Our Unseen Companion

There is a series of paintings by an American artist, Thomas Cole, which depict the stages of life, from infancy to old age. In the first image an infant is seen in a small boat while at the helm stands a radiant angel who guides the vessel out of a dark cavern into a misty dawn light. In the next painting the infant has become a youth and the landscape opens up into a vast and exciting prospect. The youth now takes the helm while the spirit gestures farewell from the bank. In the third canvas, entitled Manhood, the boat is poised at the brink of a dangerous cataract. The helm is broken, the sky dark with menacing clouds, and the grown man now seems lost. Only in the upper corner of the painting can there be seen a faint light of hope where we can just make out the delicate shape of his angelic companion.

The final scene, Old Age, shows the stream of life reaching the ocean to which all life is tending. The now time-worn traveller recognises that his journey in life is ending and for the first time he sees the spirit who has accompanied him throughout, and the spirit is pointing ahead to a brilliant light.

In the Celtic tradition, as John O’Donohue reminds us in his book Eternal Echoes, there was a strong sense that each of us has an invisible companion who walks the road of life with us. The Christian tradition says that when we were sent here onto earth a guardian angel was chosen to accompany our every step, to watch over us and keep a circle of light around us lest any negativity damage us. Without our even knowing it our angel is always at work for us.

I learned this when I developed cancer of the thyroid some years ago. I was alone, my companion being in India at the time, and I was filled with fear. Then, one night I awoke with an interior voice saying ‘You are not alone. You have an angel working alongside you.’ And from that moment I ceased to have any fear.

4 thoughts on “Our Unseen Companion”

  1. This was such a coincidence for me to read as I was waiting anxiously for news about my husband’s health and was feeling very stressed. In the event we had good news, but I found comfort in the presence of ‘my’ angel.

  2. Reading this was like an answer to a need I hadn’t known I’d had. Suddenly I could relax and feel that whatever happened I was being lovingly looked after.

  3. Such an experience from Diana is profoundly helpful to hear. I think it gives a sense of community among believers to share and it encourages me to write this.
    At a very difficult period of our marriage when my husband was ill, deeply abusive to me and I had reason to fear for my life and those of our children, he threatened to kill himself if I were to leave him. During these months with nothing but a fairly untested faith and a few close friends to help me, I had an experience, of our Unseen Companion . I woke in the night, he was asleep beside me and I was simply watching him, in the moonlight, looking so relaxed, hoping? praying? Then, though no words were spoken, there was a Presence with us, we were lifted up, together, as a parent might hold a pair of twins one in each arm. It was a physical experience: he and I were cradled for what was a timeless period in the absolute security of love. Then with infinite gentleness we were both put down and encouraged to walk on. Some traumatic months later he took his own life. That night, having begun the attempt to explain to the children their father’s death,( they were 7 and 5), utterly exhausted, and in shock, I fell asleep, to have the same experience again with an extraordinary twist. We were held together, as before, in this secure, loving embrace. Then, I was gently put back on my feet and encouraged to walk on, and he remained held in that loving security. I woke in the morning with energy and free any lingering sense of guilt at all for his death and absolutely clear that he was “at home” in God’s love. The journey since then has been and remains, agonizingly difficult at times, but deeply blessed; often in surprising ways, by love, in the form of the help and wisdom of true friends, the meeting of new ones at points of need, especially when I have been at my weakest. There is both comfort and hope in this that makes me deeply thankful.

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