This self-help book recounts how the author finds solace after the mental illness and suicide of her twenty-year old daughter. The memory of her experience at age seven when she was the only angel to show up in a blue dress on First Holy Communion Day at St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago provides the starting point for her grief recovery process. She begins a frantic quest to learn everything she can about angels, latching onto the notion that when angels choose to incarnate, the results are often tragic. In the six-year period covered in the book, the author witnesses synchronicities and the presence of angels both in the spirit and in the flesh.

The book is arranged under such topics as angels, dreams, birds, travel, resurrection lily, music and meditation--each of them forming a vane of the process the author describes as her pinwheel of grief. It attempts to answer a multitude of "why's" after a heart-wrenching tragedy. Some of the questions lead to answers that soothe the soul. Mired in grief, the author writes she found "angels in the mud."

The blue angel of the story is both the bereaved mother and the daughter. As this mother progresses through the grief process, she realizes the mother-daughter roles have reversed. She is the daughter now and the deceased child, who precedes her across death's threshold, is the mother. In this account of life after the death of a beloved child, the mother testifies to incredible manifestations of that daughter's guidance and direction beyond the grave, effecting great blessings.



I was seven years old in 1954. Educated in parochial schools, I should have realized, even at that tender age, that angels wear white. That's how they usually appeared on holy cards or on the big flip chart with scenes from the Bible the nuns used in religion class, poking with a pointer at the inattentive listener. In those pictures, I could not tell if the angels were boys or girls. I never listened very well in second grade, because even then I was off in my dream world or two pages ahead in the story some boy was struggling to read aloud. So, of course, when Sister Angeline spoke to the little girls who were going to be angels for their older brothers in third grade who were making their first Holy Communion, I filtered the information through a haze of springtime colors.

"Guess what?" I shouted to my mother as I burst through the kitchen door after school. "I'm going to be an angel!"

"I guess that means you need a new dress."

"No, I can wear my blue nylon dress, the one grandma sewed. Sister said we can wear any pastel-colored dress."

"What's this for?"

"I'm to walk in procession ahead of the communion class. Anyone in second-grade who has a brother or sister receiving First Holy Communion gets to be an angel.

"I loved the blue dress with puffy sleeves and lace trim that my grandmother had sewn for me. The girls who were making their First Holy Communion would all be wearing white veils, dresses, stockings and shoes. Lucky me, I would be wearing the blue I adored, like the mantle of our Blessed Mother, the Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue to whom I prayed. I was happy, excited, honored and elated to be part of the procession of girl angels.

The First Communion Sunday I walked into the classroom where all the angels were gathered before the ceremony. I was about to settle into a desk to wait for the procession to form, when I noticed Sister Angeline staring at me, horror registering on her face. Was I in the wrong room? I looked around the room crowded with demure girls all dressed in white. Was this where the girls making their first Holy Communion were to assemble before they marched into the church?

Sister pulled me up by one puffy sleeve. She examined me at arm's length. Loosening her hold, she reared back, placed a pale palm under her pointed chin.

"Just what are we to do with you?" Her brows knit, as she scrutinized the offending dress. After a few moments, her gaze softened, as she sought the inspiration of God. Behind rimless glasses, her beady gray eyes scanned the room of schoolgirls. "Judith, you're not in the procession, are you?

"Judith, fortuitously wearing a pure white dress, stood watching the proceedings. She had no brother or sister receiving First Holy Communion that morning, but she did have a perfectly good white dress.

"Come here," Sister ordered. She stood Judith and I back to back.

"Excellent. Judith, you'll wear Olivia's blue dress. Olivia, here, get out of that dress." Unresisting, I held up my arms while Sister Angeline lifted the blue dress over my head. As the thin blue material passed over my red face, I glimpsed the self-satisfaction suffuse Sister's countenance. The sooner she slipped the white dress over my scrawny body in a white slip the better. If I could have dropped into a trap door in the wood flooring of the classroom at that moment, I would have gladly done so. I was utterly humiliated. My family would all witness my humiliation when I walked down the aisle. Withered was all the glory of the day and now I just wanted to survive the ordeal of the next hour and go home.

After the ceremony, I marched in procession to the back of the church, where my family was watching.

"Where's your dress?" my mother asked as I reached the church lobby.

Crestfallen, I told her I had to exchange dresses with another girl. "I have to go back to the classroom and get my dress." My mother refrained from reproaching my stupidity. Nothing further was said about the mix-up. I wanted to bury my embarrassment and humiliation forever.

Alone in the big house after Leila's death, meditating on the possibility of angel presence on the earth plane, the memory of that humiliation, the permanent feeling of being different that it burned into my personality, rushed back into my consciousness. Was my mistaken appearance as an angel at age seven years old the seminal experience in my development, the road sign pointing the way to all my future mistakes and consequent sufferings? More likely, was the little girl I was to bear the blue angel come down to earth to smooth over that mistake long ago and, perhaps, all the mistakes of my lifetime? I comforted myself with the thought that an angel was sent to console me. That blue angel decided to incarnate years later as my daughter. She was a blue angel who after incarnating never did quite fit into the world, just as I was a misfit among all the little girl angels wearing white that spring morning at St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois.