In the ivory, enamel-covered prayer book I receive as a First Communion gift when I am seven-years-old, there is a picture of a beautiful, female, blonde angel guiding two frightened children across a broken bridge as torrents of raging water swell beneath the swinging, treacherous arch. She has wings, a halo and is dressed in a pink gown with a long, cream-coloured sash. The children, a boy wearing a cap and a taller, fair-haired girl, are barefoot. The girl carries a basket as she clutches tightly to the smaller boy as if to quell his fears. The angel that hovers above them remains calm as if to say, “Fear not children. No trouble will befall you on my watch.” That page becomes tattered with the constant caressing of my small hands as I study every facet of that floating angel.
My angelic visitor in 1995 looks nothing like the one depicted in that premier Catholic prayer book of my youth. The angel who descends upon me in 1995 is thin, tanned and never smiles. The fact that he remains stoic in my presence makes me more uneasy because I am not living the sort of life that would make God and His holy angels smile after my divorce. His visit makes me believe in hell because after he graces my tiny apartment with his presence, I think his stopover is meant as an intervention to prevent me from ending up at hell’s gates. Whether he came to redirect me from a path that would lead me to hell, or whether he came to show me that the spiritual realm existed, I don’t know. What I do come to see after that experience is that there is such a thing as the real-world presence of Christ. Rather than just believe in God, which I always have, I see that Christ is alive and invested in the well-being of people on earth, and He will intervene to draw us close to Him in love.
At that time, I run in any weather, and with each step I pound into the pavement bits of my past. I run as though I am out for revenge or something. My weight plummets. I throw up some mornings before school, afraid of another day of being bullied and harassed by my principal or parents who despise having a young, attractive, female divorcee in their midst. That’s when I turn to God. I cry and I pray for direction daily on my morning run. My prayer is simple and emphatic. It is just three words: “Help me, God!”
With those three words I invite God to change my reality because there is no one else to whom to turn. I don’t have a supportive family that will offer me understanding and compassion. Those are never on the Griffin menu. There is only recrimination, judgement and reproach to be found within my family unit. Friends I’d had as a married woman drop me as though divorce is a contagious disease they fear will infect their own marriages. Like my Catholic school board, married women no longer want an attractive, single woman in their lives the way they welcomed me as a married woman. My own sisters cut me out of their lives as soon as I leave my former husband. If I have someone special, I can be around their men and families, but if I am single, I am not welcome.
I am cast adrift.
That night, after months of sleeplessness, a deadening sleep slowly begins to creep upon me. My eyelids are heavy with slumber in a way that has become foreign to me. I hear the creaking of my apartment door opening and call out to whoever is entering my apartment. As I lie listening to the sound of my apartment door opening, I realize that I am unable to move my arms and legs, and fear clutches my heart in its tight fist. Then I see a male figure in my doorframe. He is dressed in a short-sleeve, pale blue shirt and tan slacks. He has iridescent, translucent skin, closely cropped blonde hair and large, aqua eyes. He looks like someone I know but instinctively I know that it is not him. Then the figure moves with fluidity into my bedroom, and I feel his imprint weigh upon the foot of my bed as he sits with his back to me.
“You’re here now,” I mutter with a lazy tongue in a drowsy mouth. It is as though I have been expecting him. A warm smile lights upon my lips and my initial anxiety is replaced with an immense sense of stillness.
He sits with his back to me, turns his head so that I can see his beautiful profile and says, “You must go home.”
Then I sleep.
When I wake early the next morning, I remember nothing of the night before. I run at five as is my custom. I shower at six-fifteen, eat at six-forty-five, and make my bed at seven as I always do. It is when I am making my bed that my alarm clock suddenly bursts into song. My alarm has already sounded at five. It is always set on buzzer because music never makes me stir the way the buzzer does. Now a song plays at seven. It is London Calling by the Clash. As that old high school favourite sounds that October morning, I suddenly remember my visitor from the night before and fall to my knees. I believe that heaven has heard my desperate prayers and has sent an answer. I think at first his stopover has been a dream, but I remember the details too vividly for it to be a dream. It wasn’t a dream. God sent me a messenger and that messenger told me to go home. I am to go home to London, Ontario.