The holiday blues can come without warning, as a result of the loss of loved ones or other personal tragedies. It’s especially challenging to be lonely or sad during festive times of year, when family and friends are so important. This year my daughter moved away and I felt her absence sorely and that of my mother and fathers who had passed on a few years ago. Many of us don’t have our families with us or are separated from loved ones and find ourselves alone during the holidays. But are we really alone?
My grandmother passed on a tradition that has helped me in times of trouble and also in times I sought to feel a spiritual connection with the world and people around me. She taught me to notice that my guardian angel was always with me. The awareness of my spiritual companion has taken many forms for me, both in dark times and light. I remain grateful and full of love for the feeling that I am loved and cherished by those who have come before me, by those who walk unseen among us and by those who are here and yet to come. We are all woven into the fabric of life and no one is unimportant. I offer Rani’s Song a Christmas story I wrote in 1989 in thanks to our guardian angels and look forward to a happy and healthy 2013 for all of us.
At Christmas, Heaven and Earth move a little closer and for a time, celebrating the return of the light. Sometimes it is also a chance to catch a glimpse of our unseen companions, who yearn to share their love with us, especially when we are troubled or sad. Sadly, even children, who love with the innocence of hope, often forget to reach out to their guardian angels for comfort.
One small angel named Celeste, was determined to find a way to reach her child, Rani. She saw the other angels trying and trying to ease the suffering that poured like salt into the wounds of their human’s lives, but most could only watch and wait for a moment of faith or desperation.
Perhaps Celeste was moved to try especially hard because her little one, Rani, really needed her love. Rani was born in what we now call Pakistan, to a very poor family with more than enough mouths to feed. Her father, Purnam, worked the same stony, war-torn ground his family had cultivated for generations. There were some goats and sheep to be tended and a few hardy vegetables. All the children learned to work early, playing when they could find a little time. The family often shared songs and prayers before their evening meal and told stories in front of the fire when the nights turned cold.
One winter Rani’s mother fell ill, so her daughters took over much of the housework. Rani was too young to be much help and found herself without much to do. Her older brother, Raj, would let her go with him occasionally to tend the sheep because Rani enjoyed playing with the lambs. Celeste knew the peoples’ lives were hard and sang for them as they all prayed together in the evenings.
When Raj was thirteen, he left the family to go to war. His mother and father tried to keep him at home, saying he was too young, but he left one night as they slept. There was no news and as the months slipped by the others took turns tending the sheep. Rani went with her sister, who met with the shepherd boys and danced as they sang and played their pipes. At twilight she watched the road with Yuri, Raj’s dog, to see if he might be coming home.
In late fall, one of the oldest ewes bore two little lambs, one black and one white. No one expected them to live very long because the cold and snows had come quickly, flowing over the land like an old man’s long white beard. Rani was enchanted by the twins. She would make a bed for them out of straw every night and talk and play with them in the daytime. Celeste watched the girl’s tenderness toward the lambs with gratitude. Sometimes the light she felt was so strong and warm she was sure Rani must feel her nearby. Rani knew there was something special about the lambs and wished with all her heart that her family could be together again, warm and happy.
The village celebrated the birth of the Christ child with songs and warm lights. On Christmas Eve Rani stayed home to help her sisters prepare their meal, learning to make special cakes sweetened with honey and spices. They even roasted two hens to share with Purnam’s sister and her children.
Purnam was late coming home and Rani was restless, waiting to tuck the lambs in before their feast. At last, she heard the sheep clattering in the shed, their bleating dimmed by the falling snow. It tickled her cheeks as she ran out to greet her father. The flock jostled and bumped together in a woolly bunch. Purnam was bent over the small, white lamb, tucking it into a pillow of hay. The little girl felt great love for him in that moment, watching his big, tender hands As he rose and turned to go home, Purnam saw his littlest girl standing in the doorway, the light shining from her face. His large, dark eyes softened and filled with love. The sheep crowded into their shed, bumping into Rani, who looked at her father wonderingly.
