Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Dishcloth Angel

I’ll never forget that day 13 years ago. I sat in a Burger King booth across from my son, staring out the window, feeling like an abject failure and steeling myself not to cry.

Not only was I a divorcee and single-mom who was fighting depression and barely making ends meet, but my son had a serious health concern that had required an appointment with a neurologist in the city. I’d taken him out of school in plenty of time, I thought, for the hour’s drive. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere close to the clinic, so we had to walk a few blocks. A big clock in the entryway said we had five minutes to spare. The receptionist checked us in, then a nurse took us in an exam room and administered a series of neurological tests. Then we waited nervously for the doctor. It was almost lunchtime, but I was too anxious to feel hungry.

He never came. Instead, the nurse came in, wringing her hands. “I’m so sorry, but the doctor says he won’t see your son because you were late for your appointment.”

“What? The appointment was for 11:30. We got here at 11:25,” I said.

“No, your appointment was for 11:20,” she said. "You'll have to reschedule."

Reschedule? The emergency room physician had mentioned “possible brain tumor”, we’d waited almost three weeks for this appointment, and now I had to reschedule? I decided that the neurologist’s heart couldn’t be much bigger than a box elder bug.
A good mother would have left a half-hour earlier, I kept thinking, as we drove to the nearest fast-food restaurant. I’m a terrible mom. I can’t do anything right. I couldn’t even taste my hamburger (not a cheeseburger—they cost too much).

I’d noticed the elderly woman wearing a Burger King uniform who was wiping down the tables. She had a very pronounced limp that looked quite painful. I’d wondered why someone her age and condition was working so hard.

But I soon slipped back into my funk of self-criticism. As I stared blindly at the junipers outside the window, the old woman limped up to us, wet dishcloth in hand. She leaned over the table so that her face was right in front of mine, stared intently into my eyes, and said, “God bless you and your son.” Then she hobbled away.

As I took a sip of my soda, I had this thought: She’s an angel. Right then I looked up, and there she was, looking at me with a twinkle in her eyes that told me she knew what I was thinking. Then she hobbled away again.

Maybe it was my imagination, but when I glanced out the window, the sun was shining much brighter than it had been seconds before! A tiny spark of hope began to shine in my darkness.

By the way, my son's symptoms never returned.

I know several people who’ve met angels. None of us has ever had a camera handy to record the encounter--nor would we have had the presence of mind to use it--but I suspect that angels don’t show up in photographs anyway.  Although I can’t give readers a picture of my dishcloth angel, I jump at the chance to show off our beautiful heifer, Angel, who has two angel wings on her nose and one over each eye.

“He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who've been thrown out with the trash, seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best.” –PSALM 113:7-8

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