Last weekend, in the name of togetherness, Dale and I bartered. I’d go with him to the electronics store, if he would come with me to “America’s Largest Antiques and Collectibles Show” at the fairgrounds near our house. We hit the Show first and clipped along because I figured (and I was right) that I had about 20 minutes to shop for a treasure before he started feigning exhaustion. We were moving so fast (by my standards) through aisles of dolls, dishes and dainties, that I almost sailed past the booth of “It’s A Wonderful Life” (click to watch 60 second clip) memorabilia. Dale slowed me down and pointed to the attractive older woman who stood in the middle, signing posters, DVD’s and books. He then pointed to banner above her head:
“MEET ZUZU”. (Click for "Zuzu" site)
It took a second to register…then…oh my goodness! It was the actress who played the littlest Bailey:
“Look, Daddy. Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”
I admit to being star struck for a second before blurting:
“Zuzu’s an antique!”
Though Zuzu and her petals were adorable in the Christmas classic, my favorite character has always been the eternally bumbling, but oh-so heartwarming, “Clarence”. Here’s why:
I know we’re not supposed to aspire to particular callings in the Church. Primary, Sunday School, Seminary, Young Women, Relief Society…it has all been grand. But there is one position that, like Alma (Alma 29:1), I admit to coveting -
The Best Job in the Whole Kingdom:
First Class. (Actually, I’d be thrilled with Second Class – but I’m naturally ambitious and would certainly try to earn my “wings” as soon as possible.)
I’m not talking about counterfeit angels (2 Ne. 9:9), or those who receive the unpleasant assignments like vengeance on the wicked. I am talking about the Angel rank who get to open dispensations (D&C 128:20), or make good guys out of bad guys (Alma 27:11-17), or deliver tidings of great joy with heavenly hosts singing back-up (Luke 2:13-14). I love angels.
And I’ve loved them ever since they became regular guests in our home; that is, ever since Ashley was born.
When my baby was all cleaned up and swaddled, the labor and delivery nurse placed her in my arms and said something I will never forget: “A perfect little girl.”
Ashley was about 24 months old when we finally received a diagnosis that explained her inability to crawl, toddle or talk: severe, bi-lateral, diffuse brain-injury.
Twenty-eight years later, I can testify that the nurse was prophetic. Ashley is indeed perfect; so, perfect, that the angels are her closest friends.
From her earliest days on earth, Ashley has been fascinated by light. You may have noticed the same characteristic in your own newborns. Their little eyes rivet on the brightest light in their immediate environment. Tantrums often ebb to a snivel when they notice the bulb, the lamp, the stream of sunshine reaching into the crib. Besides this fixation with light, Ashley would also become engrossed with blank, white walls. Her stare was so intent, I sometimes waved my hand so that it passed through the air at the point of interest, wondering what I might be “touching”… something, or someone, Ashley could see, but I could not.
Ashley is generally a silent person. She has never spoken one word and goes day after day without voicing at all. But on occasion, on very specific, predictable occasions, Ashley makes a lot of noise. Whenever we have moved into a new ward, it has taken the members a few weeks to adjust to the fact that hymns are sung, babies are blessed, missionaries give farewells, and baptisms are performed with Ashley squealing joyfully in the background.
It takes only a little observation to realize, or sense, that Ashley is not making random sounds. She is communicating. Enraptured, she focuses on a spot in the room, usually near the ceiling, and goes to town – expressing herself with happy abandon. It’s a trial for me, as her mother, not to squelch the “conversation” in deference to all the rest of us, for whom the veil remains as thick as brick. But our fellow Saints have figured it out by and by through the years: Ashley is a living Spirit-O-Meter. When she’s rock- and- rolling we’ve got company – heavenly company.
These sessions between Ashley and the Angels are not limited to the chapel. As the kids were growing up, you could count on family prayer or Family Home Evening to have a drop-in or two. One of those evenings proved especially memorable for our family…
Ashley started up with the “angel talk” (as our elementary-school-aged kids referred to the phenomenon) at our very first notes of “I Believe in Christ” (which was one of our favorites, and apparently, one of the angels’ favorites). We sang over her loud jabbering as best we could while she nearly jumped out of her skin, captivated by something in the corner of our living room, right above the television set. One of the kids said the opening prayer. The bubbly banter continued. I began to teach the lesson. Ashley’s excitement (and the decibel level involved) only increased. It had been a long day and my patience was wearing thin. I just wanted to get through that lesson, get the kiddos to bed, and flop on the couch.
When I realized I was nearly shouting to be heard by the rest of the family, my exasperation reached its peak. I looked up and turned around to face the corner where our visitor was obviously hovering and said very politely, if not matter-of-factly (over Ashley’s cries):
“Would you mind moving to another part of the room so that I can continue the lesson?”
What happened next absolutely floored us.
Ashley’s ‘shouts of exaltation’ instantly – and I mean instantly - melted into tiny whimpers.
“Mmmmm?” She looked to her left and then her right, alarmed.
“Mmmmm?” She looked over her shoulder with a bewildered expression.
“Mmmmm?” She was about to cry.
The rest of us sat in stunned silence for a long minute.
“Well…” our oldest son broke the spell tentatively, “that proves it. Not that we needed proof! But………that proves it.” His last words dissolved into a whisper, his blue eyes as wide as I’d ever seen them.
“Mona,” my husband at last spoke up solemnly, “you scared them away.”
“No I did not! I just asked them to go to another part of the room! I didn’t mean they had to leave!”
They probably did not actually leave. More likely, they just disappeared. And I’m certain they reappeared, the next night, and the next, and the next. Angels love homes where the Spirit abounds. Angels love the Sacrament and family prayer and hymn singing. And most of all – I’m sure of it – angels love babies, and little children, and hurt people like Ashley (3rd Nephi 17).
You see now why I’d like to be an angel? What better company to be in than the Pure and Innocent of the earth? However, since the office of Angel appears by all scriptural accounts to be a Priesthood function, I will be “content with the things the Lord hath allotted unto me”(Alma 29:3): living with Ashley who speaks “the tongue of angels” (2 Nephi 32:2-3) fluently.
And that is, after all, a rather wonderful life. (Click to watch 60 sec. trailer)
Thank you for your birthdday wishes at "Cherry-ty (Over Chocolate) Never Faileth". And holy kisses (Romans 16:16) to my Follower Friends
OTHER READER FAVORITES: "Who's Body Is It Anyway?" , "Leave it There"