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Seeing Angels

Seeing Angels

Some things I didn't learn in medical school.

by

For my family, lighting the Shabbos candles is a magical time. Every week, we put our candles in the window box, gather around, and after the blessing, shut our eyes tightly while my three little children beckon the angels in with their arms and voices. "Come in Shabbos angels, we need you, we want you ..." Very slowly and carefully, as I have taught my kids, we open our eyes and look at the candles. Through squinty eyes, they flicker and appear to dance in the multiple windows of the box. "I see angels!" my kids joyfully scream and run into the dining room singing Shalom Aleichem, convinced the Shabbos angels are celebrating with them.

I love my kids' innocent enthusiasm, but I wish I were so easily convinced about the angels. While I believe in angels, souls and the afterlife, and have read extensively on the subject in both Jewish and non-Jewish texts, my training as a physician has taught me to view the world as a scientist and explain each occurrence in physical terms. The "miraculous recovery" of a patient is because a certain medicine was able to attach to the patient's specific cell receptors, penetrate the cell, incorporate into the DNA, etc. The "medicine failure" of another patient is due to their lack of a certain enzyme, their electrolytes were too high.... Usually, there are innumerable different enzymatic and biochemical explanations for everything that happens in medicine.

Usually, but not always.

A few months ago, while on call for my internal medicine group, I got a page from the ER. The ER doc got on the line. "Jackie, one of your partners' 92-year-old patients is here for what looks like a mild stroke. She has to be admitted."

I drove to the ER and walked into her cubicle. In the bed lay Mrs. Schwartz, an elderly, obviously well cared for woman who smiled feebly at me with one side of her face. She was able to squeeze my hand and follow directions with one side of her body. Her caregiver of many years was at her bedside, and handed me her living will, in which it stated that she wanted no heroic efforts to keep her alive.

I called her two sons who were both across the country and both extremely concerned. They wanted to know if they should come. I explained to them that while this seemed like a mild stroke now, occasionally strokes do progress. In this case I erred on the side of caution and told them to come. They both began making travel arrangements to come to LA.

The next day when I went to see Mrs. Schwartz, it was clear that the stroke had progressed.

The next day when I went to see Mrs. Schwartz, it was clear that the stroke had progressed. She lay in bed, with her eyes closed and head back, breathing with loud gurgling noises. We call this agonal breathing, which typically portends impending death.

"Mrs. Schwartz?" I called. No response; no eye opening, nothing. I tried a sternal rub; a fist rubbed with pressure on the sternum is thought to give a very painful stimuli. Only patients with severe brain trauma, in a deep coma, do not respond.

There was no movement. Nothing.

I called her son, Ira, on his cell phone. He was driving from Martha's Vineyard on his way to the nearest airport. I told him what happened and he said that the soonest he would be in LA was two days.

I started writing orders in the chart for comfort measures only when Mrs. Schwartz, with eyes still closed and with the bubbly breathing, suddenly motioned with her hand that she wanted to write. I was shocked. Two minutes prior, she had not responded at all to the most painful stimulation. The caregiver and I looked at each other. I gave Mrs. Schwartz a pen and held up a paper for her to write.

With wobbly but clear handwriting, she wrote, "I have to go."

"No! You can't go! Ira and David will be here in two days!"

The caregiver started weeping softly. Trembling, I stammered, "What?" Slowly, she wrote again, "I have to go."

I didn't learn anything about this in medical school. I screamed, "No! You can't go! Ira and David will be here in two days. Today is Wednesday; you have to wait until Friday. We're not ready for you to leave us."

I called Ira's cell phone again and held the receiver to Mrs. Schwartz's ear. He told her how much he loved her, but that she had to wait. The air in the room, which had taken on a tingly quality, seemed to shift. She put down her hand and basically returned to how I had found her a half hour earlier.

She did wait until Friday. I had a meeting with her sons, who told me that she had been an actress and a cabaret dancer in the ‘30's, and what a great mother she had been. A few hours later, with her family surrounding her, she died.

That night was Shabbos. We lit the candles, shut our eyes and squinted at them after the blessing. "I see angels!" my kids squealed. And that night so did I.

