ANGELS ARE HERE!
A Smiling Child
With silence only as their benediction God's angels come
Where, in the shadow of a great affliction, The soul sits dumb.
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
"TO MY FRIEND ON THE DEATH OF HIS SISTER"
Gretchen and her husband, Fred, had had a long and happy
marriage, but Fred had recently died. And although Gretchen had a
son and four grandchildren who loved her very much, one does not
easily recover from such a momentous loss.
During the first few months, Gretchen had been numb with
grief and unable to weep. But she had progressed beyond the
initial shock stage, and now, it seemed, crying was all she did.
"I was beginning to dread meeting anyone," she recalls, "because
I was so afraid that I would burst into tears in the middle of an
ordinary conversation." People had been very kind, but Gretchen
didn't want anyone pitying her and she didn't want her sorrow to
make others uncomfortable.
On this Sunday, Gretchen went to church by herself and
selected an empty pew. She saw no familiar faces, and she was
relieved. At least if her anguish threatened to overwhelm her,
she could slip out quietly.
As she sat in the pew, she thought again of Fred, and
desolation and grief swept in waves across her spirit. "I could
hardly keep from crying out," she says. It was hard to endure
such continuous mourning. Would it ever end? In another moment,
she was going to weep....
Suddenly, a small boy entered the pew and sat next to
Gretchen. She eyed him through her tears. He had light-brown
hair, was neatly dressed in a little brown suit, and appeared to
be about six years old. And he was looking up at her in the most
familiar way, smiling as if he knew her.
It was peculiar. Children rarely attended church alone in
this particular congregation, especially at such an early hour.
Where could his family be? Even stranger was the fact that,
although the youngster had picked up the church prayer book to
read, he kept edging toward Gretchen. "He moved nearer and
nearer, very casually. He would read, then look up, catch my eye,
and beam. His whole attitude made it clear that he had come to
keep me company." What a darling child!
As the little boy snuggled close to Gretchen, something else
began to happen. She felt her heart lighten. Somehow, although
she hadn't believed such a thing would ever happen again, she
began to feel, yes, happy. It was only a fleeting emotion, like a
brief little kiss, but she felt it.
And she would be happy again. She knew it now without
question. "A time to mourn and a time to dance...... Gretchen was
still very much in mourning, but the love and sweetness in the
little boy's face had given her a glimpse of a better time yet to
But who was this child? Gretchen looked down at him, and
again he smiled at her in that intimate and penetrating manner.
She must know him ... why else would he be behaving this way? Of
course. He was probably the son of a younger neighbor or friend
who, aware of Gretchen's loss and seeing her sitting alone, had
sent her little boy up to share the pew. Gretchen would have to
thank his parents for their thoughtfulness. She would watch where
the child went after the service.
As the service ended, Gretchen and the boy left the pew and
headed for the front door. There were people around, but not a
huge crowd, and the child was right next to Gretchen. "What is
your name?" she asked him. "Do I know your mother?"
But instead of answering, he looked up at her for one last
smile. And then, as Gretchen's eyes scanned the crowd to find
someone searching for him, the child vanished. He was there - and
then he simply wasn't. Gretchen didn't see him go, but when she
glanced down, the spot next to her was vacant
"I kept looking for him among the people until everyone had
left, but I never saw him again, nor did I meet anyone who knew
him or had sent him"
But after that Sunday, Gretchen never felt quite so alone
again. Gradually the truth seemed to come upon her - that an
ordinary child, no matter how charming, would not have been able
to lift her spirits in that mysterious and welcome way. Instead,
the child had been sent by Someone Who understood her suffering
and was reaching out to comfort and heal her.