Life was good at seventeen. I was a senior. I lived with my younger sister, Joey, and our dad. Mom had left a year or so earlier. Our older sister, Holly, was at Western Michigan University. Dad was it for us. He was our only parent; and a great one at that.
One winter afternoon however, one decision would change our lives forever. Dad went snowmobiling with Joey and another friend of his. Dad had asked if I would join them. I didn’t feel like going. I remember sitting at the piano, not wanting to leave the comfort of home.
I soon learned that I would regret that decision for a lifetime. That afternoon, Dad died of a heart attack while pulling on the ignition cord of the snowmobile.
Things were tough after that. Joey was only 12. She had seen him fall to the snow on that blustery day; no doubt, a permanent image in her mind. Now I didn’t know how that would happen. There was no money. Dad had saved nothing. He had been in huge debt. Financial Aid forms – how would I figure this all out by myself?
Mom moved back into our house briefly. We needed an adult to help us through the practical stuff. We had to sell our home, dad’s car, the camper, all of our belongings and household stuff. Coming home from school always made me anxious, knowing that more pieces of my life would have disappeared. Little by little, it was all gone. Time to move into Mom’s apartment in Grand Blanc.
My high school principal pulled me out of class one day. He beamed as he told me that I certainly WOULD be going to Michigan State University in the fall, just as originally planned. Before I could explain my bleak financial situation, he told me that an anonymous person wanted to pay for my entire first year of college. Yes. Tuition, room and board, books, everything. Some person out there believed in me and wanted to give me that gift. I was stunned.
Throughout college, I wrote to this anonymous person, my unnamed angel, every week, Mr. Wensel forwarding my letters. They still wanted to remain anonymous, but I was hopeful that one day I’d hug my angel.
Years after graduation, I would finally find out who had given me this amazing gift. We all met at a restaurant in Grand Rapids. I walked in, and there, at our table, were my angels. Two of them. Mr. and Mrs. Jones. I barely knew them! But they and my parents had been great friends. They said to me, “We saw you as an opportunity for us to make a difference. We knew you were in trouble and we wanted to help.” They wanted no thanks, but instead, encouraged me to one day “pass it on.” I’ll spend the rest of my life doing just that. I believe in passing it on.
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