Bearers of Light

by Rachel Macy Stafford
Originally Published: 

I will always remember reading the first email message two years ago from the woman who received my gift card through Scary Mommy’s Thanksgiving meal donation.

This woman, who knew nothing about me but my name, referred to me in the message as her “Thanksgiving angel.” And below that ultimate compliment, she shared one detail of herself – the names of her five children.

I studied each beautiful name as warm tears dripped down my face. At that moment I knew this was real. And it was going to be a life changer.

This is our story …

That initial email from Sarah was the start of many correspondences. Like old friends who were catching up on lost time, we quickly began exchanging information about where we reside, our children, and our pastimes.

As a writer, I was immediately struck by Sarah’s beautiful way with words – openness, authenticity, and acceptance were etched throughout her messages. I felt as if I could sit with her over coffee and share my deepest insecurities knowing kind, understanding eyes would lovingly stare back at me.

As days passed, the email messages grew longer and longer, and in each one she shared details of how her life had taken a difficult turn since her husband’s unexpected unemployment.

Upon receiving the sixth email message, it dawned on me that our correspondences were therapeutic for her. Emotions flowed freely in the updates, allowing her to sort through the difficult choices and sacrifices she and her husband were forced to make on a daily basis.

Sarah wrote, “I’m just marveling/basking in this and how very much I appreciate not only the opportunity to provide meals for the kids, but to have ‘met’ you. I’ve been able to experience some emotions and tap into places in my heart that my head tried to seal closed while we attempt to weather the remainder of our journey as an unemployed family.”

I looked forward to Sarah’s messages and the bond forming between us strengthened. Although her notes included heart-breaking details like having to sell their family sedan to not having money to buy the children birthday gifts, there was always humor, hope, and light. There was always this indescribable light — Sarah’s light. In the midst of so much pain and despair, there was always light.

A few weeks after sending Sarah the gift card, I was out to dinner with friends and out of the blue, one of them asked if I knew any families she could help out during the holidays.

I could only nod my head yes, for words failed me. After collecting myself, I told them of five children who would love to know Santa Claus still comes even when their family finds themselves struggling to simply make it through each day.

By the end of the dinner, everyone at the table was prepared to help Sarah’s family by showering them with presents and gift cards for food.

That same pattern of generosity continued for the next several months. Unexpectedly, readers of my blog contacted me and asked if I knew any families who needed help.

I always used the very same email message Scary Mommy sent me that fateful November day when I was given Sarah’s address. When I hit ‘forward’ and sent her address to those who wanted to help, it felt like hope was growing, as if the momentum of the world was changing,

Providentially, the unexpected gifts from strangers arrived at the precise moment they were needed – when Sarah received her Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, when her husband needed emergency oral surgery, and the day after her daughter’s terrifying skiing accident.

With money sent to her from one of the unexpected angels, Sarah was able to buy a plane ticket home to see her ailing mother and beloved sisters.

This meant Sarah was one state away from me. She was so determined to see me that she posted a message on her Facebook wall asking if anyone wanted to take a road trip. Another angel, a friend from her middle school days, drove Sarah and her baby six hours round trip to see me.

After hugging like sisters who had been separated at birth, we sat down on the floor and watched her youngest child walk from toy to toy as my daughters entertained.

He was more than beautiful and content … he had this aura about him. Oh yes, Sarah’s light … he had his mother’s light. From the looks of his radiant face, you wouldn’t know the tragedy and the suffering his family had recently endured.

I thought back down the line to every person who had protected Sarah’s light, beginning with Jill and ending with an angel in Georgia who was helping Sarah’s husband find a job.

By reaching out with love and hope, each person had cupped their hands around Sarah’s light so that it would not be extinguished. Although there were times when it flickered and dimmed, it could not be snuffed out. Time and time again, the light was protected so it could maintain its brilliance and be passed on to the small bearers of light in her life.

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