Suddenly, she knew. There was a face not counted among them — the little black lamb! Purnam went to her, to let her know he had scoured the hills, but couldn’t find him, but Rani turned and ran, her heart fluttering like a wild bird caught in a snare.
No! He couldn’t be gone! Tears stung her eyes, landing hot on cheeks rosy with the cold. She ran blindly in the snow, ignoring her father’s shouts, determined to find her little black sheep. Celeste, Rani’s angel, could not believe this turn of events. She raced unseen beside the fleet, frantic little girl while the snow fell softly. Never in all her memory had Celeste prayed so hard.
Further into the hills ran Rani, tripping on the rough, stony ground. She grew hoarse calling for the lost lamb. He wasn’t anywhere they normally grazed. In her heart, she knew her father would have looked in all these places, but she couldn’t give up. She, too, prayed to God for help. The snow fell faster, silent and deadly for the little girl who searched with no hat or gloves. Her hands and feet had lost any sensation of warmth or cold long ago. Suddenly, Rani heard a sharp, unexpected sound. Again, louder, then dimly — she thought it sounded familiar.
Celeste was beside herself trying to keep some warmth around the child. Rani was slowing down and wouldn’t be able to continue on feet too frozen to feel.
Arf! Arf! It was a dog! A last surge of love for the little lamb drove Rani to the West, into the heart of the storm. It tossed her like a leaf and swept her into a whiteness that left her with no sense of direction. She stumbled blindly toward a group of broken stones, the remains of a farm fallen prey to war.
Something dark lunged at her from the ruins, knocking her to the ground. She screamed, but no sound came out as she struggled desperately to get away. It was no use. She couldn’t think, her hands and feet were frozen, her spirit breaking. Then she heard a small baa, lonely and afraid. Yuri nuzzled Rani’s face and whined, waiting for instructions. Her mind was so slow she only dimly realized it was the dog.
Celeste looked at the fallen child crumpled on the ground. Yuri stood over her, torn between his two lost sheep. She had the inexplicable desire to weep. She couldn’t believe there was nothing she could do.
In that moment of despair, a feeling surged through her that swept the pain away. She would do something! Celeste turned with complete faith to the Source. She found herself singing with her whole being watching the light stream forth, illuminating the scene below.
Yuri was the first to see the glow begin and started barking, rousing Rani enough to open her eyes. She didn’t notice the light right away, but she did see what it illuminated. Stuck in a corner, its leg trapped between two rocks, was the little, black sheep. It looked so helpless, but thanks to Yuri it had not fallen prey to scavengers or the bitter cold.
Rani cried out in relief and stumbled over to the lamb. Joy brought warm tears to her eyes, which froze before they fell to the ground. The dog, the lamb and the little girl huddled together, shivering, trying to fend off the creeping, implacable cold that would chill their victory in death.
Celeste, though, was on a roll! She sang and sang, her light shining brighter than any star. Soon, other angels joined her, Spirit fusing them in harmonies only dreamed of on Earth. The light grew so strong that night in the mountains that the villagers told the story for many years to come. They could see the glow through the meals and the merrymaking, bringing them out of their warm homes to witness the shining, golden light.
Purnam, fighting his way through the snow, watched as the star grew in brightness above him. Somehow, he knew it was a beacon guiding him to his child, and thanked God with a love he did not know he possessed. When he reached the frozen trio, his embrace brought Rani and her little black lamb back from an icy death to warm, loving life. Their tears fell warmly to the Earth in thanks.
Celeste and the angels were enraptured. They all touched in a small, but essential way, the true meaning of Christmas, the Light shining in the darkness, the Love that never dies.
“So it was you who helped save me?” Rani, a new angel sang. Celeste looked at her, full of love and tender understanding for the full life Rani had experienced as a person on Earth. “Yes my dear, I’ve been with you all this time.” Celeste sang back. Angels sing when they talk, sometimes referred to as the music of the spheres. “Now we are home together.” Rani felt like a shining star, bright with joy in harmony with the universe. Celeste was happy, knowing that Rani would become her guardian angel when she was ready to go back to school. It is as it was and always shall be: as above, so below.