The Red Angel
In a fit of rage I destroyed his spiral bound book of poetry entitled, Beyond Here There Be Dragons. I was so angry when my life partner, Brice Frederick Adair, passed away February 20th, 2002. Our son, Lucas, was only five years old back then. Thrown into single parenting, I was left to navigate through a convoluted grief, torn between sorrow and liberation. When Lucas wrote his first poem, I wished I could turn back the hands of time and pass this book of poetry from father to son. In addition I have a growing desire to share Brice’s written legacy with his own father, Fred Adair. Brice and Fred had been estranged, not speaking to one another for years prior to his death. Diagnosed with bipolar disease Brice suffered the tragic life of an addict. There were many years of sustained recovery interwoven with relapse. During his years of sobriety Brice succeeded in helping many addicts live productive, useful lives, yet he could not find his own way on this earth. Brice died the horrible tragic death of active addiction. One of his brothers, who came from California to Maine for the funeral, found an active script for Oxycontin in his apartment. In health Brice was a fun loving genius of a man. Once called ungovernable, he wore this rebellious quality with pride.
Lucas is now 15. For the past 8 years I have worked full-time as a substance abuse counselor in a hospital-based intensive outpatient program for recovering addicts and alcoholics. In addition as a full-time student of ChIME, The Chaplaincy Institute of Maine, my studies will culminate in ordination as an interfaith minister in 2012. I have been active in the Swedenborgian faith for the past 14 years as a worship leader of The Portland New Church. During the month of February 2010, our church community dedicated worship to exploring the theme of Angels. In preparation to lead our community prayer-time, I googled prayers to angels. A Catholic web-site displayed a prayer to guardian angels, which I modified and began to recite daily. “Angel of Light, guardian dear, to whom spirit’s love commits me here, ever this day by my side, illumine my path and be my guide.”
After repeating this simple prayer, the morning came when in an altered state of meditation, she appeared. Her eyes, her face and long flowing red hair shined so brightly I believed she might burst into flames. Immersed in the study of angels I came across Seraphim angels and learned the origin of the word seraphim, translated from Hebrew, means fiery serpent. Each Seraphim angel is said to have 6 wings, while Swedenborgian theology suggests angels are ascended human beings and therefore have no wings at all. In my fleeting image the angel’s face drew intimately close and then faded into the background. She uttered not a word. I looked for wings. She did seem to be floating. Her shimmering red dress, a vermillion red like her hair, swirled about her. Awestruck by her beauty I desperately wanted to hold onto this vision. She vanished.
By the time I arrived at work, memory of the red angel began to slip away, like a dream. Until, there in my inbox was a feminine image bearing a remarkable resemblance to my guardian angel. Normally I pay no attention these emails, especially those which require the recipient to forward the contents to 10 friends within an allotted time frame with the promise of a wish come true. Below this email the caption, from the devil, read; “Damn, She is up before me again” and underneath was the image of a woman with long red hair garbed in a flowing red dress. I made my wish. I wished for Beyond Here There Be Dragons to find its way home. In addition to the original Brice gave to me, I knew he made multiple copies and gave a few to beloved friends. As I listed email addresses in the forwarding box, it dawned on me, Brice’s best female friend works along side me here at Mercy. I trotted across the hall and asked Georgia if she had a copy of the lost manuscript. Unfortunately, she hadn’t even heard of it. Then she rattled off names of a few other friends I might contact. In gratitude I set right upon the task and made another call. No one I succeeded in contacting had a copy. Only one friend even thought he remembered the book of poems and suggested yet another person who might have it. This turned out to be another dead end.
Time passed. I continued to pray to my guardian angel, and two more images of radiant women in red serendipitously found their way to me.
That is when I decided to draw my own rendition of my vision. I created this drawing after a period of silence spent in the studio of my good friend and classmate Sarah Shepley. Sarah, a celebrated book artist, guided my process as I hand crafted a book to honor the red angel and titled the artwork the Angelica Rosa.
The next chapter in this saga involves my best friend, Betsy, a corporate lawyer. We were born just days apart from one another and have both given birth to sons. Her eldest, Harry and my only son Lucas were born the same summer. Betsy and I first met ballroom dancing. We lost track of each other when we left the dance scene to begin raising families. Our paths did not cross again until after Brice died. We were with our boys in a YMCA pool. Betsy approached me with condolences. As it turns out Betsy got to know Brice through her friendship with his former wife who is a Maine Judge. Betsy and her husband John mentioned how they thought Lucas looked like his Dad. With the exception of one of Brice’s brothers, no one else sees the resemblance while people constantly comment on Lucas being my mirror image. Our friendship grew deeper with the bonds of children. When Lucas was seven and came of age to be blessed with god parents in our church, I asked Betsy and John. They agreed with one request, that we consider the whole family a god family. The boys have grown up as brothers and Marny, Betsy’s youngest, is like a daughter to me.
