I’ve chosen that double-dip name for my blog (Sophy-wisdom), first because Sophy is my Christened name, spelt like that, with a “y,” and then because all my life I’ve been straining and struggling to find wisdom.
Just this week, I received a wonderful story to share: a car, an 18-wheeler, an accident–and then what? I remember getting two letters once from two different people who each recounted the same story–of a car that against all the laws of physics passed through another so that though they saw the faces in the other car as it shifted through their front seat, averting a crash.
For days this letter from Victoria (a stranger to me) has made me happy, and I’m glad she says I can post it. I can’t do better than quote from her letter to me.
At 17, I was diagnosed with a severe panic disorder. I had my first panic attack while driving a car, and I began to fear driving so much that having a panic attack when behind the wheel became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I went through years of therapy before learning how to deal with it. I am 41 now, and always have a small fear in the back of my mind when driving, though I know to reverse the symptoms of a panic attack if needed.
On May 20, 2016 I drove my son an hour and a half on the Interstate to meet his biological father for his weekend visitation. The highway is very congested on Friday evenings, and that evening was no different. As I headed home, I was traveling in the left lane. The speed limit is 75, and I was going about 80. The truck in front of me changed to the right lane, which seemed to be opening up, so I followed. Suddenly he swerved back into the left lane, and there I was, twenty or thirty feet from a car-carrying 18-wheeler that lay sideways across the road. The left lane was jammed.
I screamed “Oh my God, oh my God!” and closed my eyes.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Heb. 13.2
Don’t you love the stories where a stranger knocks on the door to tell you just what you need to do to save a situation–or a life? I tell of several in A Book of Angels, one, around 1906, concerned a little girl dying of scarlet fever. She was so sick that her little coffin and white shroud was ready. One day a knock came at the door. The maid answered. “You can’t come in. The house is quarantined.”
“I’m a doctor,” said the stranger, giving his name and the township where he lived. “Go to the backyard and pluck a tail-feather from the rooster.” (In those days everyone kept chickens in their yards.) “Wrap the child’s throat in hot, wet flannel, and when she coughs, pull out the phlegm in her throat with the feather. She will live.” He went away, and the little girl’s father did as directed. She recovered. But that’s not all.
A few weeks later her father hitched up the horse and drove to the nearby town to thank the good doctor, only to be told that the man had died several years before. As for the little girl, to the end of her days, and she lived into her nineties, she kept the tiny shroud in which she should have been buried. And who was the doctor, an angel? A spirit? A guide?
Now a new story has come my way, about a war-refugee in Germany during the War.
A few days ago I received an email from Davila (a stranger) writing in response to a story in A BOOK OF ANGELS of the Jamaican char who came into my dying mother’s hospital room and with a few words healed our relationship. I can’t do better than to print the whole email, and not only because the writer is so grateful. Here is her story of another healing angel: (Sorry I can’t find the tag on the new wordpress thingey that lets you choose to read on. Darn!)
I have just begun reading A Book of Angels, and after a particular passage, I feel compelled to share this story:
My mother died this March 2, 2016. She and I were very close. On February 25 she was admitted to the ICU in the hospital with pancreatic cancer. She died seven days later in a beautiful hospice room. Even as I write this now I realize that today is March 25, exactly one month from that night she went in the ambulance.
The day we moved her from the hospital to a hospice a few miles away, my older brother and sister stood with my father discussing some details with the doctor. I stood by my mother’s hospital bed, crying, she opened her eyes, though she was heavily sedated, and I called my family back in to see. Her eyes rested on each of us, and she tried to speak to us but was unable to, because of the breathing tube. It was the last moment she was awake and looking at all of us together before she died, and it felt like a small miracle.
My family went on ahead in the car. I stayed with my mom. Just before the ambulance guys arrived to move her, a priest came in to give her a blessing. I am not Catholic, but I took some comfort in the prayers. But what soothed me more was the sturdy nun with deep chocolate brown skin and a smooth round face who walked in behind him. She came directly to me and stood quietly beside me. As the priest finished his blessing, the ambulance drivers arrived. I felt her beside me, and I wanted her there.
There was a flurry of straps and tubes and hospital machine noises as the nurse and paramedics moved my mother and her life support from one bed to another. I stood back, feeling helpless and lost without my mother. Then, at the same moment, the nun turned to me and I to her ,and she wrapped her broad arms around me, and rocked me like a little girl. It felt natural, like I had known her a long time. I started to sob.
“You’re the baby” she said. She had a thick Islander accent. “I lost my mother too” she said to me. “Its hard and you love her so.” As they began wheeling my mother out of the room, the nun let me go. She said more things quietly to me as we let go hands, but I don’t remember what they were. Only that I had a strong feeling that mother love is all around me. I remember thinking that phrase specifically, mother love.
She kept her gaze on me until I was out of sight. I remember noticing how no one in the hospital room had paid her any attention. Not even the priest. Her name was Zita.
How The Treasure of Montsegur came to me is another angelic story in itself. That story has resonated with me like no other I’ve read, and reading it led me to A Book of Angels. I am so thankful to you Sophy, for your beautiful writing. It has touched me with truths I will hold for the rest of my life.
