“Mama, can angels breathe?”
“Well, Honey…” ..labored breath …“I don’t know.” … breath …“Why do you ask?”… shallow breath.
“Well, I know how much you love to sing. I wondered, when you get to heaven are you going to be able to breathe again so you can sing as much as you want to?”
That was the day I talked to her about heaven and angels. I sat beside her and she let me push the buttons on the rails of the hospital bed. Her head moved up and down. I could tell that it was easier for her to breathe when she sat up straight, so I left her upright and leaned in close to hear.
“You know, Sweetie, that sometimes angels visit us when we’re unaware of it.”
“When, Mama? When do they come visit?”
“The Bible says that the Lord will command his angels to take good care of you. They will lift you up in their hands.”
“That’s good, Mama, because when you’re gone, I’m gonna’ need someone to take good care of me.”
She smiled then and closed her eyes. I loved my Mama so much. I didn’t want her to go. She was so kind and loving and gentle. I wanted her to take care of me forever, but she died when I was 10. That was twelve years ago.
I punched out at 9:00 tonight. Jeanine asked me to work late for her so that she could go out with her friends. It was dusk when I left the building. The street lights were just coming on and I walked under them for several blocks. My breath came in little white puffs as I kept up a brisk pace. People walked past me. A couple holding hands. A group of teens giggling.
Behind me I heard someone clear his throat. I turned, looked and picked up my pace. He was tall and very dark. I spotted a gold chain lying next to a tattoo on his thick neck. His hat was white. It matched his dazzling teeth when he smiled at me. I couldn’t help turning and looking again. And just as I did, a couple of guys exited a party store and stepped in front of me.
“Hey, Sweetheart, where are ya headed? You need some company?” The bigger of the two was blond. He held a cigarette between his fingers and a chip on his shoulder.
“Um, no…no. I’m just fine. Thanks anyway.”
“You sure? We could walk you home. Stay for awhile.”
“Really, I’m fine. Please let me get by.” I tried to sneak around them but they moved in front of me.
“You think you’re too good for us huh? Don’t want us to take you home?”
They reached for my arm and suddenly the tall, very dark stranger stepped between us and glared down at them. He was at least a head taller and a foot wider. His voice boomed louder and deeper than anyone I’d ever heard.
“The lady said that she doesn’t need your help walking her home tonight, Boys. Why don’t you just move along now.” It was not a question but a command spoken in the cold night air. His breath a cloud of white, vibrating with anger.
They turned and ran and as fast as their obviously shorter legs could carry them. They weaved in and out of pedestrians until I could no longer see them. I looked at my protector.
“Thank you so much.”
He smiled and handed me a business card. Our fingers brushed, his black and mine white. Turning, I walked quickly up the street. My apartment was just a block away. Taking the steps two at a time I reached the door and slipped the key in the lock. I slammed it behind me and leaned against it for support. With a street light shining through the front window I could just make out the writing on the card. It read “He will command his angels to take good care of you.” Warm tears escaped my eyes and ran down my cheeks.
Angels really can breathe.
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