In stories of angelic visitations and interventions, heavenly emissaries appear in many forms. At their most spectacular, angels make their presence known as shimmering, radiant light, leaving awestruck beholders forever transformed. Operating at subtler levels, angels have shown up in human form to provide critical interventions for people in peril, only to quite literally disappear upon completion of their divine task.
“My” angel took the latter form.
I was 21 years old, reclining in the examination chair of the family dentist, whom I’ll call “Dr. S.” I should tell you that I never liked Dr. S.; as a young child I would gag during dental exams, and he would give me tight slaps across my cheek, not sharp enough to be heard in the waiting room outside the sliding doors, but hard enough to make me cry. “Stop it,” he’d say in a menacing tone, his face close to mine. The motherly hygienist, Mary, was never present during these exams, and I felt too ashamed to tell my own mother about Dr. S’s tactics. Many years later he would lose his license after it was discovered he had fondled several female patients.
“You’ll need a root canal,” Dr. S. informed me as he poked my tender molar. No longer covered by my family’s dental plan, it dawned on me that I would have to pay for the dental work myself. And then a brighter thought: I could choose my own dentist – someone I actually liked. As if he had heard me and wanted to leave me with something to remember him, Dr. S. suddenly dug into my tooth. I cried out like a wounded animal, my neck and back arcing off the chair, heels digging into the vinyl foot rest, tears streaming down my face. I had never experienced such agony, though it lasted but a few merciful seconds.
For my troubles, the dental assistant slipped me a new toothbrush and dental floss. As I left the chair (voluntarily this time), the memory of the terrible pain and the fear of its return left me trembling. Yet an even deeper nerve was struck, an existential horror at the fact that such pain was even possible. Physical life, it suddenly occurred to my young, invincible self, could include sensations that had the potential to be unbearable. I left the examination room feeling shaken, vulnerable, and in great need of comfort.
As I made my way to the exit, self-conscious about the still-streaming tears in my eyes, I noticed that a guy in the waiting room was watching me. He was roughly the same age as myself, with brown hair and a slight frame. To say he was “smiling” at me does not begin to describe what was actually transmitted. Something about this young man’s smile beamed palpable waves of peace and reassurance into me that instantly washed away my fear. I felt total love, compassion, and encouragement from this person, and a feeling of safety and calm so soft I felt like I was floating. I knew I was going to be okay.
And all this transpired in my ten or twelve steps from the examination room to the exit door.
I paused in the parking lot, wanting to go back and try to express my gratitude for the man’s gift of spontaneous healing. I feared, though, that I would be unable to adequately express my appreciation and humility, especially for something so seemingly simple as a smile.
On the other hand, the feeling of grace was so extraordinary that I had to allow for the possibility that he might not even be there—or anywhere in physical form. Angels work fast, and they don’t stick around for thank-you’s.
Whether my angel was human or a Winged One in human form now seems beautifully irrelevant. The work of angels and humans is not so different. Bestowing love is an act of the Divine, no matter the vessel.
Have you had encounters with angels? Write me about it — I’d love to hear from you.
20 Apr 2009 Paul Quinn