Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa's Angel

One fall evening some years ago I received a worried call. The director/owner of the small independent school where I taught called from Seattle to ask a favor. The 3rd teacher at our tiny school lived in another community but spent the week in town, staying at the school and driving home each weekend. On this evening her husband, from whom she as separated, was missing and had apparently drowned. Would I call her and offer what support I could?

The line at the school was busy, but I kept dialing until I finally reached her. Her husband’s friends at the marina where he kept his boat had notified her that someone had been found dead in the water there. Her husband had not been seen since the evening before and they were all sure it must be him. She had not been able to get any information from the authorities and was beside herself. When I learned she was alone, I told her I’d be there soon.

I found her on the front porch, smoking. She needed a cigarette and she needed to talk, so I hauled a thick old comforter out. With our backs against the front wall and the quilt over our knees, she told me that everything pointed toward the body being her husband’s. Due to its recent discovery, it had not yet been positively identified, so there was nothing to do but wait. Although they were beginning divorce proceedings, she and her husband had been married for many years and she wished him no harm. I had no idea what to say, but offered what I could. Then I just listened until she grew quiet.

Back inside, she resumed her vigil by the phone. Before long, we were joined by a chaplain from a local law agency. He was a plump little guy with a snowy white beard and offered us some measure of comfort, as we no longer felt quite so alone. He asked only enough questions to learn what the situation was and then we prayed together. In between phone calls (my friend was still trying, unsuccessfully, to get information), we talked to pass the time. He seemed in no hurry at all and eventually asked us about the school - our mission there was working with teens-at-risk. I answered his questions and explained about our work with the kids and our many needs. As the night wore on, the chaplain left and eventually, at my friend’s urging, I went home. There still was no word.

By morning, we had the confirmation. In returning to his boat in the dark, her husband had apparently fallen off the dock and hit his head hard enough to render him unconscious in the water. We attended his funeral and in the spring we attended the funeral of our director, who died of a massive stroke after successful bypass surgery. We were left to pick up the pieces of the school - and to try to help 16 teens deal with the loss. Somehow, sharing tears and prayers, we did.

VCR Photo by Colin McCormick at English Wikipedia

By the next December, my friend had left to move on with her life and the school was under new management. One afternoon a student appeared breathless at my desk. “Hey, Santa Claus just came! I’m not kiddin’ - this old guy with a white beard just came by and dropped off a VCR, a printer and some other stuff we need. He said you’d know all about it.” I hurried to the front door and peeked out just in time to catch a glimpse of the guy climbing into his car. Aaah - not Santa, perhaps, but an angel for sure.

Computer Printer Photo by Christian Gidlöf

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Mathew 7:7-8

VCR and Computer Printer picture files
from Wikimedia Commons

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