Angels and Spirit People

When I was little, I heard lots of stories about angels—the heavenly creatures that brought good tidings and protected children from harm. When I learned to read, I fell in love with fairy tales and fairy godmothers. I just loved reading about magical spirit people. The stories were comforting; they made me feel hopeful and safe. As they have for millions of children throughout the ages. And adults. Oh, yes.

Stories about angels and spirit people are very, very old. Some social scientists claim that they may be as old as the wheel and writing. They appear in the folklore of societies and cultures around the world. They’re abundant and ubiquitous—in the Bible, in mythology, in spiritual teachings, and yes, in fairy tales. They are part of our collective consciousness.

Do you ever wonder how or why these stories became so important to the human psyche? From what well did they spring? Were they all just the imaginary constructs of their authors, or were some—or most of them— rooted in actual spiritual experiences?

While you think about that one, let me tell you about something that happened to me recently.

This past summer, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was lucky. It was caught early; the tumor was relatively small, and it was, to used my surgeon’s word, lazy. She removed the tumor and one lymph node, to which it had spread, and the margins. Protocol called for the surgery to be followed by radiation. Radiation was a lot more daunting. The procedure was demanding. I had to lie flat on a table, arms above my head, underneath a gigantic…machine…while a breathing tube (something like a scuba tube) was placed in my mouth and hooked up to a computer. My nose was then clamped shut. I was given goggles through which I could watch my breathing on the computer screen.

After the machine was lowered into target range, two horizontal black lines appeared on the computer screen, and I could see my breaths as vertical lines—going up and down, up and down, up and down, as I inhaled and exhaled into the tube. I was instructed to keep inhalations and exhalations within the two black lines. Eventually, a large green line appeared at the top of the screen, and I was told to breathe up, up, up into the green line and hold my breath there for 23 seconds. Let me assure you that 23 seconds is a long time. This holding pattern is when radiation actually takes place, and it is done three times during a session.   

I wondered why, before the procedure, I was continually asked if I had claustrophobia. All of a sudden, I understood why. A gigantic machine hovers low over you. Your eyes, nose, and mouth are sealed. You’re in a lead-lined room alone. Technicians are operating the machine on computers in an anteroom, observing you through a window.

Let me stop right here and note that the three technicians who treated me were not only highly skilled, but may also be the kindest people I’ve ever met. God bless them.

But the procedure is still claustrophobic and intimidating. I mean, it’s going to burn you, after all!

I got it wrong a few times on the initial trial run, but with a little practice and help from the crew, I sort of got the hang of it. I can do this, I thought. I was anxious but ready for the next morning, when the radiation treatments would actually start.

Just before I left for the hospital, I got a phone call from a beloved friend who was living in another country. In a strange, over-controlled voice, she told me that her daughter had died. Suicide. We talked for a few minutes, and then I had to leave for the hospital.

On the table, with the tube in my mouth and my nose clamped shut, I lost my breath. I tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed. I didn’t have enough breath to get within the black lines, and getting it up to the green line and holding it seemed all but impossible. This girl’s death and my friend’s shock and grief had reactivated the loss of my son Eddie. Somehow, with a lot of patience and coaching from the crew, I managed my first three radiation treatments. I went home in tears, weak, exhausted, devastated for my friend, and feeling my old grief.

I dreaded the next day. I still had 21 days on that table ahead of me and didn’t know how I was going to make it. I arrived early, nervous and edgy. Sitting in my hospital gown in the empty waiting room, I decided to meditate. Against the odds, I managed to sink into a deep meditation. In seconds, I had a vision. Two Buddhist monks were walking toward me. One was young and wore round eyeglasses. The other was older and resembled the Dalai Lama. They came right up to me and the older one seemed to walk right into my body while the younger one stood by my side. The technician called my name, I opened my eyes, and entered the treatment room.

On the table, the tube in my mouth once again, my nose clamped shut, the older monk and I started to breathe together, in and out, in and out, in and out, as one body. Calmly. Evenly. In sync. I focused on him and him alone, feeling him breathing through my chest. I watched the screen as we directed our breath to the space between the two black lines, and when it was time, we sent our breath into the green line and held it for 23 seconds. We did this three times. I hardly noticed the whirr of the machine as it sent radioactive energy into the spot where the cancer had been. The technicians were amazed. “You aced it,” they told me, relieved and happy. 

Every day, for 20 more days, I would close my eyes in the waiting room and call on my spirit friends, and they would come, dressed in maroon robes and smiling. Every day, the older monk would fade into my body and we would breathe into the tube, while the younger one looked on. I got the distinct feeling that I was with a master of breathing meditation and a young monk who was his student.  

Sometimes at night, before I go to sleep, I can still see them. Someone very close to me has breathing problems, and every night, I ask them to go to her. My friend and I continue to grieve together, talk together, and heal together.

