The Sleeping Angel
Every day, our paths cross with the paths of strangers. Some meetings are fleeting. Some are of momentous significance, great turning points of mind and heart. A seemingly chance encounter is not an accident or coincidence at all, but a purposeful weaving of God's tapestry of souls. Angels play a role in this weaving of destinies. They give us a nudge here, a prompt there. One Christmas in upstate New York, angels brought strangers together, and lives were changed.
Yvonne Warner never expected, nor intended, to become the "Angel Lady." Yet she was gifted with otherworldly sight from birth, and from infancy was aware of great spiritual beings she came to call angels and masters. As she grew older, she communicated with them, was visited by them, and traveled into wondrous realms with them. As a trance channel, she received messages from the dead, which were of great comfort to the living. She understood these gifts of hers to be gifts of the Spirit, as described in the Bible.
Young Yvonne's sense of destiny was that she would be guided in what she should do in life, and that everything was to be done out of love. "I work with and for the Father," she said. She believed in miracles. "A miracle is the expression of love from God," she told others. "It is up to us to make miracles happen every day by expressing that love."
Life handed Yvonne a full plate. By the time she was in her mid-thirties, she had been married twice, a mother, rich, poor, and briefly homeless. All of her work had been to protect or help and heal others. She had worked as a police officer and an undercover officer. She had been an acupuncturist, a primary caregiver for AIDS patients, an HIV counselor, a substance abuse counselor, a children's education counselor, an art therapist, and a caregiver to the dying. People had died in her arms and been healed in her arms. Yvonne always felt humble that she could be of help to others. "Whatever I have to give you has been given by the Father and the Father within," she would say.
She received daily counsel from the angels. They told her never to worry, that her needs would always be met. She followed their guidance, not always knowing where it would lead, but having complete faith and trust that it would always be right and true. She learned that her purpose concerned uplifting her brothers and sisters of humanity to know and understand that God does always watch over them, and is always available. She learned that in return for giving, her own cup was always filled.
When Yvonne was thirty-six, two benign tumors were discovered on her coccyx at the end of her spine. She was between jobs -- she had lost one when a counseling center closed, and found another, but had not yet started it. Two surgeries to remove the tumors left Yvonne in excruciating pain and temporarily unable to walk. She had to give up the new job. She lay in bed wondering how she was going to survive -- how she was going to put food on the table and pay the bills.
One day as she slept in bed an angel visited her in her dreams. "You are going to make angels," the great being said.
Yvonne awakened perplexed as to how these instructions would be executed. The angel had not told her how to go about it, but simply to do it. Yvonne knew that she, like every human being, had to find her own way. Guidance is given, but if we are told precisely what to do, then we do not grow. We do not learn. It is our experience that refreshes the soul and advances our wisdom.
Yvonne had purchased some exquisite ceramic angels. She felt uplifted every time she looked at them. They reminded her that there was a presence greater than she that was with her all the time. As the Bible indicated, every time someone needed guidance or an answer, God sent an angel. And God's angels looked in on her often. Yvonne thought everyone should have an angel figurine to remind them of the divine presence around them, to lift them in the same way, and to act as a messenger from God.
An "awesome unfolding" was the only way Yvonne could describe how events led her to make angels. At the end of her street lived a woman who had a ceramics shop. Yvonne could barely walk, but immediately upon awakening from her dream, she felt compelled to hobble down the street and seek out this woman's advice. The shop was closed, but a sign said it would open at 7 p.m. She hobbled home. At 7 p.m. she returned to the shop, but it was still closed. Noting the phone number on the door, she thought she would call and leave a message. Spying a pay phone, she placed the call but somehow dialed a wrong number. Frustrated, tired, and in pain, Yvonne decided to put the whole thing off. Then she heard a voice whisper to her, "Turn around." She turned and saw lights on in the shop.
In great pain, Yvonne limped back and went through the door. Inside she met the proprietor, who was getting ready to teach a class in making ceramics. The students were assembled. "I want to make angels," Yvonne announced. "Can you show me how?"
