Readers of the blog at my old address will remember that last December, my son William was airlifted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Children’s Hospital with an telescoped bowel that was obstructed. As I made the drive northwest without my son, I prayed constantly. I prayed that he be taken care of. That the kindly air-flight paramedics would be able to handle anything that arose, that he would be assigned a good pediatric resident, that he would have wonderful nurses. That he would be safe.
As I drew closer to Chapel Hill, I began to hear a voice saying, “Raphael, Raphael, I am here, I am here.” I wasn’t sure what to make of it and I heard it louder and louder. As I approached the hospital, I found a front row parking spot closest to the walking bridge to the hospital’s main entrance. It was a cool winter afternoon by the time I arrived. As I descended the walking bridge I saw two squirrels run directly in front of me stop and look up at me then run up a tree. Then it hit me. I knew.
When I was in high school, my youth leader had told us that he had found out a few years before that our guardian angels had names. He spoke of a very devout Hispanic woman whose husband helped us in the youth group often. She had told him in passing one day that, “Yes, Ralph, our guardian angels have names and if we pray we may know them.” As it turns out, he started praying one day outdoors when a squirrel came near him. He had been wondering what his guardian angel’s name was and during his prayer heard the name Gabriel. He thought, surely no, Gabriel wasn’t his guardian angel, not “THAT Gabriel.” He wanted to be sure so he prayed, if Gabriel is my guardian angel, let that squirrel not be afraid and come closer to me. The squirrel approached him.
My mind flashed to hearing that story when I saw those squirrels. Raphael had been with William on the helicopter, and in the hospital when I could not be. Those squirrels, like Raphael and Tobiah, were on their way somewhere, and my seeing them was no accident. I arrived on the floor to find my son was in radiology where the first procedure would begin shortly. The nurse manager quickly found me and brought down to be with him. The wonderful radiologists were gentle and kind and offered me a radiation shield to stay closer while they attempted the procedure: an enema of air. I declined knowing my son was safe in their care. That their hands were guided by God and Raphael. While I awaited in the anteroom, the young pediatric resident assigned to Will came in. He had become very attached to him the short time they had together. He had walked Will and rocked him and soothed him while I journeyed up I-40. Then I heard the radiologists say, “there it goes.” The procedure had worked. My son, who had been lethargic and refusing food all day, within minutes was smiling, laughing, and hungry.
Raphael had been with Will as he had endured all those scary moments (not as scary to him as to me, although) and I don’t dwell on Raphael being my son’s guardian angel often, except every once in a while people will tell me how beautiful he is. How angelic. How his soft curls look as though they were painted on one of Raphael’s cherubs. And it’s a small reminder of my everlasting devotion to this arch-angel.