Angels Unawares


I woke up this morning pissed. Inexplicably angry.

As the day progressed, so did the depth of my rage.

I puttered around the house, wishing several former boyfriends Tetanus, until I realized what I was feeling was keeping me from being productive. I looked in my kitchen pantry. It was bare, even the stuff that the previous tenants left was gone. I had to go to the grocery store. Spending money I don’t have always seems to lift my spirits.

I put on a shirt, some comfy elastic-waist jeans to accommodate my love handles—now with Kung Fu grip—slipped into some flip flops and headed toward River Oaks.

That, my non-Houston readers, is a very posh neighborhood. Old oil money mostly…well, old for Southeast Texas. There’s a grocery store in the shadow of River Oaks that’s to die for! It’s in the heart of Texas’ hard core WASP land, but its a lovely edifice as grocery stores go. Everything is tasteful and the inventory is marked up to dizzying heights, but the selection is huge and the staff treats customers with ass wiping impeccability. You want for nothing while patronizing that store.

Shopping there is a rare indulgence.

And if there was ever a day to be self indulgent, it was today. My mood was consuming me.

I pulled in the store’s parking lot, opting not to let the Valet park my delightful six year old Ford with one hubcap that bent outwards.

It looks like one of Stephen Colbert’s ears.

The doorman opened the door for me; the concierge greeted me with a smile.

I started shopping.

Meat, fish, some veggies. A roasted chicken. A few canned goods.

I then turned into the “Import Aisle”. I love couscous and there I was standing next to (as best as I could tell) two Farsi speaking chadors with tiny little women inside them. All three of us were trying to reach the couscous on the top shelf, but to no avail. Let me describe the scenario for you: I’m 5’1″ and I was the tallest of this little trio. Finally, a nice, tall man strolled by and fetched all the boxes we needed.

I spoke briefly with the women in their broken English. We laughed about the rigors of being short in a tall world.

We were getting along famously, then they saw it.

In my cart—a package of pork chops, six for $5.65.

I’m not sure, but I think I now know how to say “infidel” in Farsi.

As they pushed their cart on down the Import aisle with an indignation that will prompt another post someday, I was struck by something: right there, next to each other was a section for Kosher food and beside, it… Halal. Co-existing, co-mingling…even touching. I saw a misplaced box of Matzo next to some olives.

I thought to myself, “Why can’t these two cultures; these sons and daughters of Abraham, get along like the food in this Import aisle???”

Just then, another cart rammed into mine and one gruff looking man, obviously in a hurry to rush back to his house to feed four Chief Justices visiting for the weekend, snarled at me and spurted out, “Would you mind?”

And in that tone, too.

I really didn’t need the attitude. Not today. It has been a really bad nine months. Loss, grief, rejection… now this?? An asshole in a pair of black Bruno Magli’s!??!?

Oh, hell no!

I was losing faith in mankind.


I got what I needed and meandered over the part of the store where the 2o-checkout registers lived. Each one I swear, had a line of at least six carts filled to the brim. Their human motors standing there with arms folded, hands on hips…waiting.


Rich, white people can be ridiculously civilized.

I pulled into a random checkout aisle and positioned my cart to wait with the other Gentiles. I was behind an older woman who was neatly dressed. She was thin with white hair done up in a tasteful coif. She noticed me out of the corner of her eye and actually turned around. I stood there looking at her and she smiled. I couldn’t help but smile back.

She then asked, “Well, how are you today?”

I paused for a second and actually contemplated that answer. Usually, I’d respond with a patent “Just fine thanks…and you?” But I didn’t.

Instead I said, “I’ve been better. It’s been one of those years”.

She continued to smile and said, “I understand. We’ve all had them. How can we appreciate the sweet if we don’t taste the bitter”.

“True” was my response. No earth shattering logic there.

Then she added–completely out of the blue, “I suspect that a lovely young woman like you tends to over-think things. I’d even venture a guess that you seek answers to questions that don’t even exist. If I’m right Sweetie, spare yourself the heartache. Sometimes things just happen. No rhyme or reason. Ours is not to question and sometimes, ours isn’t to try and answer either”.

I looked at her for a minute…forehead furrowed in confusion. Who was this woman? Was I that obvious? Have the problems and issues in my life become so apparent that they’ve actually physically manifested and raised to the point of being palpable? Like some weird form of emotional Braille, readable only to a select, insightful few???

I just stood there, saying nothing, yet I could “feel” my expression: lips slightly pursed, eyes narrowed—the lines in my forehead were starting to entrench— efforting to take up permanent residence.