"I can show you," said the woman, "but you can't join the class -- it's full."
"You don't understand," said Yvonne. "I'm supposed to be here."
"I'm sorry," the proprietor said gently. "I don't have enough room."
Just then a woman dashed into the shop. She had to drop out of the class, she said, with profuse apologies.
The students and proprietor all looked at Yvonne in astonishment. "You see," Yvonne said, "I am supposed to be here!"
Yvonne joined the class and learned how to work with ceramics. She made one angel. One person saw it, loved it, and told others. From her bedside, Yvonne was suddenly in business as the "Angel Lady."
She recovered from her surgeries and devoted herself to making her porcelain beauties. They sold wherever she took them. She went to flea markets, galleries, crafts shows, and malls. She named her business Yvonne's Miracles. She made angels and cherubs by the thousands, each one by hand every step of the way. Each was unique in its decorations. Some were glazed for outdoor use. The heavenly angels guided her hands. "Never worry," the angels said. "Just make the angels for us. Each one is for someone. You will not know who they are for." True to her guidance, every angel Yvonne made found its way to the person for whom it was meant. She could feel it when an angel changed hands. She sold many and gave many away. Her sales enabled her to support herself. The angels, she said, fed her.
At Christmastime, Yvonne rented table space in the shopping mall in Middletown, New York. Business from holiday shoppers was good, so when Christmas neared the following year, Yvonne rented table space again. She hired a woman, Florence, to help her sell her creations.
One morning, as Yvonne prepared to go to the mall to work, she heard the angels tell her that someone would be coming by who had lost a loved one. This person would purchase an angel for the gravesite. Yvonne was to give that person a certain poem, because the family member who had passed away wanted to let the family know that he or she was all right, and the passing was supposed to happen. Those left behind should be happy, because their loved one was no longer in pain and suffering.
The poem was of anonymous authorship, found and given to Yvonne by a friend. Yvonne had it written on a piece of paper. She located it, put it in a box, and took it to the mall. She told Florence, "Somebody is going to come by who has lost someone. They are to receive this poem along with the angel."
The strands of Yvonne's destiny were about to be interwoven with the lives of Terri and David Levy and members of their families.
* * *
For six years, Terri's older sister, Mary, had battled breast cancer, determined to survive. She had three children; she wanted more than anything to live for them. She endured many ups and downs during the course of her illness. Things would look hopeful, and then not so hopeful. Whenever she felt particularly low, she called Terri, who lived about three-and-a-half hours away by car. "I'm going to live, right?" she would ask. "I'm going to make it, aren't I?" Terri always said the right words of hope to bring Mary's spirits back up.
But determination and words of hope did not prevail. The end, when it came at last, came quickly.
For about two weeks, Terri had missed connecting with Mary by phone. Then a call came one April morning: Make haste to the hospital, for Mary is dying and not expected to last the night.
Terri rushed to the hospital. Mary was already semicomatose, unable to talk to those she loved. She could only move her head a little and moan, and she moaned in response to what others said.
Terri was crushed by agonizing guilt. If only she had been able to talk to Mary earlier, perhaps she could have helped her hold on. But in the same grief-stricken moment, she realized that perhaps Mary had known that the time for talk was over, that it was time for her to go.
Terri assured Mary that it was okay for her to go, and that her children would be well taken care of. She asked Mary if she could understand. Mary moaned. Terri felt deep in her heart that Mary could hear her, could understand. She searched for recognition in Mary's unseeing, half-closed eyes. For a long time there was no reaction -- and then came an obvious wink at Terri. "She winked at me!" Terri exclaimed, delighted.
She asked Mary if she could see any of the members of the family who were deceased. Mary moaned. But shortly, she suddenly rose up and reached toward the window of her room, as though she saw something others could not.
