Sunday, February 1, 2009

Angel Talkin'

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.”

I chaffed.

“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"


Hannah Banana said...

It's all true. Every part of it! I was there! :) he he Ashely IS our spirit-o-meter, and I feel closer to God because of her in our lives.

I also love angels. Because of my interest (now my college major), I have always felt a closeness to my ancestors and my future children. Especially in trying times I have felt their actual presence. They are real And as servants of the Lord, and family members to us, they are leading us along - just as anxious for us to succeed. That's why I loved Elder Holland's talk in this past general conference. He testified of angels. They are not just figurines with wings, or people who show up only at grand occasions, but they are actually involved in our daily lives, each step of the way.

And it just so happens - I have one for a sister. :) I love you Ashley!

Elisabeth said...

I have been looking forward to your regular Sunday post all day, and I was not disappointed as usual!
Reading this special post made me think back to my first day in the Longwood Ward. I was 17 and did not know anybody in that ward. As I walked into the young women’s room panic suddenly filled my heart because I did not know where to sit and had no one to talk to. I felt momentarily alone. But I looked around and saw Ashley sitting near the front of the room by herself. There was something about her that welcomed me and made me feel comfortable so I went over, took a seat next to her and put my arm around the back of her chair. I instantly felt at home in my new surroundings. She is indeed a special spirit.
I am so excited for resurrection day when Ashley will be able to look you squarely in the eyes and tell you how much she loves and appreciates you. I am sure she has attempted on many occasions to do just that. You are her Angel. What a glorious day it will be for your family.

Kym said...

oh! happy late birthday. don't forget me!!! I want to be a follower!! :) its been a busy week & I haven't had a chance to add myself to your list. I'm doing it RIGHT now!! love you!!

Bubbles said...

A very sweet thing to read. Thanks Ramona.

John and Laura said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you.

Danio said...

Your post strikes a tender spot in my heart, I too had the experience of having a spirit-o-meter in my home growing, though I did not realize it until after she was taken back to live with our Heavenly Father.

My sister Jessica had CP and while I don't remember her being loud or vocal in meetings or at FHE (probably because we didn't have FHE regularly), I do remember something that happened to my brother when he was 8-10 yrs old. He shared a room with Jessica and was awakened in the night, he said he looked over at Jessica's bed and a white man was standing over here. He was frightened and hid under the covers. In the morning he told my parents what he had seen and they asked him "was the man trying to hurt Jessi?" He said "no they were just talking." He didn't hear any words but he could tell that they were talking. I am sure that it wasn't Jessica's first or last heavenly conversation. I am sure that my sister Jessica stayed with our family far longer than she had too. Her heavenly friends missed her and she had so much that she needed to do, but she remained in her frail and sick, very limited body for us, her family.
I never understood this until she was gone. I am grateful that she was part of my family and I am grateful that she probably understands forgiveness perfectly and will forgive me for not realizing what a gift she was to our family until it was too late.

Carla said...

Hi Mona,

I always look forward to your postings though I don't usually have time to comment and express how I feel. This posting, however was different and it touched me deeply. First, I trully miss having your family in our ward. Ashley is really special and I love to hear when she gets excited because I know who's near. The second thing I wanted to comment on was that angels are all around us. I know this and testify of this! The spirit will allow you to feel their presence if you sincerely desire it. It can be quite overwhelming at times. They are here for our benefit -to comfort us when we need it or to guide us when guidance is needed. Lastly, they offer protection and stand as centinels or guards if that is what is needed of them. All of the above I have experienced in my life and I'm so grateful to know that all I have to do is ask and Heavely Father will send assistance for me and family when needed.

Thank you so much for your inspiring thoughts! You are wonderful. Now I'll spend the rest of the day crying like a baby!

Kimberlee said...

Thank you for that beautiful post Ramona. I absolutely adored having Ashely present in Primary while I was there. She always confirmed to me when the spirit was there and what a wonderful experience for the children. I wish I had taken more opportunities to remind them that angels were present when Ashely became excited. What a blessing for your family to have someone so sweet and so close to Heavenly Father who can tell you when angels are with you!

Olivia said...

The moment I saw your Ashley, I knew she was special. She touches my heart, deeply. I enjoyed every moment of her happy squeals and rocking while we sang in Stake Conference Choir practices. I tell you, she definitely brought a powerful spirit to me every time. She brings tears to my eyes and warms my heart. She is so beautiful! I love her so much and just want to hug her and be her best friend every time I see her. You all are TRULY blessed!!

