February before last we were in the midst of a major down-to-the-studs remodel of our kitchen when an two angels appeared to me.
It had been a busy few months. We had stripped the kitchen to the studs and had various contractors in to do the framing, electrical and plumbing. We’d been using our laundry room as the kitchen and cooking on a hot plate since the beginning of January.
My husband left on a business trip while the plumbing was being finalized. My son came down with a mysterious pain in his abdomen the day the plumbing was finally done and turned back on for good. We ended up going into urgent care and finding out that it was something that would pass on its own, but it was still scary and exhausting.
The next afternoon the sewer backed up into the downstairs bathroom. Luckily we noticed it before it flooded the house and were able to turn off the water. Unluckily that meant we had no running water.
The plumber came out and did the usual things with snakes and chemicals. After several hours of work he determined he couldn’t reach the clog from inside the house. We would need get the plans from the water department for where the sewer line ran in order to install a clean-out that would allow him to reach the clog.
At 1:00 am he finished cleaning up and left promising to return with plan.
The next day we got the plans and he started the process of jackhammering our back patio and digging a 4 foot deep pit so he could cut the sewer line and get to the clog.
My husband returned from his business trip tired and worn out. We had no running water and no prospect of it for at least the next 24 hours. A few hours after he got home he started to feel ill and was concerned he might be having the symptoms of a heart attack. I don’t remember if we ended up calling 911 or just taking him to urgent care. I do remember freaking out on the inside while trying to hold it together.
It turned out that my husband had a combination of the flu and dehydration and needed rest and to drink a lot of water. He suggested that he should go stay in a hotel, but I didn’t like the idea of him being alone with no one to check on him should he take a turn for the worse.
It was then that my first angel appeared in the form of a good friend to who let my husband come and stay with her while he was recovering. This allowed him to drink (and pee!) as much as he wanted without it being a huge chore. She set him on her sofa with a giant pitcher of water and he was able to rest and recuperate.
I was able to focus my attention on the remodeling work and on making sure the plumber had everything he needed to fix our plumbing. He worked steadily for several days. He dug a pit, excavated the pipe, used a nifty camera to find the source of the clog, removed it and hooked everything back up better than it had been before.
He did all this cheerfully and with certainty that everything would come out right in the end. It was bitterly cold for our part of the world and he worked away without complaint. Best of all, he cleaned up after himself.
It wasn’t until he packed up and headed out that I realized that he was my second angel. Even though he was a stranger to me, he had been a calm and reassuring presence in my time of need. He was a physical manifestation of ‘fear not’ and he brought me the joy of functioning plumbing.
Above all my two angels gave me hope in a time when I felt overwhelmed and completely out of my depth. They brought me through crisis and into calm and out of fear into joy.
My husband, son, and plumbing all recovered and our kitchen was finally done in June.
The memory of my ordinary angels has stayed with me. I suspect that neither of them know they were my angels, but they couldn’t have been more heaven sent if they had had wings and a halo.
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. She spends a lot of time thinking about the meaning of life and her relationship to God and it all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband run Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.
Image: photo by Kristin Fontaine