On the 8th anniversary of Brice’s death February 20th, 2010, I was working a Saturday family day shift at the recovery center. Betsy has on occasion come over to the center for lunch during the work week, never before on a Saturday. She did not know it was the anniversary of Brice’s passing. We were in my office chatting away. I asked Betsy if in her preparation to move this spring she was attempting to lesson the clutter in her life. Betsy reminded me that she and John sold their home while the new one is still under construction. All their treasured possessions are tucked safely away in boxes, piled high in the basement of their interim living space. Betsy shared her plan to encourage family members, while they unpack, to sift through items they no longer want and put them in the garage. During their house warming, rather than bringing gifts, Betsy will insist everyone take something when they leave. Betsy turned to me and said, “In fact I think I have a book of Brice’s.” I thought she was referring to a regular novel. Then she casually mentioned, “I think it has the word Dragon in the title.” I’m sure I scared poor Betsy when I burst into a torrent of tears, sobbing freely. Stunned, Betsy reached out her hand. When I told her the entire story combined with this date being the anniversary of Brice’s death, we both sat in awe. Betsy confessed she wanted to rush home and start sifting through boxes. I adamantly refused to let her. I assured her the move in late spring or early summer would be soon enough. Another confession followed. Betsy said she remembers sitting with the spiral bound book of poems placed in front of her as she pondered, “save it or pitch it?” Betsy told me she did not remember which decision she made. With conviction I told her not to worry. I have absolute faith the book is on its way back to me.
How could it be any different? Out of the blue Betsy mentions the book on the anniversary of Brice’s death. Surely this serendipity is too miraculous not to be a sign. In attempt to shore up my chances of success Betsy told me of two other people to contact, one being Brice’s ex-wife. Truth be told, I am more willing to wait for Betsy to forage through boxes than I am eager to contact Ellen.
Lucas overheard my telling how this book of poems was never published.
He came to me and announced he wants to publish the book for his dad.
What a terrific idea.
When I shared my journey with my spiritual mentor, Gina, she said, “How beautiful, God chose your best friend to be the container until your healing is complete.” Her comment resonated with me and left me to wonder when and if my healing will ever be complete.
February passed into March and then into April. Betsy followed my wishes and has not gone searching through the tower of boxes in her basement. All other efforts to contact possible sources have had empty results.
Easter Sunday brought another unexpected development. I was preparing to present to my class on Spiritualism for my world religion report.
In order to have my presentation ready, complete with the required attendance at a worship service in the Spiritualist faith, I attended the Portland Spiritualist Church on Easter night. The worship service was in three parts, a sermon, hands-on healing, and readings from a visiting medium, a local woman named Susan. The medium first approached a member of the congregation and asked if she might enter their space. She proceeded to deliver a message from the congregant’s loved one now in the spirit world. Next she looked in my direction and asked me, “May I come in?” I nodded my head. Was I inviting her into my space, my energy, my life, my journey? Susan said she saw the image of a tall man with short hair. Then she corrected herself and said, “No, long hair.” She corrected herself again and said, “He has short hair now.” I knew this was Brice. He was six feet four inches tall and wore his hair short until he relapsed into active addiction. His hair grew long and straggly. I hated it. The medium looked at me and said, “I know this is hard for you, he wants me to tell you he is sorry and that he is watching you. He says you have such courage and have gained strength.” I sat paralyzed in my seat. Still saddled with resentment I recalled the lyrics, “Papa was a rolling stone and when he left us, all he left us was alone.” Susan must have seen the tension in my face and posture. She said, “There is much he wants to tell you. He claims he does not need to use me to tell you.” Then she asked me, “Does he come to you in your dreams?” Again I nod my head. The medium nods her approval and says, “Before I leave you there is something he is showing me.” She holds out her hands, elbows by her side, palms up, then interprets, “I see a body of writing, more than a letter and not a hard-bound book.” the medium states, “He wants me to tell you he can bring this home to you but he needs you to do something for him. I see you putting this writing into a mailing envelope. Do you understand?” Once more I am crying. This time softly. She has delivered this message to me from Brice on Easter Sunday. I now know this healing journey is not for me alone. Once the book of poems finds it’s way back to me, I will mail a copy to Santa Rosa, California to Brice’s father. Lucas plans to publish his father’s poetry. Even Brice, in the angelic realm is healing. Small, like a pebble, my healing journey is cast into still water and ripples out in ever greater concentric circles.