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everyday angels

“And to dust you shall return . . .”

Boy did I! But only temporarily, right on my, as they say in Quebec, derrière. Just a few days before our long-awaited holiday, on a lovely seaside run, I tripped over a tree root, caught myself on an outstretched palm, and landed in the dirt.

Aside from the pain, one look at my wrist made it clear that, as Miss Clavel (from the Madeleine book series) often exclaimed, something “was not quite right.” But God sent angels to attend me. The first was a fellow named Jeff, who responded to my supine calls for help. Jeff was out walking his dog, Dharma, while waiting for his car to be repaired.

Calmly at first, I asked Jeff (after polite introductions) to please call an ambulance. He did so and waited while I phoned Patrick. As Jeff, Dharma, and I waited, I chatted to subdue my panic.

“Know any good songs, Jeff?” I asked.

“Not much of a singer I guess,” he admitted sadly.

When Patrick arrived, bringing ice from the nearby hot dog stand, Jeff offered his backpack to prop up my arm. This pretty much committed him for the long haul.

“Are you Buddhist?” I asked Jeff, guessing from his dog’s name.

“Nope; not a churchgoer either.”

“Well, you've done your Dharma for the day anyway!” It hurt to laugh. It just hurt. I finally broke down and buried my face in Patrick's shoulder crying.

“I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry,” I kept repeating. What for? What broken part of me, aside from my wrist, caused me to feel shame over a common accident?

“I want a priest,” I bawled, surprising even myself.

“I want Clarence!” my colleague, who serves with me at our little church on the Sunshine Coast.

Then new angels arrived driving an aid car. Taylor and Martine, two EMTs, presented their bright faces immediately into my view.

“Joyce, we are here to take care of you.”

“Thank you, baby Jesus,” I exclaimed without even a hint of sarcasm.

“What's your pain level?”

“8, ouch, 9,” I moaned.

“Here, hold on to this.”

Taylor handed me what looked like a green kazoo.

“Put this in your mouth and breathe in. It will deliver instant pain relief.”

“So, you're telling me to suck it.” My humor was still intact, thank God, even if my arm wasn't.

One puff, and waves of euphoria spread through my fractured body. Smiling, I looked up at Martine and complemented them,

“You're doing such a great job! You both have taken all the right steps to manage my trauma!”

The EMTs looked at each other quizzically.

“I'm a vicar, you know? The Vicar of Gibsons,” I admitted, as they rolled me away on a gurney.

Taylor looked slightly alarmed. “Better watch my swearing then!”

“Oh, don't worry,” I chuckled, “I swear all the ****** time!” We all laughed, and I puffed away on my pain kazoo.

In the hospital, things grew frantic, and I felt less at ease. Thankfully, Martine had expertly put an IV line into my tricky veins before they left me. It's so odd: to impact someone's life so briefly, intimately, and profoundly, and never see them again.

After X-rays and more drugs, I was told that my arm would need to be “redacted “What? Like edited?”

“No,” a nurse corrected, “reducted.”

Ah, that made more sense. I suppose just saying “set your arm” conjures gruesome images of field triage wards. As I noticed the intern being instructed to assist in my “reduction,” I wondered, could they reduce anything else? Abdomen and thighs perhaps? My anxiety worsened.

The next Angel wings that brushed my brow belonged to the anesthesiologist, a clear-eyed young woman from South Africa. She lay her cool palm on my forehead and said compassionately, “Don't be afraid, I'll be right here with you the whole time. I'll take care of you.” “Thank you,” I said as my eyes fluttered shut.

Thank you to all of these angels: Jeff and Dharma, Taylor and Martine, to the parishioners who brought us meals, to Nena, my dear friend who cooked for us and combed my hair after a bath, and to all those who offered help and encouragement in my vulnerability, and who held us up when we could not stand.

That evening, when I settled at home into a nest of pillows on the couch, Clarence did indeed visit. I've pointed out repeatedly to him that he shares his name with the guardian Angel from “It's a Wonderful Life,” but he's still not seen that movie. In the soft, evening light, Clarence prayed over Patrick and me. When he anointed our foreheads with holy oil, our eyes brimmed. I realized how very long it had been since I had received such care, and how much it meant.

May you too meet many angels on your path, even if you wind up sitting in the dust for a bit.




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