"Give thanks in all circumstances."
-- 1 Thessalonians 5:18
In 2003, Gip Gayle of Lawrenceville was shot in the head while dove hunting. His chance of survival was slim. But his mother Beth said it was their faith in God and the earthly angels He sent that pulled them through.
Last August, Beth Gayle released her book "And Then Came the Angels" about Gip's road to recovery and the earthly angels who helped along the way. So far it has more than 50 five-star reviews on Amazon. It is not only a story of inspiration, but a resource for how to be an "angel" when tragedy strikes a loved one. Bringing dinner, mowing the lawn and helping with the laundry are among the angelic offerings Gayle mentions in her book.
I have firsthand experience with angel visits. It was 14 years ago to this date that we lost our son Loren in a car wreck. The next day, our friend Micki camped out in our dining room and plowed into all the legal paperwork. Our neighbor Rick came over and asked for my car keys.
"Why?" I asked.
"So I can get your car washed for the funeral," he said.
Dozens of people sent plants. I was overwhelmed. But my friend Jane and her daughter Megan faithfully watered the house plants until I got my bearings again and friends Susan and Peggy planted all the trees and shrubs in the freezing cold.
A blizzard of paper products -- towels, tissue, napkins, plates -- mysteriously appeared on my island. Over a decade later my friend Jimi finally fessed up to being the "paper angel."
Then there were the Parkview football moms who took care of food after the funeral. They baked up tons of lasagna and Mississippi Mud Pie, Loren's favorites, for the multitudes, then packed up the leftovers for the freezer. A week later they teamed up to hang our Christmas decorations. They truly looked like they had an angel's touch.
Through all the local tragedies I've read about and even written about this past year -- Aimee Copeland, Hannah Rinehart, Tripp Halstead, Janiah Maddox -- it was so heartening to see so many angels at work: Friends and family taking care of basics, local restaurants conducting fundraisers, charities setting up special funds, co-workers fighting the system to waive a sick leave policy, and even celebrities like Larry the Cable Guy taking time to cheer up one of his biggest -- and littlest -- fans.
There have been times in my life that I have really struggled with the Bible quote at the top of this column. You may have, too. But Beth Gayle's book brings back those times and helps me realize that no matter how bad the circumstances, God does send angels. And for that I give thanks.
Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.