Sunday, November 23, 2008

Angels In Unexpected Places

I remember years ago sitting on a bench in the downtown area of a small beach community in Northern California, having a cup of coffee and taking in the unfolding of early morning life around me. I was struggling at the time with some issues that were both painful, and disheartening. Feeling continually discouraged, I took a day alone to collect my feelings, and, hopefully, to air-out the chambers of my heart. A young woman appeared, unexpectedly, beside me on the bench and, without introduction, quietly began to speak about love. I was unaware of her having approached the bench, or of sitting down. She was just there. She was not there at first, and then she was. She talked in a way I was not accustomed to hearing strangers talk, loved ones even, like she knew me intimately, like she trusted me implicitly, and like she loved me. I did not sense any fear, concern, discomfort or wariness. She just spoke as if we had always known each other. She was telling me about love, unconditional love, the kind that has no boundary, how it manifests itself, what it looks like, how it feels, and what it can accomplish in the world, and in our lives, if we allow it. I was captivated by her honesty, and by her wisdom.

Then she asked if I had a car, and said she wanted me to drive us to a quiet place overlooking the ocean where we could be alone. It was a beautiful, sunny, early summer morning. I followed her directions. We parked the car on the cliff above the ocean and walked out into the middle of an enormous field, a field painted fresh with flowers, alive with an awakening bouquet, glistening in the new light. We sat down on the ground together and looked out over the water. It was quiet, it was serene, and then she told me, without bitterness or animosity, that she had been severely battered by her husband, repeatedly, over time, and eventually beaten up and left for dead. She said she was living in a shelter for battered women now, in a secret location for her protection, and that I was not to ask any questions, only to be here with her. Then she said “this day, Denes, this time . . . . . . is for you”. I swallowed hard, caught my feeble breath, and collapsed without struggle, surrendering helplessly to tears.

She enveloped me, quietly, caringly, in love. We sat together in that sacred place, in that regenerative silence, while she held me close, and I cried, for her, for me. She continued to hold me. My eyes continued to run, and did so throughout most of the day, stopping and starting for no apparent reason, and with no awareness of time, until the well eventually ran dry. We remained there in the field until after dark. We’d watched the sun set together. Neither of us had said another word since earlier that morning when she’d told me about having endured such indignity at the hands of her husband. There was no need for words, of any kind. And there are no words that could have been nearly as warm as the silence.

We got back into my car. I began driving, to nowhere really. After a few miles she quietly said “If you’ll stop now, I’ll get out here”. We were no place in particular, but it didn’t matter. We were alive, very much alive, both of us. She reached over, wrapped her hands around the back of my neck, gave me a kiss on the forehead, opened the door and walked away.

I drove towards home. I was stunned. I was filled. I was drained. I was like pudding. I was acutely aware of every pore on my body, and I could feel the molecules moving around, on the inside, like bubbles in a warm bath. It felt like all the struggle that had been my life up until this time was now on pause, maybe even permanently, but at least it was for now.

I have met angels in unexpected places.