In The Arms Of An Angel

There was a cemetery in Ireland that I used to hang out in as a kid. It wasn’t a scary place, in fact there was something comforting about it. The plots were very well tended. There were trees and grass and lots of flowers to look at. I got a sense of history reading the headstones and I loved the stone carvings and statues.

My favourite was the angel. She guarded the grave of Una O’Meara whom my cousins and I liked to think was a distant relative because she bore the same maiden name as our great grandmother. She died in 1926 at the age of 42. My cousins and I were captivated by the fact that her headstone read

She lies in the arms of the angels.

We would talk about it for hours. The types of angels involved. Would they be archangels or just guardian angels? How many there were? Would she lie in their arms for all eternity or just until she got used to being in Heaven?

We used to pick wildflowers for Una and leave them on her grave. Sometimes we included notes and poems. My cousin, Aine, used to tell her what the weather was like or who liked who at school or how many times Sister Bernadette said Jesus, Mary and Joseph during Maths. We used to genuflect to the angel when we arrived and touch her wing for good luck when we left. After a while we came to believe that the angel wasn’t just watching over Una O’Meara, she was watching over us too.

I got an email from Aine today saying that the cemetery had been vandalised and that many of the headstones and statues had been broken, including the angel. I felt a sob rising up from the pit of my stomach because I had counted on that angel always being there. I have visited her every time I have returned to Ireland and I would hate to think that one day I would return and she would be gone.

A guy I used to work with told me once of the sorrow he felt when his childhood home was bulldozed to make room for a motorway. Although he hadn’t lived in the house for over twenty years he was filled with an incalculable sense of loss at the house that had meant so much to him being removed from the landscape.

I feel the same way about the angel. She was such an immediate part of my childhood that for her to be gone almost suggests parts of my childhood will be gone too.

The moments where we encounter the blackest parts of human nature are often met with the brightest, most golden parts.

The local community was so incensed by the destruction they witnessed in the cemetery that they started a fundraiser to mend everything that had been broken. In less than a month more than enough money has been raised to repair and restore all the damage.

The Bishop himself donated a significant amount – an unheard of occurrence.

So the angel will no longer be broken. She will rise again and will continue to watch over Una O’Meara. And hopefully, over the grown up versions of the children who came to love her.

* Image by JollyEmoLolly at DeviantART.
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20 thoughts on “In The Arms Of An Angel

  1. Sometimes I really despair at the wanton destruction wreaked my these mindless vandals. Have they no shame at all. To desecrate someone’s final resting place, the place where the family and loved ones feel a connection to them is so despicable. May karma pay them a visit one day and let them repent at leisure.

    I’m glad there was a happy ending but what a pity it was even necessary to raise money for repairs in the first place.

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  2. Happy New Year, Selma. I hope you had a good break?

    Your post reminded me of a headstone in our cemetery. Our garden backs on to The Rosary (the first non-denominational cemetery in the UK) and just beyond our garden wall is the grave of a child of 9. It is decorated with flowers and little windmill bees and butterflies. Every time we go past we say hello and each Christmas morning my children go down and wish her happy Christmas before lunch. It is kind of poignant really to see them crowded round the grave of this person we never knew (she died in 1982). I’ve never seen anyone put the things on the grave but someone must do.

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  3. I love this story. I can imagine you as children using your own imaginations with regard to the angel.

    I am so glad they will be putting her back together again.

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  4. Oof, this killed me. I was just sick until the end. How wonderful for the community to bind themselves together against the dark!

    I wonder…is this angel a bit of why we see angels in your stories sometimes?

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  5. Oh, this is so beautiful. The contrasts of light and dark, hope lingering beneath even the most troubling moments of the story. And such a nice write – so much contained in its perfect brevity. Not a word wasted, imo.

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  6. I often wonder what drives people to desecrate the resting place of others. Even the stupidity of youth is not a real excuse. In your post you have beautifully illustrated the feeling evoked within you when you saw this Angel, a feeling that should resonate with most people who look upon her. Yet there are some people who don’t. Which is fine. Why destroy though? Do they despair their own miserable existence so much that they are inexplicably driven to random acts of vandalism?
    I guess what we can take from this is that the community felt the same as you. The triumph of the human spirit shines brightest in moments of adversity, and this has been proven yet again here. I’m glad that they were able to restore everything, and that the next time you visit Ireland, you will be able to look upon your Angel once again.

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  7. Hi GYPSY:
    I don’t understand why people do it. There is an historic cemetery in Newtown near where I live that has been vandalised over the years and it just saddens me. Sometimes the damage is so great the headstones can’t be restored to their original form. It is so disrespectful. I just wish those people would think about what they’re doing a little more.

    Hi RELUCS:
    I had a lovely break, thanks. I hope you did too. How lovely that your children visit that little girl’s grave. It is very poignant. So kind too. I’ll need to read up on The Rosary because I don’t know much about it.

    Hi HILLY:
    It is such a relief to think of her being put back together again. I couldn’t imagine not being able to see her anymore. She meant so much to us as children.

