Abby's Angels

Her daughter's newest drawings differed from the stick figures she usually favored.

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One of Abby's angel drawings

“Mommy, I want to go home.”

It was heartbreaking to see my seven-year-old like this. “Honey, you are home,” I said, stroking her face. “We’ve left the hospital. This is your bed. And I’m right here. You had a really bad fall and need a long rest.”

“I don’t remember falling.” Abby sounded scared—my fearless tomboy was never scared. At least she never had been, until the accident.

“You were climbing the tree next door...” I reminded her.

Even now, a week later, the memory of that day made my chest tighten. I was in the house when I heard Maggie, my nine-year-old, scream. I ran outside to where Abby lay on the sidewalk. Lifeless. Blood streamed from her ear.

Maggie said Abby had reached for a branch that snapped. I looked to where Maggie was pointing. Abby had fallen 30 feet!

“Maggie go inside and call 911,” I said, barely aware of my own voice. I bent down next to Abby. Was she breathing? I prayed—no, begged—God to keep her alive. Please, God, save her.

It seemed forever before the paramedics arrived. They strapped Abby to a backboard and lifted her into the ambulance. I called a friend to take Maggie. Then I called my husband at work.

At the hospital doctors and nurses worked over Abby’s body, their faces grim. “She’s coming to,” I heard one of them finally say.

I stayed by her side for five days at the hospital. Abby had suffered multiple skull fractures and faded in and out of consciousness. Her father and I told her how much we loved her. But I wasn’t sure she even knew we were there.

I called a national prayer line. Friends and family prayed as well. It had been easy to believe God was watching over her when her every action was full of life. Where were her guardian angels now, while she was quiet, helpless?

The strong, confident daughter I knew was slipping away. After weeks of rest, her brain would begin slowly healing on its own. But she would need therapy to relearn the knowledge and skills she’d lost, and we might see permanent damage. It would take years to know for sure.

“Expect some memory loss,” her doctor said, “headaches, trouble thinking clearly. It will be important to avoid stressful situations. I’m sorry. I wish I had better news.”

Abby was discharged under strict orders to stay in bed for six weeks. How was I going to entertain her?

“I bought you a drawing pad and some pencils,” I told Abby. “For now you just need to take it easy.”

Abby never had much time for drawing. She couldn’t sit still long enough to do more than a few stick figures. But now things were different. I spread the drawing materials out on the bed. “I just want to go home,” Abby said.

I guessed this was the kind of confused thinking the doctor had warned about. “Honey, this is your bed. This is your room,” I said. “I’m going to put in a load of laundry. I’ll be right back.” Abby nodded and I slipped out of her room.

When I looked in on her five minutes later Abby was sitting up, the pad in her lap, busily drawing, intently focused. I thanked God for whatever it was that had captured her imagination and brought her peace. I went to make her lunch.

“Hungry?” I asked when I got back to her room. Abby was still engrossed in her artwork. On the nightstand I noticed a piece of paper she’d torn from the pad: a drawing.

I was astonished when I picked it up. The care, the detail—I never would have taken it for one of Abby’s drawings. This was no stick figure. It was an angel with long flowing hair, her arms open wide with beautiful wings that stretched across the page. “This is really nice,” I said.

Abby looked up from her work and glanced at the completed angel. “That’s Peace,” she said.

“Peace? You did an amazing job of drawing her,” I said. “Very creative.”

“Not really,” Abby said. “That’s what she looks like.” I took comfort in knowing that Abby was using her imagination. That was a good sign.

The next day Abby got back to her drawing. She didn’t seem as afraid and worked with confidence. More like her old self. “You’re busy,” I said, picking up her breakfast dishes. On the nightstand were elaborate drawings of two more angels. Why this sudden focus on angels?

Above each of these angels Abby had written names. Ruth and Amy. Names more common than Peace, but still... “I see you are giving the angels names. That is very clever.”

“They told me what their names were. When I saw them.”

“Saw them? You mean in your imagination?”

“No,” Abby said. “In the hospital. The room would get fuzzy and then suddenly there were angels all around me. In a giant circle. Mommy, they were so pretty. And happy. They made me feel happy. And safe. Mary, Jesus’ mommy was there. And her cousin Elizabeth. And behind them, I saw God sitting on a big gold throne.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“I want to go back there,” Abby said. “I want to go home.” I swept her into my arms and held her close. Instead of sending angels to Abby, God had brought Abby to him for a glimpse of heaven, where the angels live.

“One day you’ll go back there,” I said. “But now God wants you here with Daddy and me and Maggie.” Abby squeezed me tight. In her six weeks of bed rest Abby drew 50 different angels. Each of them unique. Radiant. Good company in her recovery. 

She stopped drawing them when she was ready to go back to school. Not only that: She went back to drawing stick figures. But I didn’t worry. I felt sure the angels would stay near. After all, Abby knew them by name.

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