God grant me the serenityNo sooner had I finished praying than I heard the sound of crashing glass, intermingled with my nine-year-old son’s cries. I hurried to him in the kitchen, wishing I could hide under a blanket, yet knowing I had to deal with this unexpected crisis. From a combination of strong wind and my son shutting the door too hard the storm panel had broken, scattering glass everywhere and piercing my son’s left arm, which was covered in blood. The wound looked like it needed stitches. I pressed a towel against it to stop the bleeding.
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
“Do I have to go to the hospital?” My son asked as I held him and wiped the tears from his eyes.
“I don’t know yet,” I said. “If you do, I'll walk down to the end of the street and use the pay phone to call an ambulance.”
“What’s wrong with our phone?” He asked.
“Not enough money to pay the bill,” I replied honestly.
My son looked directly into my eyes.
“We had the money, Mom. Daddy just used it to buy booze and that’s why our phone bill wasn’t paid.”
“Your daddy loves us,” I said carefully. “I guess we just need to pray for him," I added as I lifted the towel to look at the wound.
“Daddy could stop drinking if he really wanted to. Maybe you should pray for us instead!” He added, rolling his eyes.
Suddenly we both broke out into peals of laughter. My son always had a way of directly hitting the mark with his humor and being in his presence was a joyful experience. After giggling, I said a quick prayer, similar to the one that Peter prayed when he tried to walk on water.
“God you are the great Physician so I am asking you to attend my son’s arm.” (It was the equivalent of “HELP I AM SINKING!”)
We both said Amen and I lifted the towel again. The bleeding had stopped.
“Thank you, God,” I said, feeling certain that I wouldn’t have to walk down the lonely road to call an ambulance. I hurried into the bathroom to search for a first aid kit, but I only found a near-empty box with a few cotton balls and a thermometer.
Just as I was about to ask my son about band-aids, my front door bell rang.
What now? I thought, as I walked back down the hall to answer the door.
“Are you Patricia?,” she asked politely.
“Yes,” I nodded.
“This is for you,” she said, handing me the package.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Something you need,” she replied. “By the way," she continued, "your son is right. Pray for yourself and get on with your life before it is too late.”
Her words were shocking and they seemed to swirl through the cold winter air like an electrical current. She smiled and then turned to walk away as I closed the door. Overcome by curiosity, I quickly tore open the package to discover several band-aids, alcohol swabs, and tape. There was even a lollipop!
“Who was that?,” my son asked, walking into the living room and plopping down on the sofa.
“A nurse carrying a first aid kit just told me to get a life,” I replied, handing him the lollipop.
“Who sent her?” He asked, popping the lollipop into his mouth without delay.
“Good question,” I replied.
Then, suddenly springing into action I opened the door.
“Wait a minute—come back!” I called into the night.
“Tell her she forgot to include the money to pay our phone bill,” my son chirped mischievously.
I stood in the door for a moment, listening. There was no echo of footsteps on the sidewalk, yet it had been scarcely more than a few seconds since she had stood on my porch. A streetlight in my neighbor’s yard blinked eerily as I walked out of my home and onto the lawn so that I could get a clear view of the street. The woman was nowhere to be found. I shivered and hurried back inside.
How could she have known about my son’s injury? How could she have known what he said about the importance of praying for ourselves? Had she been listening at my door? Probably just a coincidence, I thought as I looked at my son’s arm once more. By now, the would had closed and looked almost stitched, as though it had been professionally treated at the ER. Hadn’t I asked the Great Physician to attend to my son’s injury? He had answered my prayer.
Later that evening, I watched the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration on TV and felt very much alone. Although I had taken my marriage vows seriously, I was ready for a change that would bring peace into my life and into the life of my son. I fell asleep on the sofa with Auld Lang Syne playing in the background. I dreamt that I was attending a committee meeting for a new business and there were several people sitting around a long narrow table. The woman who had delivered the package to me was there, sitting at the head of the table. She still wore the red poncho and nurse’s cap. I asked what kind of business I was opening and everyone around the table spoke at once.
“The new business is your life and if you’re really serious about change you need to do it this year,” they whispered loudly. “Heal your wounds and heal your child—let God take care of your husband. You need to get a life now, right now, and don’t look back,” they added, in a chant of urgency.
Waking up, I had a wonderful sense of peace and the ache lifted from my broken heart.
Shortly after my encounter with the angels in my dream, I filed for divorce. I had spent many years trying to change the alcoholic in my life, but my serenity only began when I learned to distinguish between what I could change and what I could not.
Although the dream occurred 33 years ago, every New Year’s Eve I remember the angel who arrived at my door wearing a red poncho and a nurse’s hat…an angel who saucily told me to “get a life” and then followed me into my dreams to repeat the message. To her and to God I shall always be grateful.