    Hi HEATHER:
    I think she probably has a lot to do with it. I also used to have a painting of an angel that one of my aunts gave me done in the style of one of those artists like Raphael that I loved. Sadly, it was lost on the journey from the UK to Australia. I guess I’m looking for those angels in my stories!

    Hi KAYT:
    I really appreciate you saying that. I can’t tell you how nice it is to hear from you again. I have missed your writing very much.

    Hi MANOJ:
    I really don’t understand it, either. It’s senseless. It causes so much upset. Thank goodness for the human spirit shining through. I am so glad there was a happy ending!

    Hi HURRICANE:
    Those days were the best, weren’t they? You believed anything could happen. Anything. The world seemed vast and golden. I wonder if that’s why so many people end up writing children’s books – maybe it allows them to recapture those precious days!

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  8. Lovely piece Selma. I have a thing about angels (well my name is Gabrielle and my son is Michael – that covers two of the Archangels) and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have a guardian angel (but that’s another story). A similar thing happened to my Uncle Bill’s church (he’s a priest) in Melbourne – it got vandalised and it was so upsetting. But it is lovely to see a community coming together to rectify the situation.

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  9. Hi GABRIELLE:
    You certainly have it covered with the names. Well now you just have to tell me the story of how you wouldn’t be here if not for your guardian angel. Only if you want to, of course. If you were to blog about it I would love to hear it.

    I’m sorry to hear about your Uncle Bill’s church. That is really upsetting. Why do people do these horrible things?

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  10. Some people hate the church and others aren’t even thinking about the damage they are causing (egocentric, drug induced madness). My guardian angel story is so long it will have to be a novel.

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  11. That’s so cool that they repaired everything. A rare occurrence in communities today. I loved reading your thoughts. I’d like to hear Gabielle’s story someday – I’m becoming aware of my angels more and more. Although I think one of them just haunts me – I smell cigarette smoke a lot. Weird, because this house has never been smoked in, and no of us do. Still, there it is, sometimes so strong, I can barely breathe.

    And I thought of Dr Who when I saw the picture too – that’s Athena’s most hated episode – it’s too freaky for her. She hates statues! I think that’s so weird, considering anything else a normal girl would be afraid of, she scoffs at. Oh well, we all must have an Achilles heel, I suppose. 😀

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  12. Hi GABRIELLE:
    Now I am really intrigued. Please write it….pretty please with sugar on the top. Did you ever say that as a kid? I love those old sayings.

    I agree with you. I think Tex might just have a ghost.

    Hi TEXASBLU:
    I think it might be a ghost, hon. Keep us posted on any more occurrences.

    That Doctor Who episode was one of my favourites. Such a brilliant story. Imagine if it happened for real. So terrifying. It has made me look at stone carvings on buildings quite differently. I don’t blame Athena at all!

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  13. Well, I said that tongue in cheek because I don’t believe angels smoke either. Would someone please have this conversation with me? Because I sometimes wonder if it is an ancestor? Or is this something I need to be rid of? It’s strongest when I am writing or when I’m dreaming up stuff in my head. I once joked that it was my brain frying… but there are days the smell is a constant state of nausea for me and I want it gone. Unless it’s an ancestor. Then I want to know what the heck it is that they want. Both my grandfathers smoked, so that’s possible.

    We were haunted 5 yrs ago in the first house we lived in here in Idaho. My daughter heard footsteps, the front door would be left wide open while we were all downstairs (no footprints in the snow), both she and my husband SAW a figure of a young girl running into a room at different times. And that was the first time I had smoke blown in my face. But all occurrences pretty much stopped there, except the occasional smoke smell.

    We also lived in a 100 yr old bordello where strange things happened 2 yrs later – but that didn’t seem related (and wouldn’t you expect to be haunted in a place like that? lol!) But now we’re in a home that has been occupied by one family for most of it’s existence and a happy one at that.

    So anyway – how do you find out and what do you do about it? It’s driving me nuts. And I’d like more experiences with angles – I swear I could almost feel one holding my hand at one time. How do you know the difference? They’re both energy.

    Thanks!

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  14. Hi TEX:
    There are some cleansing rituals that will rid you of troublesome spirits. We had a ghost in our old house that used to move things around (small objects like teacups). True story – one morning I got up and there were 3 teacups on the floor. They hadn’t been thrown, they were placed there. It couldn’t have been Nick because he was only a baby at the time and couldn’t have reached the china cabinet. This particular ghost was a woman. We discovered she lived in the house when it was first built around 1860. She seemed friendly enough but the thing that drove me to get rid of her was that she used to stand behind me and suddenly I would become aware of her presence. I would turn around, see her for a second and then she was gone. It was freaky at three in the morning when I got up to go to the loo.

    A friend of ours who was Maori (New Zealand indigenous people) saw the ghost too and felt it could turn malevolent. I have always found the Maori and other Pacific Islanders I have met to be very intuitive when it comes to ghosts. She told me a way to cleanse the house which worked. I also used an old Celtic ritual of my Grandmother’s who was subjected to numerous hauntings throughout her life. I’ll send you a separate email outlining the rituals.

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