Angels, spirit guides, teachers, ascended masters, fairy godmothers and godfathers. Call them what you will, but there are loving beings who are with us at all times, always coming closer in times of sadness or fear. Sometimes they appear with wings, sometimes in sparkling dresses with magic wands and glass slippers, sometimes as an Egyptian high priest, or as a Buddhist monk in a maroon robe. Some of them may have lived on the earth; others never have. You may see them as twinkling lights, or you may not see them at all. But when you need help, or when you call on them, you will sense a sweet presence, and you’ll know they’re there.       

Be glad. Believe. All those storytellers can’t be wrong.




Do you ever feel as if you are…watched over? Protected? I did, last week.

I went hiking on a new trail. It’s what Sedona people do. It’s also what people all over the world come here to do, not only because it is ravishingly beautiful and awe-inspiring, but you can enter a trail and in a few minutes, be in wilderness. Sometimes the silence (if nobody else is on the trail) is, as they say, deafening. I’m a city girl, and until I entered a wilderness, I don’t think I’ve ever “heard” true silence before. It is quite an experience. Oh, occasionally, you will get the sound of a bird, or the wind rustling a tree, but if no one is on the trail, there are no human sounds. That kind of silence can put you in an altered state, the state you reach for in meditation. That’s why a lot of us do it. You can feel something in that silence you can’t name, but it feels like God.

At the entrance to some trails, there are signs that warn hikers to watch out for snakes and bears. These signs never stopped me.  Maybe I didn’t really believe them (you should). The trails I usually hike are popular (by that I mean you meet humans now and then), and I figure the wild life avoid them. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen any wildlife on a trail except once – two gorgeous mule deer, a doe and a fawn, once looked down on me from a shelf above, and that was all. Well, until last week.

As I said, I was on a trail I’d never been on before. I’d read about it in our local paper. I also went on a weekday when the tourists are scarce. The trail was exquisite – not too steep as trails here go, and dotted with the most beautiful cacti and wildflowers I think I’ve ever seen. It was also shaded – lots of trees. Ideal. And I was alone in the blessed silence. Had the God place all to myself.

But when you’re in the wilderness all by yourself, something kicks in. Awareness, maybe? Some kind of survival mechanism? A little ways in, I became acutely aware of my surroundings. I watched where I put my feet. I stopped every now and then and looked around me. I felt the wild life there, even though I couldn’t see it. I began to feel a little wary, a little uncomfortable. This trail felt different.  It wasn’t the challenging climbing trail sought by tourists. This was a walking trail, a trail for the locals.  People who know what they’re doing. Not city girls.

At some point, I saw a dog, making his way toward me, and behind him, two couples, aged like myself. One couple was obviously showing the trail to the other – visitors, and it seemed, city people like myself. I began to feel a little better.

“I thought the dog would have noticed,” I heard the taller of the two men say. I came closer to the four of them, and they were stopped, looking at something. “Don’t worry,” the man said, looking at me, it’s just a king snake.” And I got a look at my first snake in the wild. He was a beautiful creature, not too large, decorated in green and black diamond-like patterns. We all stood still while he slithered across the trail, calm as could be, as if he were used to seeing people on his trail all the time. The thing that surprised me the most about all that is that I wasn’t afraid. “That looks like a pack-rat’s nest,” the knowledgeable man said, pointing toward a tree, “and I guess he’s going in for lunch.” Now that stopped me. A harmless snake is one thing. Rats are another. I couldn’t see it, thank you God. I wouldn’t know a pack-rat’s nest from a hole in the ground (that isn’t a pun, but excuse it anyway), and there are some things I don’t want to know.

As the two couples made their way past me and back to the trail’s entrance, one of the women stopped, looked back and said, “Don’t worry. King snakes are harmless, but if you see a snake with a diamond head, they’re the ones to stay away from. But,” and here’s where she got me, “isn’t it nice that we were along when you got to the snake?”

And there’s the miracle. Out of all time and space, I was to meet these people at exactly the point and at exactly the instant a snake was about to cross my path. I wouldn’t have known that it was a king snake, or that it was harmless. I would have freaked out, for sure. Maybe I would have stumbled and broken my ankle, like a friend of mine did on a trail.  I saw nobody else on the trail that day, coming or going. I had to look after those people to make sure they weren’t angels. Or were they?

This kind of thing happens to me too often for me to just dismiss it, or chalk it up to coincidence. Something or someone is always put in my path when I need help, and the timing is always perfect. It may be something I’ve “lost,” like records for my tax return. It may be stopping in traffic, not knowing why, just before another vehicle appears out of nowhere. Did God, did my angels, put these people in my path at just the right time? What do you think?

I went on my way, as far as my strength would take me on the trail and came back, back across the place where I saw the snake. The snake was gone. And I was unafraid.

I embarked upon a spiritual path years ago. The death of my son left me with nowhere else to go. After years of study and experience, I am now aware of small and large miracles, “coincidences” that were overlooked in the everyday busyness of my earlier life. I see angels where there were none before. Sometimes, they meet me on the trail and tell me not to be afraid.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Psalm 91


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. Find it at or, for a signed copy, go to