Every once in a while, something happens in the course of our lives that validates everything we believe to be true about ourselves, about our purpose, about how important we all are. This was one of my defining moments.
June 22, 2014
She caught the corner of my eye as I drove by.
I drove by, thinking of what flavour of sundae to get from Dairy Queen. What flavour my mom would like. I was still ticked off that they discontinued the butterscotch topping from the menu. Those were my thoughts.
A woman, her bike, and a big white dog, at the side of a busy road, caught the corner of my eye, as I drove by.
The bike was down, and so was she. The rather large white shepherd was haphazardly attached to the woman by a leash, pacing around her like a nervous parent circling his young.
I looked back. A few times. Miraculously, there were no cars but mine on the road, not even going the opposite way. Something in me whispered, “You have to go back.” So I did a U-turn.
As I pulled up closer, she was attempting to get on her bike. She was disoriented and awkward. The big white wolf-dog stumbled behind her, beside her, trying to anticipate her footfall, the wheelfall of the bike. As hard as they tried, neither could find their balance.
I pulled up in front of her, opened my car door, and started towards her.
“Hey hon, are you okay?”
“Oh my God…. Oh my God, are you stopping for me? You’re stopping for me? Oh my God, my God that’s so sweet, that is so, so, sooooooooo sweet…”
Her voice trailed off for a moment. At first I had a hard time understanding her slurred dialect, but since she so graciously repeated herself so often, I caught on. She had tears in her bloodshot eyes. Her mouth was dry, caked with old saliva. She started weeping between breaths, trying to get her story out when I asked her what happened.
“Honey, I’m in trouble. I’m in deeeeeeeeep trouble,” she slurred. “I can’t find my phone. I lost my phone somewhere and I gotta find my phone. Honey, I gotta find my phone…. you’re stopping for me? Oh my God, oh my GOD that is soooooo sweet! Why are you stopping for me? That guy… (she points across the road and down) That ASSHOLE up there…. Dammit, I lost my glasses!” The sobbing resumed as she relived the event.
“Hon, it’s okay, we’ll find your glasses and your phone. Do you want me to help you look for them?” I offered.
“You would do that? You would do that for me? Oh my God… my GOD that is sooooo sweet…..” Back to the tears.
We crossed to the other side and looked around for a short stint. The white dog looked at me with grateful eyes several times. He was a monstrous dog, most likely a white shepherd with Great Pyrenees in him. I patted his head and gave him a loving stroke around his neck. Immediately he rose up on his hind legs, put his front paws on my shoulders and started licking me incessantly, gratefully.
“He knows you’re good,” she said quietly, and started crying.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Janet,” she said. “What’s yours?”
“Daria?” she stammered, finally getting her tongue around the right sounds. “I’m such an idiot. I’m a stupid, drunk idiot. I’m in deep shit. That ASSHOLE…”
“Janet, I’m going to take you home. Do you know where you live?”
She started laughing hysterically (well, as hysterically as you can when you’re insanely intoxicated), and said, “Yeah, yeah of course I know where I live. I’m in XXXXXville.”
“What are you doing out here?”
“I went to see my friend, to walk the dog. We always walk the dog up north. But he had a friend with him. His friend wasn’t very nice. And he didn’t even stand up for me. Just let him keep being an ASSHOLE. Not very nice at all. So I got on my bike, took my dog, and I left, but I think I went the wrong way…” She melted down.
“Where do you live in XXXXXville?”
“Across from the hospital.”
“OK let’s go, hon. I’ll take you home.”
“Who are you? You would do that for me? Oh my GOD that is soooooo sweet… Thank you sooooo much! I’m so stupid. I’m a fucking stupid drunk.”
“You’re not a stupid drunk, Janet. You’re just a little lost. Come on, let’s get you home.”
Here’s the funny thing: Being a regular mountain biker, loading a bike into my car was no problem. And since I always take my dog biking with me, loading the dog in was a breeze.
See what I’m getting at?
On the way to her house, Janet told me about the guys who were mean to her. She told me that her “old man” wasn’t going to be thrilled that she lost her glasses and phone. She told me how some guys came to her house, beat her up, took her money and left her there. She told me about the alcohol, the drugs, and a few other things that help me piece together the broken fragments of her life.