Sara Lyn said...

I love reading everyone's thoughts about Ashley. How wonderful for us all to have a little part in her life! Your home has always had a certain feel to it whether in Florida or Washington and I know Ashley has a lot to do with that. (Not discounting your own efforts, and those of your family, of course!!) :)

Like you said, I believe angels also especially love babies. When I went to visit Seth and Kira this fall with their new baby, I had such a wonderful time cuddling and just being near him. (Kira will tell you I was quite the baby-hog.) :) When it was time to leave, I felt a longing to stay, much stronger than usual. I never want to leave my brother's family, but this time was particularly hard. When I went to the temple the next week, I was asked to bear my testimony in prayer meeting. I got the distinct impression while thinking about my testimony that the reason I was so reluctant to leave was the presence of the angels that surrounded that sweet baby. It felt just like being in the temple, but was so familiar, I didn't consciously notice until I had to leave. What a blessing to be around such precious children of God!

Women Afire said...

Thank you for sharing this. I was just telling my YW in church this week about how I used to talk to the angels as a kid. For some reason, I always thought that they preferred to hang out in corners (up high) - and at times, thought that I could see their outlines. I never received responses to my one sided conversation - but it didn't matter to me, I still knew they heard me - and probably got a kick out of our "conversations." I also used to play games with Heavenly Father. I'm so grateful to have known - even as a small child - the reality that we are never alone.

Bri... only she said...

Grant just told this story to James and Chelsea this weekend and I had not heard it! It's not hard to believe though.

Mallory said...

That is beautiful!

TPlayer said...

I loved reading this. I remember that FHE story and I remember some rather "rockin & rollin" Messiah rehearsals as well! Ashley has always been special to me, and I credit her completely for teaching me so many things in my life. I do what I do, because I met a girl named Ashley Zabriskie back when she and I were just 12 yrs old. (Mary Poppins has never been the same for me!)

The Seven Family said...

Wow - what a special person your daughter is. If only we could all be so close to sucha thin veil. I am sure we would all be squealing for delight on all of those special occasions.
Thanks for sharing.

pcNut said...

I am grateful to know Ashley, to be on holy grounds when near her.

I have often thought about those serving us on the other side of the veil. I'm excited to someday learn WHO it was that cared so much for me and what callings I may be asked to serve in.

I am so blessed! I feel so happy.

Love you.

-I can still remember my first introduction to Ashley and angels taught in a lesson at EFY in Georgia :)

Anonymous said...

Another beautiful post Mona. After falling this morning, I was holding, comforting the grower, and caught him staring into the light...:)

I wrote a special follow-up post for you on the daily delights, regarding your book query. I listed three other birth books to look for and some ideas of how to get them before your trip.

Have a wonderful time!

McAuliffe Bunch said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I love your posts. You have such a good rich perspective and it makes me want to be better!

Stephanie said...

This is such an amazing post. These children with special needs are so loved by others, not just in the flesh, but on the other side as well. Our youngest is nonverbal and has seen angels, I'm sure. He used to "stare" through to our souls when he was a baby. On one occasion, when he was a year old, I really needed a break, and wanted to get away for a night. I always have a hard time leaving him. I prayed to know if it was ok for me to leave. The answer I received was this: "Don't worry, he is in the company of angels." Since then--actually, many times since then, I know that angels are around him and watch over him (especially when he escapes the house, for instance). I'm always guided/prompted to find him. He's a sneaky one sometimes, but I take great comfort in knowing that angels are watching over him. I think it is a special blessing the Lord gives us because we, as mothers, cannot be everywhere at once, all of the time. I wish!
Thanks for introducing me to your blog. I love it and will definitely be checking in!!

Shantel said...

Hi Mona,
Thank-you for stopping by my blog, and for inviting me to yours. You are very kind.
It sounds like your Ashley is remarkable. As are you. It has been my experience that children with "disabilities" are very close to the veil. In my own life, the veil is very thin for me, and I know having Aspbergers is most of the reason. A part of my brain seems to be unlocked, and the world can get overwhelming. However, this same part of my unlocked brain seems to be the reason I can retain so much information, and also be so open to spiritual happenings. With the way I feel the spirit - the things I have been taught and seen - I would NEVER give up Autism, if it meant that the "gifted with the spirit" part of me would be gone also. It is worth all the trial. Hands down. No question. You cannot stand in the presence of the Savior without being physically altered or it would kill you. It makes perfect sense to me that to have the veil be very thin or at times non-exsistant - you would have to have some earthly deficets to behold it. I am willing to take those. Infact I feel it to be a huge blessing. As Jospeh Smith said "to Glory in Tribulation."
Anyway, I will link you to my blog, and I look forward to getting to know your family better also. You have wonderful insights.

