappear too. Enough! I determined, brushing away the thoughts. There’s work to be done.

A steady stream of folks came in after I opened the door at nine. I’d set up a table in the living room, complete with a tempting Collectibles sign. I nervously shifted the items on the table, lingering over a small ceramic angel. It had been in our family for as long as I could remember, a birthday gift from my grandfather to my grandmother. I could still see it on Nana’s dresser, and then on my mom’s after her mother passed away. The angel was only a Woolworth’s trinket, with a faded price tag for 72 cents, but its sweetly painted face and golden halo had always made me smile. I’d priced it at five dollars, but I was reluctant to let it go. Don’t get sentimental, I thought. You can’t hold on to every memory.

Later in the morning a dark-haired woman approached me, carrying a painting that once hung in our living room. “Could we negotiate?” she asked.

I repeated the speech I’d made to other customers: “We would like to try getting our prices today. If the painting’s still here tomorrow, we can talk about it.”

“Okay,” the woman said. “If it’s meant to be, it will be here.”

“I know what you mean,” I replied. “See that ceramic angel?” I pointed to the collectibles table. “If she’s here tomorrow, I’ll buy her for myself.” My words surprised me.

“If it’s meant to be,” the woman said.

When she returned the next morning I was outside by the garage. “The painting’s still here,” I called. “My sister will give you a good price.” In a few minutes the woman walked out of the house, waving happily to me, the painting she loved tucked under her arm.

At the end of the long day I flopped down, exhausted, by the collectibles table. All that remained were a couple of silver candlesticks and trays. Nana’s birthday angel was gone. My sister’s voice echoed somewhere, and I knew our house was empty. Tears burned my eyes. God, I prayed, help me focus on practical things. I busied myself cleaning up boxes, bags and tags.

My sister came into the room. “I almost forgot. I have something for you.” Lynn reached up to the highest shelf in the hall closet. “It’s from the lady who bought the painting this morning. She said to tell you it was meant to be.” Lynn put Nana’s angel in the palm of my hand. All those memories...and it’s not impossible to hold on to every one. Especially when it’s meant to be.

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