The Angel in the Next Section

“For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

They will lift you up in their hands.”

Psalm 91:11-12

table in restaurant

I was sitting at lunch with my Mom in a local restaurant.  It had been a rough couple of days, the kind of days that came with one big punch to the gut after another.  The kind of days that you finally dusted yourself off and stood up, only to be knocked down once again. My Mom and I were talking about all the recent events and as hard as I had been trying to stay strong, power through, and keep my head up; those emotions had boiled over and tears were starting to well in my eyes.   I quickly used the napkin I had squeezed into a tiny ball to catch those tears before they fell.  A waitress was working another section, busily walking back and forth waiting on her tables. She caught my gaze as I wiped my tears and she smiled at me as she hurried past to place an order, pick up food, or do any of the other hundreds of tasks a waitress completes in that seemingly effortless manner. I didn’t know her, I hadn’t spoken to her but there was something so warm and comforting about her smile.  As we continued our meal, I was enjoying our lunch and the temporary break from the outside world that seemed to be closing in on me as of late; but as we talked, those relentless tears often surprised me and I wiped them away with that balled-up napkin before they could sneak down my cheeks. A few moments later, I was looking down at my plate when I noticed a stack of napkins appear on the side of our table. I looked up, expecting to see our waitress leaving the extra napkins in anticipation of our food being served – but it wasn’t her.  It was the lovely waitress with the kind smile from the nearby section.  She had noticed my tears and in a silent act of kindness, left those napkins for me.  I could only muster a thankful smile as she walked by so quickly.  Later, I was able to say ‘thank you’ to her and she just smiled that warm, kind smile.  There were no real words exchanged but I hoped that my gratitude wasn’t lost on her because her kindness was not lost on me.

It had been a long couple of days.  Actually, a long few months.  A devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis, medical procedures, harsh medicines, unpleasant side effects, professional losses, personal losses, upcoming surgery …  it seemed that the road was just getting harder and harder with every step. I was waiting for that relief, that deep breath… but it hadn’t happened.  As positive as I usually was and as hard as I looked to find the bright side in any situation, it was difficult when things started to pile up. It was then that I remembered that we had to remain strong, we had to remain hopeful, and we had to remain faithful – faithful that even in the most difficult times, especially in those difficult times, God was always with us.  God was always on our side. I’ve heard that quote about how God only chooses His strongest soldiers to fight His toughest battles. Well, I considered myself a pretty strong soldier and I assumed God did too…because He had given me one tough battle after another .. but along the way, He had also brought me everything I needed to fight those battles.

God had blessed me with a beautiful life. I had a delightful childhood.  I grew up surrounded by 14 acres of fields and woods and all that nature had to offer. I had two loving parents who loved me, supported me, and were always there for me. I had a brother who shared in all those childhood adventures, making forts and climbing trees, and doing all those things that today’s children were sadly missing.  I had childhood friends who grew up to be lifelong friends and although we didn’t see each other as often as we wanted, we were always there for each other, to this day.  I loved school and learning and worked hard for a degree that allowed me to pass that love of learning onto young children during my career.  I met a man who became my husband, my Superman as I called him, and we had two precious children.  They filled our home and our hearts with more love than I could ever have imagined. I had a huge support system of friends and loved ones who were there when I needed to laugh, to vent, or to cry.  I had an army of people ready and waiting to be called for duty at a moment’s notice. I had old friends and new friends and neighbors and doctors and nurses and so, so many people holding me together and pushing me forward.  I had more blessings in my life than I could count … but I still counted them every single day.  Even so, with all those blessings and all that support, there were times that I still felt alone, still felt the world caving in on me, still felt that I just might not be strong enough this time to handle one more blow.

Then, at my weekly appointment at the cancer center, the nurses helped to streamline the blood work appointments I had for my upcoming surgery.  They arranged for me to go to the clinic downstairs so that I would only have to be stuck with the needle once (a real relief for a cancer patient with bad chemo veins who has grown tired of the poking and prodding).  There was a smiling nurse at that clinic who chatted with me, offered support, gave me information to get my results quicker … who gave me a big hug as I left the office and told me she would pray for my surgery and for my health. I was treated to lunch by my wonderful Mom whom I could not possibly ever repay for all she has done for me.  Then, I was blessed by that sweet, caring, waitress whose kind gesture touched my heart.

I was amazed by the way God worked in my life.  My upbringing, my support system, my loving parents … all of it prepared me for what He planned for my life down the road. I could have never gotten through life’s challenges without all the lessons I have been taught. When I was diagnosed the first time with cancer, God placed the most wonderful people in my life.  Those people, some I knew well and some I didn’t, stepped up and helped me right when I needed it.  God led me to the best doctors, the most caring nurses, and those who helped me maneuver my illness and my treatment. When I received the news that my cancer had returned, it was devastating.  I had done everything I was supposed to do and more. I endured treatment and surgery and more treatment and medications …everything the doctors told me to do to prevent a recurrence, I did.  Still, the cancer came back.  The cancer spread. The cancer was in my bones and lungs.  The cancer was trying to destroy me and according to statistics, would do so in about two years. Some people would have curled up in a ball and accepted that death sentence.  Not me.  I had God on my side. I had faith that God may have given me another burden to bear but He hadn’t left me.  He wasn’t finished with me yet.  I knew that in my heart… but it was still hard sometimes, even for an extremely positive, always-looking-for-the-bright-side person like me.

Sometimes, in the dark times, we may have felt like God forgot about us.  We may have wondered if He realized that we were drifting in a sea of hurt, pain, or uncertainty.  We may have wondered if He was going to finally notice us and pull us back to shore.  A dear friend often said that we should never mistake God’s silence for His absence.  He was fighting for us behind the scenes, working for us in ways we didn’t even know.  It was during those times that we had to have faith that He was always with us.  Even during those times we were left to wonder, I believed that God would let us know that He was still there.  He would let us know that we just needed to hold on, that He was taking care of us. He did this in many ways but it was my belief that He often did this by sending us angels here on earth.

Our family, friends, and loved ones that God placed in our lives, either long ago or recently – those are our angels. Every person in our lives was put there for a reason.  Even those who teach us difficult lessons served a purpose. Those angels weren’t just people we knew and loved. Those angels were also complete strangers that showed us kindness.  Those angels reminded us that there are good people out there, that people wanted to help and serve others, that we were not alone in this world.  Those angels reminded us that God loved us and He was always there for us, even when we started to lose hope or felt we were drowning. Those angels were sent by God to help us in big ways … and those angels were sent by God to help us in small ways.  Those angels moved mountains for us. Those angels saved us from harm.  Those angels helped us make big decisions. Or, those angels simply left us some extra napkins to dry our tears. No matter what they did, they were sent by God to show us that He loved us, that He had not forgotten us, and that He was taking care of us, just like our angels took care of us on earth.  Our angels leave us with a sense of comfort, a sense of peace, and a promise that everything is going to be okay.  Today, my angel didn’t wear wings or leave a trail of feathers … she left a trail of napkins, a warm smile, and renewed sense of hope. That was just what I needed today and God knew it and that’s exactly why He sent her.

Thank you, my angel, for your kindness and thank you, God, for sending her my way.  It was just the ray of sunshine needed to break through the dark clouds that covered my blue sky today.

God bless you.

Author: Jennifer Lilley Collins

I'm a Mom, wife, daughter, and friend navigating life with metastatic breast cancer while finding joy in the everyday and spreading hope, love, and inspiration along the way.

2 thoughts on “The Angel in the Next Section”

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