I met you in Austin.
I first noticed you as I was looking out at the audience from the stage before the lights went down.
You were wearing a simple but elegant black sleeveless dress. You looked beautiful.
I envied your hair — the gorgeous color you had dyed it — because for months now, I have been wishing I was young or brave enough, or both, to dye my hair such a bold and striking color as yours!
When I am speaking, I like to “listen” to the audience — not with my ears, but with my heart and my whole being. I can feel the energy from different parts of the room, and sometimes I can see that energy literally radiate from certain people.
You were one of those people.
Throughout my talk, I could feel your connection to everything I was saying — how much I love my dad, how fortunate I feel to be loved by him, how grateful I am for everything he has taught me. And when I spoke about his love of life, his generosity of spirit, his kindness to everyone he met, his joyful curiosity, his huge huge YES! — I felt your soul respond.
After the show, you waited in line with everyone else to get your books signed. But when you got to my table, you hid behind a lovely bearded man with the kind eyes. I knew it was you, because I could feel your beautiful energy, and see that gorgeous hair!
He told me your name. I wasn’t surprised that it was Angel.
He shared with me how much my father meant to you while growing up during a truly truly horrendous childhood. He told me that my father helped you survive some really terrible things.
He said that you were too shy to meet me, that you would probably be really angry with him for everything he was saying. Although I don’t remember the exact words with which he shared your story, I will never forget the impact they had on me. I could see you pulling on his shirt to get him to stop, but he knew that I needed to hear your story and that we needed to meet one another.
He gave me the cookbook and my biography to sign to you, and in my inscriptions I tried to find words to tell you how brave you are. I tried to find words to give you the strength to keep finding courage as you move through your life. I tried to find words to share that my father was and will always be your guardian angel. I don’t know if I succeeded.
And then this lovely man said something that surprised me. He said that you wanted to shake my hand. I think I thought you would be too shy.
You reached your arm across the table toward me, your head bowed, not lifting your eyes, and you held your hand out. In that gesture, I felt the whole world — all the beauty and the pain, all the love and all the fear, all the hope and all the grief, all the joy and all the sadness. The whole world in your outreached hand.
I held your hand in both of mine.
We stayed like that for a short time, but enough I hope for me to try to convey to you what my inscriptions never could — the pure love that I felt growing up with a man who lived and expressed Pure Love.
There is only one thing that really heals everything, Angel. That is Love.
No matter what I have gone through in my own life, I have had a library of Love inside me. It is always there. I have always known how blessed I am to have the family I had, to be the child my father — who reflected, exuded, expressed that Love so beautifully and deeply — loved so so much. I felt that Love as a child, Angel. It was the most extraordinary feeling in the world!
Whenever I was lonely, if my parents were gone for months on end, whenever I was scared of people or places or experiences, I had that wellspring of Love inside me. It did then and does now save my life every single day.
Every day, I am grateful that I had the father that I had, who showed me what Love is.
But even a a little girl, I knew that I shared my father with millions of other people who loved him as much as I did. . .just from afar.
I did not know their stories then, but I knew that we all saw and felt the same thing — the beauty and power and grace of his huge and extraordinary light.
Now, I know that you are not alone, Angel. There are others who have shared their stories with me, stories of horrific childhoods in which my father was their ray of hope, their expression of joy, their extension of Love. Like you, they needed his light to make it through those dark dark times.
I also know that you were never alone. . .even though I know it must have felt that way. I don’t know why my father was given the gift he had of giving people hope, of making them feel loved, of having such a bright light to shine. But I do know that he chose to use his gifts to help others, just as he helped you. I know that he understood that when you are adrift alone on a stormy sea surrounded by sharks and fearing for your life, a lighthouse in the distance, no matter how far away it may be, can be the beacon of hope you need. He chose to be that lighthouse.
There are people who may read this and doubt. There are people who may read this and mock. But there are many people who will read this and understand that there are unexpected angels all around us.
I met two in Austin. One was the lovely man who shielded you and shared your story. I don’t know if you can see the other one yet. But I did. She is you — the pure love, the beautiful spirit — the life that the darkness of your past could never and will never destroy. I felt and saw and touched that Angel in Austin, and I felt blessed by a grace beyond words.
Every day I carry my father in my heart. But now, I carry you, too, and all the other hearts he helped to heal. Because you are helping to heal me. We all carry each other in our hearts.
I started writing this blog six months ago, when I, too, was in a very very dark place. I decided to try to write my way back into joy by committing to practice it every single day, by showing up to myself, my own life, and to whoever might read this blog.
To begin, I called up the memory of my father’s joy -- his gratitude, his love of life, his faith in humanity, his hope for the world. I tried to live his Yes! instead of succumbing to the numbing lure of no, no, no.
Every day now, I try to say yes to life, just as my dad did. Some days are harder than others. But here's one thing I've noticed -- when I get to meet and talk with people who love my dad as much as you do, Angel, the joy comes easily. I think it is a gift of grace that comes of recognizing that none of us are not alone. We are all angels in disguise.
When I started writing this blog, a friend sent me this poem. I think maybe you will love it as much as I do, Angel.
You are the universe's way of blooming, Angel.
Thank you for the gift of your grace -- reminding me that every person we meet, every hand we touch, every smile we return, every tear we share -- allows us to witness one another's blooming.
A grateful heart my garden is, where there is always room, for love and grace and joy and life, to come to perfect bloom.
But only if we remember water our hearts.
I water my heart daily with the Love reflected by all of the angels I have met.
I carry you all in my heart, as we water one another back into bloom, as we shine one another back into the light, as we love one another back into wholeness.
Thank you, from the bottom of my blooming heart.