Your Children Are Not Your Children

So valuable is the dignity of the human soul, that every member of the human race has a guardian from the moment the person is born.” – Saint Jerome

At first glance, one would think the above painting is an artist’s hope that guardian angels exist and guide our children. What if I told you it illustrates an actual event to the smallest detail?

Twelve years ago an old friend tracked me down after coming across a lithograph of mine. In it angels were pictured playing in the clouds, blowing stars to one another. Even though the signature on the piece was different from when I was in high school, Clare recognized my art and felt compelled to find me. She thought anyone who can paint angels like I do, must believe in them. After meeting for coffee, she confided the event that made her search me out. Two years earlier she had stood in court looking on as her ex-husband was sentenced for sexually abusing her daughter. What had taken place shook her family to its core. In the depths of their despair, an angel came to little Emma and helped her come to terms with what had happened. The angelic presence not only healed her but healed her mother and siblings too.

The events with her stepfather left Emma in deep emotional pain. She had loved him dearly and even called him dad. How could he betray her like this? How could she miss someone who had hurt her so much? One night, as she neared her breaking point, she climbed out of bed to get a tissue to dry her tears. When she returned, sitting next to her bed was a woman with wings and light radiating around her. She introduced herself as Sarah. She told Emma she was there to help. She knew that Emma missed her stepfather but promised her everything would be alright. The heavenly being assured her that she had done the right thing by revealing her secret to her mother. That was the beginning of an extraordinary relationship. Emma’s guardian angel stayed by her side during the process of pressing charges against her abuser. She always knew exactly what Emma needed to hear to soothe her.

As Clare and I rekindled our friendship, of course, I pondered the hugeness of her story. I wanted to believe her. Who wouldn’t want the comfort of knowing that our children are watched over when we can’t protect them? After meeting her kids, I was convinced something incredible had indeed taken place. I came to believe my friend’s daughter had been given a gift, through a tangible presence that had found her shattered and left her whole.

As time went on, Emma’s angel began to fade into the background but never entirely left. Today all grown up and a mother herself, she continues to be one of the most well-adjusted young ladies I’ve ever met. It’s impossible not to feel a remnant of the celestial when in her presence. Until now, her encounter with Sarah has only been disclosed to a trusted few. The way I see it, Emma’s gift is a healing balm that should be shared with the world. Her mother agrees and is now expanding her journals about her daughter’s experience into a book. As a parent, I feel privileged to have been able to tuck Emma’s visitation in my heart all these years. It’s been such a source of comfort to me while watching my children scale some very rocky terrain. In lyrics penned by Van Morrison we are assured, “You know the obstacles along the way, sometimes might feel so tremendous. There are guides and spirits all along the way, who will befriend us.” Our loved ones are watched over and cared for even when we can’t be with them. Just knowing that helps me sleep better at night.

So what about you? I would love to hear any experiences you’ve had with the angelic.

*The names were changed in the post to protect the privacy of all involved.

Dream Catchers is the image Clare came across and compelled her to find me.

Dream Catchers is the image Clare came across and compelled her to find me.

All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.

16 thoughts on “Your Children Are Not Your Children

  1. Thanks for sharing this amazing story. I too clung to the hope you expressed here while I waited 3 long months to pick up my daughter from a Chinese orphanage where she received minimal care for 11 months. Perhaps the intervention of angels is what allowed her to have the biggest, warmest smile even though she weighed 11 pounds at 11 months of age.
    Sue, how can I purchase a copy of Dream Catcher? It’s gorgeous.


  2. I love this story. I,too, am an abuse survivor. My father abused me for quite some time. Yet, in spite of all the misery and pain, I knew that I would be alright. I never actually saw an angel, but I felt my angel. During each episode, I felt myself being lifted out of my body and I felt enveloped in an intense blanket of love. There was also a light that I could never see in the world. I haven’t seen it since then, but there is a comfort in knowing that it is there when I need it. I was never afraid to leave my body. It certainly was better than the alternative. Somehow, I know that my angel or angels were with me. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have survived. Today, I still know that my angels are here and that my God (Source, or whatever you would like to call it) is still here.


  3. Thank you so much for sharing Angel experiences! It encourages other people to share what we might not otherwise feel comfortable doing. When I was young we had no religion in our house. My father ridiculed the idea of angels so I simply did not believe. One day while working as a hospice nurse, I went to visit a patient who was near death. As I raised my hand to knock on the door, I looked up and saw two enormous Angels above the house. I put my hand down and ‘remembered’ that there are indeed angels. Seems I just forgot. When I finished and was standing next to my car, I suddenly had a very large wing attached to my left scapula. I could see the white feathers with pink skin underneath and feel the weight of this very large wing! I heard the Universe have a laugh at my amazement. I felt such gratitude for the reminder. I can still feel where the wing attached and recall the vision. Thanks for letting me share. Alisa


  4. Sometimes the angels that appear are in the shape of dogs~~~~I’m a firm believer that dogs are some of God’s most special messengers. How healing all angels are to all those who are hurting and need comfort to know that eventually all will be well.