Mona said...

One of my readers sent me the following email and gave me permission to share it with you:

I was truly touched by you angel story. Since a young girl my desire was only to serve God, even though I wasn't Catholic my dream was to be a nun and spend my life in the service of God. The Lord gave me a small taste of what that would be like when I joined the Relief Society, many times we were able to be angels of mercy.

I was then able to secure a job in a local hospital working in Labor
and Delivery. I had the privilege of spending many nights in the
company of Angels. The story you described of Ashley was replayed
every night by every baby. As I would hold them and rock them I would sing _I Am A Child Of God"_, it amazed me at how they would look into my eyes as if to say, "I know, I was just with him.", they would laugh and giggle and turn their eyes back to the corner of the room. The spirit in the room grew warmer and warmer in the room to the point I knew that Angels were with us. Not one, but many. This happened not just to a few, but to every baby. One sad night a girl I new from high school came in to delivery. As I rock Malek (her baby boy) I noticed something different about him, when he would look toward the Angels he would have the most mournful cry such that it cut to my very soul. I
> held that baby closer and sang and sang to him. I new something was wrong. I also had a frightening experience with him as well. Not only does God send Angels but also Satan. One night as I rocked this child, I felt the room go cold and my blood seemed to freeze. A darkness was
there. I looked up to see a dark shadow disappearing from the nursery window. I ran to see who it could have been, no one was there. I went in to talk to his mother to see if I could figure out what would cause this baby to be so different.

As we talked to told me that she had joined a Satanic Cult and that
she had named her son after Satan's Angel that is second in command. At once I new why this young soul was crying out to the Angels. He knew the life he was going to would be so far from the angels he now new.

When I took both of my babies to the temple to be sealed to us, I had the most sacred experiences I have ever had. With both babies it was the same with small differences, but when I baby was brought into the room and placed on the alter for the sealing. Mari had been turned away from her special corner, she wiggled to the point we couldn't keep her on the alter. When we turned her around she squealed with excitement. The spirit was so strong that everyone in the room felt it. After the sealing was finished the sealer told us that Angels had_ been in attendance. Kenny's sealing was very much the same. When I think of my babies and those that God let me have for a short time, I know they saw and communicated with angels.

My patriarchal blessing promises me a guardian angel that watches over me day and night, so that I can enjoy life on this earth. Mona, I can't tell you the times that that angel has been on duty.

Other than a wife and mother my dream now, once my life is over, is to one day be an angel, like the three Nephites and John the Beloved until that day when Father allows my husband and I to be together for eternity. Can you imagine the blessing of sharing God's message and helping lost souls find there way back to God.

Beverly Jensen said...

If we believe in the scriptures we believe in the administering of angels. I know I have been in their presence and believe they have given me strength and protection more than I will ever know.

Danyelle said...

Thank you so much for sharing about your daughter and the angels who stay near her. It does my heart so good to hear things like this. I know there are angels helping my son with special needs along, but it's so good to be reminded by others as well. This past week, my son had surgery. Early the morning after the operation, he called my name and pulled me close to him and whispered, "God is talking to me." Let me tell you what - it just about freaked me out. I was terrified that meant he might be leaving us soon, but then a thought popped into my head - of course Heavenly Father is speaking to him. He loves my son just as much as I do! He wants to comfort him, too.

I'm looking forward to reading more on your blog. Have a wonderful Valentine's Day.

Bekah Jennings said...

I loved this story and shared it with a friend and my mother. Thanks for the opportunity to connect!

ady said...

I LOVE this post. LOVE it!

I stumbled on your blog and also have a special child with a brain injury, and we have long realized that she could see what we couldn't...

She also LOVES light. She'll stare at the sun if I let her. I remember when she was a baby, she'd only look up. Therapists would suspect that she couldn't see anything lower. I would suspect that she just had something more interesting to see up there. I was right.

Isn't it just awesome to be the mommy of an "angel on Earth"? :)