Then she looked at me, and quietly asked me, “Are you an angel?”
At that point I laughed out loud. The irony of it all…
When we got to her house, I unloaded the bike. The dog sauntered in like it was a typical day in the life. Inside the overwhelming smell of stale cigarettes permeated the claustrophobic air. The modest bungalow was simply decorated. There were lots of eagles, native masks, and a couple of wolves on the wall. The darkness sat heavily in the front room as my senses took in the reality of her life.
The next thing that came out of my mouth blew even me away.
“Janet, God loves you, you know.”
Before I could even think, they flew out.
That was it. She looked at me and broke down. Tears flowed like a river. I gave her a hug. She smelled like smokes and Jack Daniels, with a touch of Pantene. She held on to me like she was never going to let go. At that moment there was a rush of energy between us that I can’t explain with words. Yet I knew what it was.
“I should have listened to Him the first time,” she sobbed.
“It’s okay, Janet. He still loves you, and He wants you to know that.” I felt giddy as the words spilled out of my mouth. Did I actually say that out loud? Who the hell am I to speak for God? Holy crap, am I a Bible thumper? What the heck is going on here? Who am I to say what God thinks?
But I did know. I knew to my core that this was the message. This was the message, and I was the messenger. I felt strangely alive, but separate from my body. The words felt so natural, like a mother’s lullaby. Like I had been waiting a lifetime to speak them. Waiting for this moment right here, right now.
Then the floodgates opened. She started telling me that she knew God loved her. She knew, because she heard the singing one day, and no one but her could hear it. She knew because once she went to church, and it was in the middle of an ice storm, and she brought her dog there, and she was the only one in the church. Why did God call her to the church that day, she asked me through her tears. She didn’t want to tell me because she was afraid I’d think she was crazy. But she knew. In her heart she knew, she said. I reassured her she wasn’t crazy.
I looked around the room, and the eagles literally flew out of the picture at me. Eagles. Eagles. That’s it. Eagles. Not knowing what to expect, just putting it out there, I blurted,
“Janet, do you have a Bible?”
She said, “A Bible? Yes… yes!!! I have a Bible! I do! It’s my Dad’s Bible. I’ve never read it.” Her voice started to waver. “I never read it but my Dad would want me to read it.”
“Thanks, darlin’,” I said. I turned to a favourite scripture. It just flew into my brain out of nowhere as I spoke with her, kind of like the birds on the wall. I leafed through until I found Isaiah.
Chapter 40, verse 31:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
After asking her permission, I underlined it. Inside the Book was a loose, blank piece of paper, ready for ink. “Can I write on this?”
“Sure, sure you can, I want you to write on it!”
I wrote out the passage on the blank piece of paper, turned to her, and read it out loud to her, then said, “I want you to read this whenever you need strength.”
I left the paper in her Bible, to mark the scripture. To make sure she didn’t think she was dreaming, I took another piece of paper and wrote on it:
No matter what, God loves you. Love, Daria
On the back I wrote the number of someone who could help her.
It was time for me to go. I wished her well, gave her another hug, and repeated what was on the paper. Then I left, quietly shutting the door behind me.
So many things rushed through my head. My body was tingling, and I felt light as a feather. I knew it was a divine appointment. I knew I was a conduit. A messenger. I felt like an angel! My heart and head started arguing. How the hell would I know what it felt like to be an angel??? Humans do not “become” angels! But I know angels work through humans.
Hebrews 13:2 – Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
All the studying, all the questioning, all the reading… had prepared me for this moment. It wasn’t a media event, it was quiet. Quiet and powerful, like clouds before a thunderstorm. A quiet series of moments between two humans. That is all.
And yet, that was enough.
I don’t know what will happen with Janet. I may never see Janet again. All I can do is have faith that what I did today made a difference to her life. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Isn’t that what we ultimately yearn to do? Make a profound difference in the life of another?
I’ll never forget the feeling. I’ll never forget her watery, ocean-blue, bloodshot eyes, or the petite slight frame that was Janet. I don’t even know her last name, and I don’t need to.
What I know is that tonight I was a messenger, and the message was good.