Peaceful Angel at Rest
by Joanne Malley
It was the early 1970's, when those "groovy" fashions were still sweeping the nation and there was a peace sign wherever you went. My mother shrieks when she recalls how she felt forced to wear skirts that were jacked up a "little too high" for her comfort zone.
In the midst of getting dressed in an outfit from "the worst fashion era," (as she put it), the phone rang. It was a beautiful May afternoon many years ago and my family was scurrying around in an effort to get dressed and out of the house on time for my brother's eigth grade graduation.
My mom, eager to finish getting ready, quickly ran to the phone completely unzipped, and answered it. "Hello..........OH, NO, PLEASE GOD, NO!" cried my mother, as she dropped the phone and broke down at the shocking news.
My grandmother was on the other end delivering the horrifying news that my cousin died an untimely death at the age of twenty-one from a brain aneurism.
We all managed somehow to get through my brother's graduation in a bewildered state. It was an extremely sad day and my gloomy memories of it stuck with me for many years.
At my cousin's wake, I remember that her fiance' never left the side of her casket. I also recall standing with my grandmother looking on at my cousin, Janet. Through her tears she said, "she looks like a peaceful angel at rest." Those words fell upon my ears with the most deafening reality that my cousin really was gone and was never coming back.
At the time, I was eight and this was the first family loss I experienced. It was so frightening for me, and it has never left the memory banks of my mind. I think the fact that she was so young made me realize my own mortality and I feared death for a very long time.
From shortly after the funeral, until after I reached the age of twenty-two, I carried around a periodic anxiety that I would experience the same demise. I almost held my breath until I turned twenty-two, because that number must have signified the safety zone to me. At the time, I didn't know how to give my heavy burden to the Lord. "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Matthew, 11:28-30, NIV.
When I became old enough to understand the impact that such a loss has on a parent, each time I saw my aunt and uncle, my heart would break for them at the loss of their only child.
I don't know if they ever trusted in the fact that the Lord would bring rest to their souls, but I certainly know that through the years of their heartbreak, it would be almost impossible for them to rest over the greatest loss of their lives.
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To this day, I will never forget her face; she truly was beautiful and did look like a peaceful angel at rest.
It never dawned on me until recently that almost every room of my home has at least one angel figurine or picture in it. My grandmother also shared the same love for angels. Perhaps, it's our symbolic way of keeping her with us after all these years.