Terri did not spend the night at the hospital, but left Mary in the company of her husband and a friend. Later in the evening, she heard a song on the radio, "I've Been Talking to My Angel." Mary was keenly interested in angels, had them all over her house. Her interest inspired Terri to read about angels and collect them. Now Terri had an odd feeling that the song on the radio was Mary's way of talking to her, telling her not to cry, that she was going to a better place. Terri wondered if the song marked Mary's passing.
The song marked the opening of the gates of the Great Mystery of Death. The next morning, twelve hours later, Mary died. She was forty-two.
In the weeks following her death, Mary's presence was apparent to Terri and other members of the family. Her younger sister, Johnita, was awakened by Mary's voice calling her name and talking to her. Mary pledged to help the family. Terri occasionally heard soft, beautiful music -- angel music. For both Terri and Johnita, there were physical sensations -- feelings of being touched, of shivers and tingling. Their experiences were puzzling to Terri's husband, David, who believed in an afterlife but not necessarily communication between the living and the dead, and who had no marked interest in angels.
Terri struggled with her grief and with the guilt that lingered over the fact that she never had a final conversation with Mary. The weeks passed into months.
Soon the holiday season had arrived: the first Christmas without Mary.
On the Sunday before Christmas, David scurried around trying to get his last-minute chores and shopping done. He zipped to the Middletown mall. As he hurried down the aisles, his eye was caught by a table set up in the middle zone, though he couldn't see what was on the table. Part of him knew he had to press on, as there were still many things to be done, but another part of him felt strangely compelled to go and look at the table.
As he got closer, his body started to tingle. The closer he got, the more the tingling spread throughout his entire body. He had no idea why, and he still couldn't see what was on the table.
When he finally reached the front of the table, his whole body was tingling, especially his head. He gazed down on porcelain statues of angels and cherubs in various sizes and poses. They were beautiful, and each one was different. Though David believed in angels, he wasn't particularly drawn to them. Now he felt an inner command to examine each and every statue carefully. It was the most bizarre sensation, but David was unable to let skepticism take over. He simply went with the flow. He held some of them and turned them to look at all their sides and angles.
After inspecting most of the display, he suddenly "felt" Mary say to him, Get me this one. He picked up an angel and literally started to shake. He knew this was the one Mary wanted. It was a sleeping angel with a pretty pink bow. He knew he had to buy it for her grave -- that this was what Mary wanted.
This impulse would not normally have occurred to David, for it ran counter to his Jewish upbringing. According to Jewish tradition, flowers and other adornments are considered distracting at a gravesite. If anything is placed at a grave, it is a simple rock, which serves as a physical remembrance that the grave has been visited. Terri's family was Catholic, but even his exposure to Catholic customs would not have prompted a spontaneous thought to purchase an angel for Mary's grave. Yet David had no doubt that he was being guided to do so.
Watching David, Yvonne intuitively was drawn to him, yet had no idea that he was the one for whom the poem was meant. It was almost time to close, and it was Yvonne's last day at the mall. No one had claimed the poem.
David gave his choice to Yvonne for purchase. She was warm and friendly. She explained to him that she was the maker of the statues. "Each one is different because an actual angel guides my hands as I make them," she explained with a smile. Yvonne added that she usually worked out of her house, but for the holidays she came to the mall. In one hour she was closing down and would not return to the mall until next year. David was one of her last customers.
David asked if the angel could be placed outdoors. When Yvonne replied yes, he told her about Mary, and that he would be placing the sleeping angel by her grave.
Yvonne felt a shiver of electricity race through her. Tears spilled from her eyes. How profound, how sweet, she thought. He's the one.
"I have been waiting for you," she said. Startled, David gave her a quizzical look. "An angel told me someone would come and purchase an angel for a grave. When that person came, I should give them this poem." She produced a piece of paper and handed it to David.
When tomorrow starts without me, and I'm not there to see;
If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn't cry the way you did today,
while thinking the many things we didn't get to say.
