I believe in angels. Well, maybe not angels exactly, although my husband’s name is Angel and I believe in him. What I mean is that I believe that people who we have loved who have passed away can still make their presence felt in our lives.
This summer I went to The Alps for the first time, to attempt to climb Mount Bishorn (4153 metres). I was with my husband, my brother-in-law and three good friends, and although there was a lot of relaxed joking as we began the climb, privately I was apprehensive. They all had more experience than me, and it was the first time I had attempted to climb anything over 3000 metres. Added to which, I knew that on the final ascent towards the summit we would all be connected to each other by a rope, which means that if one person decides they can’t go on, the whole group has to turn back. I really didn’t want to be that person.
I was in good physical shape, but in the mountains your state of mind is equally, if not more important than your physical state. Once the doubts start creeping in, they start to escalate and then it’s almost impossible to get to the top. After lunch on the first day the trail started getting a lot steeper and we all started to feel pretty tired. I was walking ahead with my brother-in-law when suddenly we came to a bend in the trail and there hanging on the rock was an image of the Virgin Mary. It made me think of my Grandma, whose inspiration made me become a more spiritual person. In that moment I said “Grandma, I need your help to get up this mountain. I need your strength, I can’t do it on my own”. And immediately the sky, which had been cloudy and overcast all day, opened wide to expose the most beautiful blue, and the sun came shining down on us.
In that moment I knew my Grandma was with me. Just as she was with me all my life up until her death in 2000. My Grandma had a difficult life – my grandfather was an alcoholic, and although I don’t know if he was ever abusive towards her, I do know that she brought up five children pretty much without his help. In all the time I knew her she never dwelt on the difficulties that life had thrown at her, but instead rejoiced in the loving children and grandchildren she had around her. When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer she faced it with an uncomplaining courage that I will never forget.
At that moment on the mountain I felt her spirit come to me and stay with me every step of the way until the summit. I did it. It was only when coming down that I realised the coincidence – that it was eight years to the day since I’d last seen her alive.