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A Christmas Eve Blessing From the Angels

She had been so worried about her daughter’s hearing problems. Then an angelic light filled the house.

An illustration of a sitting angel; Illustration by Nicole Xu

Four pairs of children’s shoes were lined up on our kitchen countertop, ready for a good shine before church in the morning. It was near midnight on Christmas Eve 1968, and everyone else in the house was asleep.

I had the TV on low in the living room. The astronauts manning the Apollo 8 spacecraft kept me company, the footage from the mission a comforting hum in the background. As I worked the polish into my daughter’s little saddle shoe, my mind kept wandering to her upcoming appointment at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Lauren was four years old. Outwardly, nothing was wrong with her—she was a happy, healthy little girl. But she hardly said a word, even though her hearing tests appeared normal. Two years of seeking help locally failed to offer any answers. Doctors and therapists seemed to chalk her silence up to her being the youngest of four, with the older kids doing the talking for her.

Mother’s intuition told me it was more than that. I’d finally gotten an appointment with a specialist at New York Presbyterian, an audiologist who ranked high in her field. I could hardly wait for our appointment a week into the new year. And if we get a diagnosis, then what? I thought, polishing around the toe of Lauren’s shoe. If it wasn’t Lauren’s hearing, was it something worse?

Thoughts like that aren’t helping anyone, I told myself. Just keep polishing. To do that, I needed more shoe polish. That’s when I heard… church bells.

The TV broadcast had cut to the Midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. As a practicing Catholic, I’d been taught to kneel and tap my chest for the coming of Jesus Christ. No one’s here to see me, I thought, not particularly wanting to stop my work. But tradition won out. I put down the polish, barely dropped to one knee, quickly tapped my chest and got ready to pop back up.

Instead, I froze. The tap to my chest seemed to reverberate. I felt a tap in return—a deep, barely perceptible feather’s touch, right where I imagined my soul to be. An all-powerful, almighty wave of love overtook me. It flooded the house like a tsunami. Love flowed in from the window, over the counter, rose from the floor and rained down from the ceiling.

I shut my eyes, both knees on the linoleum floor now, my head bowed. I didn’t dare move as the love swept through the house, surrounding me—filling me. I felt gloriously perfect in God’s eyes, even with all my glaring, human faults.

The divine love receded as quickly as it had come. I didn’t want it to leave. I wanted to go with it! But it was gone, and I was left kneeling in the kitchen, feeling oddly empty. Whatever had just happened was a miracle. But why me? I thought, looking around in a daze. Lauren. My mind jumped to Lauren. Something must be seriously wrong. And God was bracing me to face it.

A week after New Year’s, Lauren and I went to her appointment. The audiologist diagnosed Lauren in minutes. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” she said. “Your daughter’s severely hard of hearing. I can tell by talking to her.” Tests confirmed the doctor was correct, and she arranged follow-up treatment, including hearing aids, to begin the very next week at Lenox Hill Speech and Hearing Center.

“With words come ideas,” the lanky doctor at Lenox Hill told us when we got there. “That means this is an emergency at your daughter’s age. If she doesn’t learn to speak now, her abilities will be damaged forever.” Lauren needed therapy four days a week, with homework every night, including weekends.

Lauren’s progress was impressive, and she was never truly discouraged. As she got older, she faced many challenges in public schools geared toward hearing children. Whenever I worried whether she could meet those challenges, I’d think of that tidal wave of love I’d felt, God’s love. Lauren didn’t know about my Christmas Eve blessing. I wasn’t sure she’d understand if I told her. And I didn’t want her to think she’d caused me such pain that I’d needed divine intervention. But the memory of it sustained me all through her growing-up years.

It wasn’t until Lauren was in her thirties—married, with children of her own—that I finally decided to tell her about it. There was nothing special about the day I made the decision. It just seemed like it was time I shared my experience.

I went over to her house one Saturday afternoon in August. As we leaned against her kitchen countertop, I carefully described what I’d felt that Christmas Eve night. She didn’t stop me once to ask a question. Did she not believe me?

“I remember,” Lauren said when I finished. “I watched the whole thing.”

But she’d been in bed upstairs…

“I couldn’t sleep,” she said, “so I crept downstairs. You were in the kitchen. The shoes were all lined up on the countertop. I peeked in and saw you on your knees. The bells were ringing. An angelic light filled the house. I knew God was with us.”

“But you were so young. How did you know what you were seeing?”

Lauren looked at me with perfect confidence. “I just did.”

Finally I knew the truth. God had come to both of us that Christmas Eve night. And he and his angels had been watching over us ever since.

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