Dear Friends: LOOK! My book of poetry is being published in May. Here is the draft cover (with a few too many colons). I am so pleased, BUT…..
Finishing Line Press wants 100 pre-publication sales, and I am asking you out of friendship, curiosity, generosity, courtesy, and love of Words, to buy a copy – or two – or some to give away to friends.
If they don’t get enough pre-publication sales, they don’t publish. And then you get your money back. Here is the link to order FALLING: LOVE-STRUCK, The God Poems by Sophy Burnham. https://finishinglinepress.com/index.php?cPath=2&sort=2a&filter_id=2147
Will you help?
This is only a draft cover and needs adjustment. And below is a review… and also one poem from this collection.
Here’s one of the reviews: Continue reading
You rarely come across a truly miracle—so much is called imagination or explained as some twist of quarks or physics, but here’s one that happened to me just a few days ago.
I was on the Chunnel train traveling from London to Paris. I was underground, in fact deep underneath the English Channel, with tons of fathoms of water overhead, pressing on the tunnel itself (itself a sort of miracle, to my mind, and bless those engineers and workers who built it in such a way it doesn’t collapse under the weight of water, but that’s another story).
My cellphone had been dead for days, because though I had remembered to pack the charger, I had rather stupidly forgotten that I also needed the wall attachment that allows an American apparatus to plug into a European socket, and being too busy to buy an attachment, my cellphone’s power had slowly faded and died out. (I thought I might buy one when I got to Paris, and meanwhile, the phone was, after two days, quite black and dead.)
Suddenly it rang. I looked up from my book in astonishment, picked it up. “Hello?” The call was from my cousin’s friend, who informed me that she had to go out and would leave the key under a rock in a flowerpot in the courtyard . She gave me the door code and directions to get inside.
Then the phone again went dead. But when I arrived at eleven at night on a dark and empty street, I could thankfully find my way into the apartment. Blessing the angels that watch over us
Oh god! How foolish it all sounds in light of the bombing last night in Paris, the 160 people killed, the wounded, the horror–the horror–the senseless murders and lives ripped to pieces and the fear rippling through the air. Oh god, send angels to us in our helplessness. Write to me. Write to me. We need miracles now.
Rest is not idleness, and to lie in the sun on a warm Spring day, listening to the rustle of the wind in the trees or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. Alba, the cat.
There is a long tradition of writing from the point of view of an animal: Black Beauty, Watership Down, the Golden Ass by Apuleius—and also of writing about animals. I started considering a book about my cat Alba, when a friend at the National Geographic sent a letter to Alba from her cat Puma.
“What a great idea for a novel,” I thought and immediately started writing a cat novel in exchanged letters.
It didn’t work.
And then my beloved Alba died, and I began again. Curiously (a quality cats have plenty of), a totally new character leapt onto the page (Surprise!)– Continue reading
All over the world, there are people who cannot read or write. In the District of Columbia alone there are more than 200,000 — imagine if so many were blind and tapping their canes down Pennsylvania Avenue in a March against Illiteracy.
This is a wonderful thing to think about. If you are reading this, you are literate. What we mean is someone who cannot read a bus sign, make out the meaning of a government leaflet, health care, financial transactions. God help us all.
Here are some links to gram marly — celebrate international literacy day (week; year)
<a href=”http://www.grammarly.com/blog/2015/celebrate-international-literacy-day/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://www.grammarly.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Literacy-Day-1.jpg” width=”600″ alt=”Literacy Day” /></a>
Source: <a href=”https://www.grammarly.com/plagiarism-checker”>Grammarly </a>
Isn’t that sweet?
Well, in another ten days my novel, LOVE, ALBA will be in bookstores. (I think it’s already posted on Amazon), and I’m ready to go into a trough of depression after all these months of work. BUT I GOT MY FIRST REVIEW THIS WEEK, and I’m so pleased I could POP! It’s from Romance Foresight for the Fall issue (my novel is a love story for mature women). The review called Love, Alba “hilarious,” “unique,” and “fascinating,” and “heartfelt” and “a touching reflection on life in a conversational storyteller’s style.”
“Without question, these sage creatures [the cats] dominate the plot. Mystical, angelic, and occasionally overbearing, they contribute much more than insignificant details.”
Then Foresight quotes from my book: “Late that night I moved to the moonlit window. A bat flew past, a silent blur of black, and deep in the grass came the scurrying of mice and moles. In the distance a garbage can lid fell with a clatter—the work of an urban raccoon. The city was bathed in an amber glow, and with eyes half-closed I settled into the silent cat-space that connected me with Puma across the river, communing mind to mind.”
So here’s the deal: I’ll be asking for help in spreading the word. I hope you’ll buy Love, Alba, but also that you’ll post news on your social media sites, and ask your local bookstore to carry it, and maybe write a review for Amazon or Goodreads. If everyone buys on Amazon on the same day (August 10 or 11), it could hit the Bestseller lists! (take THAT! you New York publishers!)
For autographed copies, look on my website to place an order, and I’ll sign and mail you copies.