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Thursday, November 28, 2019

A True Story about an Angel

The angel in question 

Tuesday morning, November 26, I was feeling overwhelmed. The week before I had made a trip to Washington, DC, to attend the Poland: First to Fight conference, where I was an invited speaker. I drove alone in a twenty-year-old car. I stayed the first night in Maryland, with a friend from high school. After that I was in a hotel in DC. I'm chronically ill and Tuesday, November 19, was a bad night. No sleep and lots of pain.

No matter. I had to get up on Wednesday and deliver my talk. Overall, I loved the conference. I talk more about it here and here.

Taking time off from work left me with a lot of work when I got back. I was frantically trying to catch up with semester-end attention to students. I was also freaking out because I had not cleaned in a while.


That morning I received an email from Bill, an old grade-school and high-school friend who is now a lawyer. Last year he kindly volunteered to walk me through legal issues around my brother Joe's death. I had gone to legal aid and legal aid made it almost impossible to talk to a real person. I had to fill out forms, make appointments, and wait forever. After the long wait, every last thing that legal aid lawyer told me, with such pompous feigned authority, turned out not to be true.

Thank God for Bill. I don't know how to thank Bill for Bill.

It looks like the legal matters around my brother Joe's death will be resolved soon.

Feeling sad. My family, the only family I've ever had, is almost all dead.


Obsessing on my students.

Thinking about my family, each in turn, my mother, my father, my brothers, my sister, our dogs and cats.

A while back, I donated some money to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It's in DC, and it's the biggest Catholic Church in America.

As a thank you, they sent me a Christmas carol CD in the mail. I wasn't sure what it would sound like. I put the CD on the player to have some music while cleaning.

I reached up above a cupboard to dust some objects up there.

I own as little as possible. I'm not into stuff. I don't have knickknacks; I don't even have posters on my walls.

But after Joe died I was invited to go through his house, what was once my house, and take stuff.

My God, what do you take?

My mother was big on knickknacks. Many of her knickknacks were still there, almost two decades after her death. Even though I didn't much want them, I was horrified by the inevitable: strangers would soon enter this house and sell or junk things that had been precious to my mother, and that I associated with her.

I took a ceramic owl, a snow globe, and the angel you see pictured here. I also took some linens that my mom had apparently purchased on her final visit to her birthplace, Slovakia. She had packed those linens away and they were as fresh and crisp as when she first bought them. I resolved to use them. I do.

I have had the knickknacks in my apartment for the year and a half since Joe's death.

I pay just about zero attention to them.

Tuesday morning, while dusting, I realized that the angel has a music box inside. I looked at it. What song does it play, I wondered?

The little label affixed to the bottom of the angel statue said, "Do not over wind."

At that moment, my little voice said, "You have to listen to this song now. It will be a message."

I said yeah, right. What message would my deceased mother or brother send me? Nothing positive. Our family was not lovey-dovey. Understatement.

My little voice was insistent, and it was urgent. It kept saying, "You have to hear this song now. Right now. It won't be the same later. You have to hear it at this moment."

I was like, all right, all right.

I played the music box song.

It was "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

I thought, okay, nice song, but ...

and then I realized that the exact song playing on the CD I had just received in the mail from the Basilica, at that exact same moment that I was listening to the angel music box was "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

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