Redefining Angels

“To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” — Mahatma Gandhi

A few weeks back my only brother suddenly passed away. Still very surreal to think of Steve in the past tense. We weren’t the closest of brothers, but a brother is a brother, and gone, sadly, is any opportunity for two brothers to ever have the chance to perhaps build a bridge between them.

Steve was a carpenter by trade, his skills simply outstanding, far beyond my brotherly pride. It was said by someone at his wake perhaps God was putting on a new addition and needed the best carpenter he could find. If that was the case, God, you made the right choice.

THE GLOWING HEART My brother was more than your typical tradesman. He was seasoned, at times gruff, always colorfully opinionated. A beer drinker’s beer drinker. Yet Steve was wonderfully cerebral, a voracious appetite for knowledge, well versed in the affairs of the world. I don’t know of any other carpenter with Winston Churchill books on their nightstand.

But underneath it all there was something unsuspectingly angelic.

I never thought of Steve as an angel, not with his sometimes-salty vocabulary, not dressed in his work boots. That’s because I bought into the idea of what angels are supposed to look like. In our minds we have an almost Disney-esque image of angels, all dressed in white and glowing, complete with halo and wings. And perhaps somewhere angels really do look like this. But here on Earth, angels walk among us, dressed in the ordinary, and what glows is their heart expressing its compassion towards others.

BEYOND WINGS AND HALOS His wake was amazing. For three hours, his friends shared with us their stories of my brother, one after another offering their testimony how Steve had deeply touched their own lives, and how his passing created a hole in their lives as well as our own.

These weren’t your typical “he was a nice guy” comments. My brother had moved these people in his own unique way, many the recipient of Steve’s unselfish acts of compassion, tearfully sharing how he had quietly helped out during a time of need. I’m sure he never thought of his deeds as the work of an angel, which makes his actions that much more angelic.

Perhaps it is time to redefine angels in a more human context. If we are looking to the heavens for wings and halos, we’ll never witness the miracles of the ordinary angels already surrounding us. When we redefine the very realm of angels in terms of the humanly ordinary, suddenly we all have the ability to be angelic. We all have the capacity to contribute our own unselfish acts of compassion. We all have the ability to lighten the load of another, even if all we have to offer is a smile, a blessing, or our respect.

STRANGELY EMPOWERED The loss of a loved one is never easy. Time never heals, it just gives you a different perspective. As we paid our last respects to Steve I had never been as proud of him as I was in that tragic final moment, deeply saddened by his loss yet strangely empowered by his legacy. I was blessed to discover a side of him that his humble nature and pride would never have wanted me to see.

An angel.

Peace, my brother. Peace.

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