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The Angel and the Red Balloon

I was feeling down about my birthday. But the angels knew how to fix that.

a balloon flying in the sky

Everyone had gathered at my son and daughter-in-law’s to celebrate.

The house was filled with helium balloons and decorations. It was a wonderful party. The problem was, we were celebrating my sixty-fifth birthday. I didn’t really care to be reminded how old I was, thank you very much!

I did my best to have fun, dancing with our grandchildren, who were really hamming it up. If only we didn’t have to get older, I thought as the party wound down. I loved my life, and every year I aged was another year closer to the end of it.

Before we left I made sure each grandchild had a balloon. There was one extra, a bright red one. The grandchildren jumped up and down: “That’s for you, Nanny.” I didn’t want to disappoint them, so I took the red birthday balloon home and tucked it in a back room to forget it.

A few days later, I was talking to one of my grandchildren on the phone about a report she was writing for school. It suddenly dawned on me: She was a senior in high school. How quickly she would graduate! Time moved so fast and took us all along with it.

I hung up the phone feeling more down than ever. I reached over to fluff a pillow on the couch when I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye. A flash of red. I straightened up.

The birthday balloon floated toward me, right up to my face. It hung there in the air, at eye level, bobbing slightly. I almost had the sense that it was concerned about me. A helium balloon come to cheer me up? What a thought! I couldn’t help but smile. The balloon reminded me of my grandchildren and their silly dancing at the party. What a joy it was to have them in my life.

After that day the balloon checked in with me regularly. Each time I caught myself worrying about my age, worrying about how many more days I had left on this earth, the balloon would come floating by to remind me how light and carefree life could be. I kept this helium-filled inspiration to myself. What would people think if I proposed to have a balloon for a guardian angel?

One day I was babysitting my four-year-old granddaughter, Grace. “Where is your balloon?” she said.

In fact, I hadn’t seen it for a while. “Let me find it,” I said.

Of course Grace insisted on looking with me. Soon her Papa was looking too, and all three of us ran through the house giggling. At last we found the balloon in my office.

“This balloon is amazing,” my husband said. “It’s been a whole month and it’s still going!”

I bent over my desk, trying to catch my breath from laughing. I had forgotten the troubles that weighed me down and gotten lost in the joy of the moment. I believe that balloon floated around long enough to deliver an important birthday message: No matter what challenges age brings us, or how many days we have left on this earth, there is always something to be joyous about. Always something to celebrate. Another birthday is only one of them.

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