  5. Sue, Thank you so much for sharing this story. I to believe in angles. I’ve never seen them but I have felt their presence and know of their protecting power. I have shared on my blog Traveling Grace, about our oldest son and how angles brought him home safe. I have also shared on my blog, Why I Must Forgive. It was learning to forgive after learning our youngest son was molested by a neighbor over a two year period. It was 6 years later before we knew. Our son was 8 to 10 at that time. He is now 35 and finely able to turn the emotional baggage over to God. After 2 failed marriages he decided it was time to fix himself with Gods help and stop depending on a wife to fix him. The piece I wrote on Forgiveness, he told me it was that, that made it possible to go on. No matter what we go through it can be used to help another heal. Keep spreading the message of God’s amazing grace.


  6. I had a young son, so different from the others. Infinitely gentle, deeply thoughtful and perceptive beyond his tender years, yet full of joy. Whilst his older siblings indulged in rough or boisterous play, after a time of joining in, he’d withdraw to a grassy bank near them, and just sit and watch them. I used to watch him watch them, and I’d feel a stillness within me, like I had entered his secret world, for a wee moment.

    One day, after months intermittent, he was hospitalized with an unknown illness. Being Catholics, we prayed desperately to St Jude to heal him.After a month, his doctors declared him on the mend. On our way bringing him home, we stopped at a St Jude’s church to give thanks. The kids were all asleep in the back of the car, heads lolling on one another. This little one of ours rested his head on one of his older siblings but with his back angled towards us. It was not at all hot in the car, but on his T-shirt, on the shoulder blades, we saw 2 distinct, perfectly formed ovals. They didn’t feel wet; neither were they oil marks. Puzzling over it for a while, we let it be and roused the kids and went into the church. I paused to pray thanks at a St Jude statue. As I prayed, I had the odd feeling that my prayer was being received but falling through a vacuum. I could not explain it.

    5 days later, the angels came and took our little one home.

    The pastor who presided over our son’s service did not know us at all, and yet, his sermon stunned me because he spoke of things he could not have known of. But one things stayed with me. The pastor repeatedly referred to our son as an angel. It was not said as an endearment or to comfort us. It was as if the pastor knew something we didn’t. When we approached him the next day to ask how he could of known of the things he spoke about, he was very quiet, and gently told us that he didn’t know either. We understood then that someone had spoken through the pastor, someone from beyond this world.

    Several days later, very late at night, unable to silence the sobs in my throat, I left our bedroom to go downstairs to weep by myself. At the foot of the stairs, my eyes caught an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on a Catholic calendar on the wall. As I gazed at her holding her baby, imagining mine she was holding, I heard these still words in my heart: Those marks you saw on him were the beginnings of angel wings.

    Do I believe it? Yes, I do, but not because it comforts me. I believe it because I know it’s true. An angel took on human form for two years, seven months and twenty four days to let us know he was our Guardian Angel who would guide us through the treacherous path ahead. Because we loved him beyond words, when we lost him, we searched for him in all things holy and reverent. Our search purified us, lifted the scales from our eyes to see the errors of our ways, and it saved us before we lost God forever.

    I am thankful to God for the gift of this angel, but like any mother, I’d give anything to have my boy back.


      • Sue, I’m going through a healing process now – healing from decades of emotional and spiritual abuse by my mother. So many big and little things have happened in the course of this healing journey which began in 2012.

        Yesterday, I stumbled upon your blog. Seeing your paintings of angels that look so much like children we might have had and loved and then bade farewell to, you touched something, somewhere so deep within me. Suddenly, the evening here became more golden and joy rode on the breezes that blew through our home. I know that some healing has come my way thanks to your beautiful angels. Sue, thanks so much for sharing your God-given gift. Given what you had gone through with your own mother and father, you could have so easily chosen bitterness and despair and self-pity, but you chose to allow God to heal you, and now, you’re actually sharing that Healing Light with others.

        Wishing you and your lovely family a blessed Christmas too.


  7. Thank you, Cathy. That was one of the nicest things anyone has said to me about my art. You are a woman of courage and I imagine God is having his way with you. He is the master alchemist and will take you struggles and make them gifts to share with the world. Love to you, Sue


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s