I have friends and relatives that believe in angels. Religious people who believe in the power of prayer and the love of God. And I cannot say that I do not also believe. But I also happen to believe that angels live among us.
My Great Grandma Nellie Hinckley was, as far as I am concerned, an angel. Born in the late 1800’s, she was a practical prairie farmer’s wife. She knew how to make butter in a churn. She knew how to treat bee stings and spider bites. She knew how to cook good, wholesome food that stuck to your ribs and kept you going until the next meal rolled around. She knew how to cook on a wood-burning stove, and knew why you needed to keep corn cobs in a pile by the outhouse door. Or, in the case of rich folks, why you needed to read the Sears catalog in the little room behind the cut-out crescent moon.
She also knew how to head a family. She had seven kids and raised six of them up to adulthood. She sent a son off to World War II. She had nine grandchildren and more great grandchildren, of which I was one of the not-so-great ones, than I can even count on two hands and two feet, the toes of which I can’t always see. Great great grandchildren were even greater. Tell me you can’t believe she was a messenger from God, always knowing God’s will, and making the future happen with a steady hand, and eyes that brooked no nonsense from lie-telling boys.
Mother Mendiola was an angel too. I met her at my first school, Frank Newman Junior High in Cotulla, Texas. She was the seventh grade Life Science teacher. She had been a nun before becoming a teacher, and she was a single lady her whole life. But she was a natural mother figure to the children in her classes. She’s the one who taught me how to talk to fatherless boys, engage them in learning about things that excited them, and become a lifelong mentor to them, willing to help them with life’s problems even long after they had graduated from both junior high and high school. She was not only a mother to students, but she nurtured other teachers as well. She showed Alice and I how to talk to Hispanic kids even though we were both so white we almost glowed in the dark. She went to bat for kids who got in trouble with the principal, and even those who sometimes got into trouble with the law. She had a way of holding her hand out to kids and encouraging them to place their troubles in it. She even helped pregnant young girls with wise counsel and a loving, accepting heart, even when they were seriously in the wrong. When they talk about being an “advocate for kids” in educational conferences, they always make me picture her and her methods. I can still see her in my mind’s eye with clenched fists on her hips and saying, “I am tired of it, and it will get better NOW!” And it always got better. Because she was an angel. She had the power of the love of God behind her every action and motivation. It still makes me weep to remember she is gone now. She got her wings and flew on to other things a long time ago now.
Some people may call it a blasphemy for me to say that these people, no matter how good and critically important they were, could really be angels. But I have to say it. I have to believe it. I know this because I saw them do these things, with my own two eyes, and how could they not be messengers from God? It convinces me that I need to work at becoming an angel too.