Grief, Gratitude, and Guardian Angels


I missed the memo about grief, gratitude, and guardian angels.

A few weeks ago, I used this little platform to spread the word and raise money for my friend, Dianne.  To anyone who took the time to read about Dianne and to say a little prayer for her, I thank you.  If you kicked in a few dollars to help her family in their time of need, I thank you.  It was absolutely amazing to see the outpouring of support from friends and strangers alike.  There are truly angels among us, I think. (More on that in a second.)

When I received the news that Dianne had died, I was getting ready to take my son to a birthday party.  It was one of those parties in the park, complete with bouncy house and popcorn machine.   As I sat there in a rented plastic folding chair, trying to make small talk with the other moms, I really just wanted to scream.  It was making me kind of crazy to experience the celebration of one life while I grieved the loss of another.  It was surreal and uncomfortable, and I just counted the minutes until I could go home and cry.

But then the Angels showed up.

No, not actual celestial beings, but pretty damn close.  You see, the mom of the birthday boy happened to be from Brazil, so they got the party going, Carnival-style.  When the party games were ramping up, Mom and her sisters strapped on these amazing angel wings and danced around a bit.  Now, I’ve been to a few birthday parties in my day, and I’ve seen a few special guests in attendance.  Clowns?  Yes.  Princesses?  Absolutely.  Super Heroes?  Sure.  But angels?  This was a first.

And yeah, some of the dads were cracking wise with the Victoria's Secret jokes.
There must be an angel playing with my heart.                         (Bonus points if you remember that song.)

I’m usually not big on signs and superstition, but as I watched these gorgeous angels flitting about the party, I thought to myself, “Thank you, Dianne.”  The rational part of my brain acknowledges this was a simple coincidence, but my heart was lighter, nonetheless.

In the days since Dianne’s death, I’ve been experiencing grief and gratitude as two sides of the same coin.  I catch myself thinking of Dianne during hard moments…when I’m cleaning up toddler vomit, or stuck in traffic, or in some interminable work meeting,  or scrubbing the toilet the 6-year-old boy uses.  I know being diagnosed with cancer didn’t immunize Dianne from the petty frustrations of life,  but I can’t help thinking how grateful Dianne would have been if she had regained the strength to care for her kids the way she had wanted to, or how thrilled she would have been to be well enough to drive herself anywhere, and how happy she would have been to return to the career she had worked so hard to pursue.

I still complain way too much about all the things I’m healthy and strong enough to do. But now Dianne, the guardian angel of my perspective, will always inhabit a little corner of my heart and head. And sometimes, she reminds me to transform my complaints about having to do something into celebrating being able to do something.

I wish more than anything that Dianne did not have to be the messenger, so I am grieving and grateful, and memo received.

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