by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper, 2/2012
“Angels are all around you.”
It’s maybe ten years ago, a beautiful Saturday morning and I’ve just left Saint Mary’s 9am mass.
There’s an absolutely lovely older woman standing there in front of the church, smiling at me, and she is telling me that angels are all around me.
And that morning, whether she knew it or not, I needed to hear it. And I believed it.
Although she was very well known to the community, I never got to know Ewa Jedrychowska, the lady who said that to me.
I saw her frequently at church, and there was something about her — the way she read the gospel with such sincerity and love. The way, after mass, when the priest would say, “Thanks for being here and have a great day,” and she would add, in her lovely accent, “And you too, Father, God bless you!”
Ewa was one of those women who got more beautiful as she grew older, and she had a light inside her that glowed so bright it could barely be contained. In spite of what she endured during World War II, there was always that smile, that loving kindness on her face. That serenity.
In reading her obituary this past week I was amazed by how well known and loved she was, and how active she was at Saint Mary’s Church, where she’d taught CCD (I’ll bet the kids loved her), served as lector and even tended the plants. I never knew she was elected to a seat on the Foxboro School Committee in 1994. I never knew how involved she was. So it is with angels.
Coming back from Communion that Sunday, I was thinking about a woman I barely knew, who said something to me on a morning I needed to hear it.
And now she’s gone.
And I got to thinking, that was her trademark phrase, “Angels are all around you.” A deeply spiritual woman, Ewa was likely speaking literally, and as a Catholic I like to think maybe — just maybe — she could actually see angels around me. God knows I need them.
But even if she was just speaking figuratively, there is something about the way she said it that made me think, that’s OK too. I’ve seen and befriended many angels in my life: The giants like Bob Shea, Whitey Vandenboom, Vin Igo, Lorraine and Stan Garland, Jerry Rodman — all angels who went beyond “above and beyond” and made such a difference, now each passed away and into loving memory.
And I think to myself, how many living angels I know these days. You know many of their names and what they do, I won’t embarrass them here but they are our “Community Angels.” Some act alone, some act under the auspices of fraternal organizations, not for profits, churches, and businesses. Many of their good works are known, so many others they do behind the scenes. They feed the hungry, they visit the sick and shut-ins, they pick up trash, drive the elderly to the doctor, water flowers on the common, donate time and money where it’s needed, take care of their kids, tend sick family members, participate in school activities, raise their family, and do thousands of other things large and small that make a huge difference.
Other angels work as police and firefighters, EMTs, nurses, caregivers, teachers, parents, and clergy. And some are just “ordinary folks” who still make a difference in a way that no one else can.
They are the angels, whether they know it or not.
Some of our angels are thinking of us and praying for us because of Face Book and other social media. I have noticed so many friends and associates battling illness or problems, asking for prayers and good thoughts. And we, their Face Book friends, rally and “storm Heaven with prayers.” In a very small way, we are their angels. That’s pretty cool.
We need our angels, especially today. It’s very easy to watch the news and see stories of natural disasters, political upheaval, campaign mudslinging, violent crime, cruelty against children, famine, wars… and to get so very discouraged. It’s easy to want to just give up on the human race. Without being funny, sometimes I hear about the whole “End of the world in December 2012″ thing and I think to myself, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if Earth just blows up.
But that’s when someone like Ewa would appear and remind you that angels are all around you. That there IS good around everywhere. That so many people who care about you and your well being — whether you meet them or not, are working to help you, protect you and are thinking of you. That so many people work to make their community better. That there are so many people, like Ewa, who make our days better, and can change our entire perspective, by a few well timed words of kindness.
None of us are perfect, most of us wouldn’t consider ourselves “angels,” and we all have more than enough reasons to be discouraged and beat ourselves up. But think of all the angels around you. Now think of all the ways YOU make things better for others, even in small ways. That’s being an angel.
Rest in peace, Ewa. I didn’t know you very well, and that is my loss. But please know the profound difference you made that morning when you said those beautiful words:
“Angels are all around you.”