Published: October 5, 2002


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Visitor Comments: 36

(36) Anonymous, February 22, 2013 5:28 AM

It is absolutely possible to see angles

In the Torah are many truths and knowledge of the world and creations and knowledge of kindness and secrets to acquiring perfection in levels of richeousness... Our Patriarchs and Matriarchs and many prophets have come into contact with angels - even Lot (Abraham's nephew) - they have seen them and had conversations with them. Because it is truly impossible to see angels with just vision alone - there is prophetic connection that allows us humans to see them - when there is a special purpose or message that is intended for a reason. I had requested of Hashem with all my heart, with all my soul that he send me a sign if I should continue to date a gentleman I was seeing or to break up. I felt something was just not perfect but was torn in making a decision on my own. That night in a sound that filled my bedroom I heard the word "listen" & "hear this"... I could hardly move and reluctantly opened my eyes to where the sound was coming from and to my left saw 3 Malachim (you can not see their faces,hands or feet) and a dream of someone requesting to see Parshat Noach. In the morning, and all day long I understood the message and of course terrified of my experience I knew I had to stop dating that person. It was so easy to just say goodbye - I was relieved. (Dec 1999) May 2000 - I met someone special...things were going well and 1 month later we were engaged. I was nervous about having the wedding plans so close - 6 months - I barely knew him...the family discussed November. I needed to be sure - I needed a sign.... I went to the calendar - and saw the Parsha of the week was indeed Parshat Noach! I am married to the person Hashem chose for me. I am thankful for the help I receive from above! If you would like to understand more on the subject please read books written by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan "Handbook of Jewish Thought".

(35) godwin, January 17, 2012 8:21 AM

impressive insight

seeing angel simple steps search is what i desire to know

(34) Deb, March 27, 2009 6:25 PM

The call

I was spending the summer with my parents. My mother was in hospice and it was just a matter of time. I had to return to NY state from Maryland because my children had to return to school. I told her we would come back in October. She had the nurses cross off the days until we arrived. My dad was sitting with her, I was home during a load of laundry for him. The call came that I had better hurry. Well. It was a Sunday afternoon and the roads were ususally filled with traffic. Not at this moment. Every red light turned green. A car pulled away near the front door of the hospital when I arrived. The elevator, which ususally stopped on every floor opened as I stood in front of it. It did not stop until I reached her floor. Upon entering her room, there was such a calmness. I whispered my goodbye, she had been in a deep coma but responded to me. It was so peaceful-I could see her go, it was the most beautiful moment.

(33) emperess, November 14, 2008 7:19 AM

love of a mother, saying goodbye

I was 21yrs old when my mother died at hospital about 2am,while my older sister and i was asleep at home. I was dreaming of her the very moment she died. She looked so beautiful not sick at all, happy and smiling, she said "i have to go" and i answered her and said "please no", not being aware that she meant for good. she then said "the phone is ringing and you are the one to answer it, go on." When i awoke the phone was really ringing, then to get the news that she died a moment ago. Being distraught i dropped the phone crying. The same day that night i sat on the bed wondering why this happened and wished she took me along, because my father died just a year before and dreamt him the same way in a garden waving good bye and smiling he died at 85 of old age. My mother was in her 50's. Suddenly the roon became dead silent and then i felt a presence walked from infront of me to the back,and placing a hand on my left shoulder, while this was happening the fine hairs from my feet arms, back, neck and the very hair on my head rose, my face felt cold. i felt scared but somewhat relaxed, i then said mummy if it's you, thanks but, you are scaring the shit out of me and it immediately stopped and i knew it was my loving mother trying to comfort me. be happy mummy, rest in peace and i love you and daddy.

(32) Sage, March 7, 2007 6:30 PM

I too know from first hand experience

The night my father died I felt hands on my back pushing me down the hallway the minute I got off the elevator at the hospital. He was waiting for my nightly shift to sit with him, and passed over about ten minutes after I got in the room for my final "I love you". The instant he departed the energy swirling in the room up towards the corner of the ceiling was so strong it nearly knocked me over. I thank g-d for the opportunity of that special blessing.

In another incident my long dead grandmother came to me while waking from sleep to tell me 'she had my cousin with her'. I immediately called my father from our vacation locale and found out indeed my young cousin had unexpectedly, and out of the blue, had died the day before. I believe she came to me so that I could reassure my uncle, her son, that he was safe with her.

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