Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. Matthew 18:10
“Angel,” by Sarah McLachlan, was written after Jonathan Melvoin, the Smashing Pumpkins keyboard player, died from a heroin overdose in 1996, according to Wikipedia. I listened to Sarah sing her rendition today as I watched the movie, Flag of My Father. The song has a mournful tune and always brings on the tears. Sarah wrote about loss and I can relate. You, too? Here is the chorus. I know you will immediately recognize it:
In the arms of the angel
Fly away from here
From this dark, cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here
At the first notes of the refrain, I usually flip stations or change channels to avoid listening to such a moving, haunting melody. Its message is so profoundly sad, but I didn’t turn away today. Instead, I listened. I let it wash over my being . . . sweeping me off to a distant place of mourning where it was fresh and shocking to my heart . . . and I cried like a baby.
Unlike J. Melvoin, my firstborn did not do drugs. He had nothing of concern in his system when he died. I suspected as much, and the autopsy verified it. However, there may be a reader who lost her child due to an overdose, so I want to be sensitive here. If I’m not, please tell me. What I am trying to say is that the story in the stanzas doesn’t have personal meaning for me, like perhaps it does for you, and, obviously, for the artist who wrote it. For me, it’s the melody, and it sticks in my mind playing over and over.
There is something else I like about this song. It’s the title, “Angel,” which makes me think about angels, my son’s angel in particular. I know my son had a guardian angel; we all have one. Heavenly angels are God’s messengers, and the Bible says that they watch over little ones while in the presence of God (Matt. 18:10). That’s beautiful. I like pondering what my son’s angel is like. I’ve named him “Gabe” after the angel, Gabriel, mentioned by name in Scripture.
I have a tendency to ramble, so I’m told, and this may be one of those times, but I have a point. Really I do. It’s about the angel. My imagination of the angel may be different from yours or McLachlan’s. Since it’s likely that few of us have seen an angel in person, I choose to use my imagination.
As far as I know, my firstborn was alone when he died . . . or was he? We had talked that evening on the phone. He seemed cheerful. There was nothing about our conversation that triggered alarm or made me worry. In truth, though, was he sad? Lonely? Depressed? These descriptive words hurt my heart, especially when I am well aware that my child could cover his true feelings. As my imagination kicks in and I wonder maybe he wasn’t really alone, even though he thought he was, in the human sense. I’d like to think that Gabe was with him; after all, they shared 30 years together. Surely Gabe wouldn’t leave him alone now, even as he prepared to end his pain. Was God there, too? In my mind’s eye, why not? Where else would the Creator be when one of His kids was in so much pain?
~God knows every thought, every dream, every longing my son ever had in his young life. In fact, God wears his name tattooed on His hand, and I like to think his name is also tattooed on the wall of His heart.~
It comforts me to picture those final moments my way . . . far different from what the police reported to me after they found him. I choose to black out that image and replace it with this one: Gabe sent an SOS to heaven, “Come quickly, Father. Our boy needs you” . . . and God came. He didn’t need to wait until the scene turned ugly. He came to be with my son: The Creator holding His created, enfolding him in His loving arms and cradling him close while he softly breathed his last. Or maybe the same God who blew a tiny puff of air into his lungs when he entered the world, simply withdrew His breath back into Himself. After all, which one of us can take a breath on our own without God’s provision?
Peace followed my son’s last breath. The suffering was over. Silence settled down over his bedroom filled with soft, heavenly light. God and Gabe looked upon the still form of their child. My child. This was a divine moment, and God would not be rushed. He tenderly stroked my son’s hair while Gabe gently touched God’s shoulder, a loving gesture attempting to comfort them both. Their eyes met. Both of them had tears trickling down their cheeks. Oh, how they loved my boy! He was their boy before he was loaned to me ~ and he will always be our boy! All the love from heaven, at that moment, was pressed into this man-child they loved utterly and completely.
Now my son sleeps the sleep of death (Psalm 13:3). No more pain or sadness or distress. Peace has come at last to my firstborn’s heart. God tries to sniff back the tears as He looks upon my child. But tears, being unruly as they are, fell like prisms of dew unto my son’s cheek. So Heaven leaned down and kissed them away. God smoothed my son’s brow and closed his eyes for his final rest. Still holding him, God stood to His feet, then He and Gabe gently laid him down on his bed, and tucked him in like Gabe had done every night since his birth. They straightened up and wiped their eyes. Gabe murmured softly, “He looks like he is sleeping peacefully, Father.”
God gave a shuttering sigh, “Yes. He is finally at peace.”
It was time to go. God turned to Gabe. “Now we must comfort our boy’s family,” God began. “They will need heavenly comfort for a long time to come. Gabe, I know you plan to keep an eye on our boy’s resting place once the memorial service is over. Please be there when his family members come to mourn, shed tears, and bring bouquets of flowers. They won’t know you’re there, but put your arms around them anyway.”
God spoke. His voice breaking, “Parents are left with such sad pictures in their minds after they bury their children. What Satan does after we leave doesn’t help. He mocks death by resetting the scene to one of horror, making the suicides of our children even harder for their families to understand and accept. How I long for My Son, Jesus to return and wake up our sleeping kids, but we must wait a little while longer for more people to choose to love us; to choose heaven.”
“We must go now,” God continued. “We must be there to comfort our boy’s family when they get the shockingly sad news. It will break my heart all over again to see the beginning of their sorrows.”
Dear Readers, No matter how death happens, I believe it comes quickly to our children who die by suicide. Even though their stories have sad endings, I believe that peace settles quietly over them in death. No more pain. No more suffering for them, but not so for you and me. Our sorrows have just begun.
One parting thought: every once in a while, I thank God that my son, who must have suffered a great deal in his young life, is finally at peace. Thank You, God, for Your peace.
Text shared from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
Comment from Kimberlie Budd Smith:
[Every word written, I feel. Every picture painted and depicted, I see. You are not alone. He was not alone. We are not alone. His arms hold you daily and his fingers wipe the rivers of tears as they flow down your cheeks.
I have had a personal experience with my Angel. I was blessed after a near fatal car accident to have seen my Angel and talk to him as I was careflighted to the Hospital. He brought me comfort seeing him at my feet overlooking me as I listened to the rotors of the helicopter blades.
I know in my heart that his guardian Angel and God was with your son as he took his last breath and brought peace and love to him in his time of need. No doubt in my mind. Never lose the pictures you have of him at peace with our God.
Thank you for sharing this with me. You are in my prayers.]