Protecting Mother and Daughter

I was worried about moving to our new house, but the angels weren't.

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Posted in , Feb 11, 2010

The wooden angel who watches over JJ and Gail

Boxes filled the bedroom.

We had only days to go before my daughter, J.J., and I had to move.

But I was having second thoughts. Downstairs, the front door slammed and J.J. called up to me. “Mama,” she said. “Guess what? I saw another angel today!”

I wasn’t too surprised. With all the time J.J. spent at the little church next door to our house, angel sightings had become a common occurrence.

Although she was an adult, J.J. had Down syndrome, so there weren’t many places she could go on her own. At our church, I knew she was safe with her friends among the staff and congregation.

J.J. ran up the stairs and frowned at all the boxes. “I don’t want to move!” she announced.

“I know, sweetie,” I said. “But you’ll like our new house. You wait and see.”

“I don’t want to move!” J.J. said and stormed out of the room.

Lord, am I making a mistake? I thought as I taped up a box of linens. Our neighborhood had become rife with crime. We just weren’t safe. But how could I tear J.J. away from our church—and her angels?

I thought back to all my weeks of house-hunting. One afternoon the real-estate agent finally showed me a place that felt right to me. “What’s that on the side of the house?” I asked, pointing to the outline of a wooden figure someone had hung for decoration.

“A wooden angel. Isn’t it sweet? And it comes with the house.” It felt like a sign. We may not have a church next door to rely on for support, I thought, but J.J.’s angels will be here waiting for her.

J.J. didn’t agree. She sulked for weeks over the move. The chilly day we left our old house for the last time she fought back tears. Even a promise of ice cream didn’t help.

“J.J., remember the big angel I told you about on the front of the new house?” I asked. “She will be there to protect you. So you don’t have to worry about leaving the church behind.”

But I wasn’t sure I believed it any more than she did. A wooden angel was nice, but it couldn’t replace the real angels that filled our little church, angels J.J. had seen herself, even if I couldn’t. Who will I rely on to watch over her now that I can’t? I thought.

I barely glanced at the wooden angel when we got to our new house. Neither did a tearful J.J. We unpacked as much as we could, then fell asleep exhausted.

I woke with a start. Five a.m. Something wasn’t right. I have to check on J.J. I got out of bed and went into her room. Her new bed was empty.

“J.J.!” I called, running through the house. “J.J., where are you?” The house was empty. But where could she be? If only we still lived next to the church I’d know exactly where to find her. She’d be in God’s house with her angels. But the only angel in this house is made of wood, I thought bitterly. “J.J.!”

“I’m out here, Momma!” I heard J.J. call. I ran toward her voice in the kitchen. When I looked out the glass door that led to the porch I saw her sitting on a bench in her pajamas. It was below freezing outside! Yet she had no shoes, no socks, no coat. She was ice cold and shivering. Her lips were blue. “J.J., how long have you been sitting out here?”

“All night,” she said. “The door got stuck. I was locked out. But an angel came and sat with me.”

All night in the cold with only an angel to keep her warm? I wasn’t taking any chances with J.J.’s health. I called 911. The paramedic checked J.J.’s vital signs. Her heart rate was normal. So was her pulse. No signs of infection or frostbite.

“I don’t understand it,” he said, closing his medical bag. “She’s perfectly fine.”

It was still early when I tucked J.J. back in bed. I got to work on the unpacking. Yet my mind kept wandering to the night before. I couldn’t get the image out of my head: an angel comforting my daughter, sitting beside her on the porch, watching over her. That angel is here watching over us, in this house, I thought. And always will be.

Things got easier. For J.J.—and for me. In our new town J.J. grew more independent. It showed in little ways. First she asked for a new hairstyle at the beauty shop, then she insisted on splitting the grocery list with me so she could help with the shopping.

The move gave me a new confidence too. We didn’t have to live across the street from a church to be near the angels. Angels were all around.

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