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Joanne Miller: Angels rescued me in my hour of need

As I observed the latest March blizzard from within my cozy home, I was reminded of yet another nasty storm that occurred 10 years ago. It was a time of struggle for me: my husband was in South America, my child was hospitalized and my beloved mother had just died. To add nature to misery, Buffalo was under siege – a spring storm had decided to welcome in St. Patrick’s Day.

My mom had always said that her only “claim to fame” lay in the fact that she’d been born on St. Patrick’s Day, and had she lived another couple of days, she’d have celebrated still another birthday on it – her 94th. As it was, my family was planning a very different kind of celebration of her life.

The storm raged the night before her memorial service, and I barely made it home after a family meeting with my mom’s minister. What normally would have taken 15 minutes to drive lasted an endless hour or more as I navigated the whiteouts, the ice and the unyielding snowfall. My hands rigidly gripped the steering wheel as I tried to maintain focus and quell the pounding of my grieving heart.

Eventually my long, unplowed driveway greeted me and, cursing the fact we’d never hired a plow service, I rammed my car determinedly, getting hopelessly stuck halfway along. The knee-high snow and my grief overwhelmed me as I trudged to my back door, worrying about how I would ever be able to get out and to my mom’s service in the morning.

I stayed up late, finishing my eulogy and watching the snow relentlessly pelt the windows, until my exhaustion took over. I set my alarm clock for an early hour in order to attempt what I knew would take a miracle in the morning – to dig my way out of the driveway.

The night passed too quickly, and I awoke to the insistent ringing of my backdoor bell. On my porch stood two young men and a woman, dressed in heavy coveralls and carrying shovels, asking if I needed help. I’d lived in the neighborhood on the same street for 15 years, but had never before seen them. I simply had no idea who they were or where they’d come from.

I found myself dissolving into tears, explaining my situation to these total strangers. They assured me that if I left my keys, by the time I’d showered they’d have my driveway and my car cleared. Filled with gratitude and wonder, I left them to the job, but had desperate thoughts of their robbing my house and stealing my car, since there was no evidence that they had arrived in a vehicle of their own.

But angels who perform miracles are not thieves, and what I found after I’d dressed was a spotless driveway, snow piled high on either side of it, my porch steps shoveled, my car cleaned off and turned around by the back door and my keys and a cup of coffee in the entry way.

I looked up and down the street to thank them and pay them, but those three angels had vanished as mysteriously as they had arrived. Just as I had never before seen them, I never saw them again in the remaining years I lived on the street.

However, I know for certain that those same three angels returned in a different form exactly three months later when my husband and I labored at dusk one night to dig a grave for our beloved collie, Holly. But that’s another story altogether.