I know how much you love me, as much as I love you,
and each time you think of me, please try to understand,
that an Angel came and called my name and took me by the hand,
and said my place was ready in heaven far above,
and that I'd have to leave behind all those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away, a tear fell from my eye,
for all life, I'd always thought I didn't want to die.
I had so much to live for and so much yet to do,
it seemed almost impossible that I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays, the good ones and the bad,
I thought of all the love we shared and all the fun we had.
If I could relive yesterday, I thought, just for a while,
I'd say good-bye and kiss you and maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized that this could never be,
for emptiness and memories would take the place for me.
And when I thought of worldly things that I'd miss come tomorrow,
I thought of you, and when I did, my heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven's gates I felt so much at home.
When God looked down and smiled at me, from his great golden throne,
he said, "This is eternity and all I've promised you."
Today for life on earth is past but here it starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow, but today will always last
and since each day's the same day, there's no longing for the past.
But you have been forgiven and now at last you're free.
So won't you take my hand and share my life with me?
So when tomorrow starts without me, don't think we're apart,
for every time you think of me, I'm right here in your heart.
The poem was signed "Author unknown."
David placed the poem with the angel in the little shopping bag given him by Yvonne and thanked her.
On Christmas Day, Terri's family gathered at the home of her mother. David approached Terri and Johnita, and asked if he could speak to them alone. Bewildered, they agreed and went into an upstairs bedroom where they had privacy.
David offered the shopping bag and a letter written by him. Terri and Johnita read the letter. It began, "While I do believe in the hereafter and I do believe our loved ones look down upon us and smile, I had not believed that those who have passed on could communicate so easily with us, as you have claimed to be communicating with your sister Mary. But I write this to tell you that my views have changed. Because she recently touched me." The letter went on to describe David's trip to the shopping mall and his discovery of the angel statues, and the amazing message from Yvonne.
As Terri and Johnita read, their vision blurred with tears. It was so incredible -- and even more incredible that it had happened to David.
They were so overcome by the story that they forgot about the gift inside the shopping bag, until David reminded them to open it. There sat the precious sleeping angel with the pink bow. Terri and Johnita cried and laughed. Why, the angel's feet looked just like Mary's feet! They were dumbfounded when they turned the angel over and saw a date inscribed on the bottom. The day and month were the same as David's birthday. And the day, month, and year marked a month's anniversary for Mary's death. The "coincidences" were too incredible to be true.
They reread the letter and poem many times, soaking up every nuance. One thing was clear -- they knew they had to speak to Yvonne, the "Angel Lady."
They called Yvonne after Christmas. It took some courage -- what would they say to her? Would she even talk to them? But when they finally did call, they were greeted by a warm and friendly voice. Yvonne made them feel instantly comfortable. Terri, Johnita, and Mary's sixteen-year-old daughter, Corrie, joined in the conversation. Yvonne explained, "Mary wanted you to have that poem to help you heal and be happy again. To help you to get on with your lives." It was just what they needed to hear.
Yvonne gave them other messages from Mary, talking to them for over an hour, every word infusing them with comfort. They peppered her with questions. What were angels like? How did she experience them? How did she know to put that date on the bottom of the sleeping angel? Yvonne said she could not explain the date -- she simply decorated her angels according to her guidance. Yvonne answered all their questions and confirmed many of the signs they felt they'd had from Mary. Yvonne wanted them to understand that there is a realm much higher and brighter after death, and that those who no longer have physical form do not want their loved ones to be sad and depressed, but joyful. At one point, Yvonne said, "What I'm getting doesn't make sense to me, but I'm hearing that you should relax and have some chocolate." Terri and Johnita laughed. Mary had always been a "chocoholic."
Mary became like a guardian angel to her family, and her presence brought the family even closer together. Yvonne became a close friend, part of the family. For Terri and Johnita, Mary awakened the "sleeping angel" within, and now they were on a glorious spiritual journey of discovery, their path illuminated by their angels, those in heaven and those on earth.
Copyright © 1999 by Rosemary Ellen Guiley