I must’ve looked like Simon Bar Sinister.


“I have something for you”, she said as she reached into her Marc Jacobs purse—not that I was looking— and pulled out a folded piece of paper from a zippered compartment.

“Here you go.” She handed it to me.

As I took it from her she said, , “Someone gave this to me when my husband and son died in an accident ten years ago. It helped me a great deal, so I decided that I would pass this wisdom along to whoever needed it. And I think you need it”.

I felt no need to question her. I put in my purse and said, “Thank you”.

As she handed the check out clerk her credit card, she turned and looked at me and said, “A couple more things: for reasons that will become obvious, don’t read it until you get home. And please, pass this along to whoever you think might need it.”

With that she smiled and put her hand on top of mine. “I promise you, life is good. Savor it. Bad times are only tough when you’re going through them”.

And she walked out of the store— a concierge appointed Bag Boy following close behind with her groceries in tow.

I checked out, paid $100 dollars more than I would have anywhere else, but had the honors of a young, acne- faced, aproned teen named “Todd” escort me and my sundries to my proletariat chariot.

I drove home wanting to read the piece of paper, but I didn’t. I would abide by the old broad’s wishes. I finally arrived in my parking lot, grabbed my bags and went inside.

I reached in my purse, unfolded the piece of paper and held it on one hand as I began to read. I started putting groceries away with the other.

This is what it said:

“People come into your life for a reason—for a season or for a lifetime.

When someone is in your life for a reason, it’s usually to meet a need you’ve expressed to God, the Universe…call it what you will.

They come to assist you through a difficulty; to provide you with guidance and support; to aid you physically, fiscally, emotionally or spiritually. Sometimes they act defiantly and force you to take a stand. They’ll make you mad; they’ll confound you. They might even hurt or wound you deeply. They are a Godsend, though you might not realize that until after the fact.    They are there for the exact reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or seemingly at the most inconvenient time possible, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.     Sometimes they move, sometimes they just leave; they walk away…and sometimes they die.

What we must realize is that once our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it’s time for both of you to move on.    

Your job is to accept the lesson and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and in every area of your life.

So allow for the sad and wait for the happy. Like seasons, one always comes after the other. That is life’s guarantee”.

I stood there, the paper in one hand and a new tube of toothpaste in the other. I knew why she advised not to read it until I got home. It would’ve been tough trying to drive through tears.

What a dear lady she was. An angel.

I put the toothpaste in a drawer in the bathroom and smiled.

I finally understood a few things.

I miss my best friend, Walter. His recent death still shakes me to my core. I miss the Brit, too. For the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling with the pain of their departures and trying to figure out why they were in my life for such a short time.

Now I know.

They were seasonal; in my life for one brief season and one season only. They entered my life with a predetermined exit strategy they didn’t know existed. Both taught me very important, vital things. But, as the manuscript said—once lessons have been learned, it’s time to let go….

And move on. 

Arrivals/departures.  Beginnings/endings.

I finished putting my groceries away and stood there, absorbing my newfound clarity.

I decided to take a shower.

It had been a warm day; September is caught in summer’s last clutches. I turned off the kitchen light and noticed that it’s starting to get darker much earlier.

The seasons are changing.



  1. Your angel in the over-priced grocery store, is now mine, too. Thank you for sharing the text of that piece of paper.

    We lost our 20-year-old son under mysterious circumstances (still unknown), his body having been found just 14 weeks ago today. He was here for just a season. The words on that piece of paper are working their magic in my sleepless night (so many are, you know?).

    Thank you for this wonderful post.

    I hope your losses are less lonely, for your recognition of their seasons as a part of your life, not your WHOLE life. As a mother who is missing her son unbelievably, I still feel his loss as my WHOLE life, yet I have a family about whom I care deeply, and your post has made my night just a touch lighter.

    Thank you, Laurie Kendrick. Sweet dreams.


  2. BTW, I love your writing – witty, cynical, funny. Great stuff for those of us who are waiting for the return of those attributes.


  3. What a wonderful post. Now your angel has come to so many more people with your help. The things written on that piece of paper are all truth and explain so much in our daily lives. The truth really does set you free.
    Love, Dee

  4. I came to this blog looking for ways to ease my pain. Last weekend, my boyfriend broke up with me after two years together. I’m devastated. I came to wordpress to find a way to start dealing with my grief. I found you blog and read this story.

    It is a miracle that I did. Thank you so much for this post Miss Kendrick. Not only it is extremely well written but it has such emotional impact. I laughed one minute and cried the next. The message you received in the store check out line is incredible, too. It’s just what I needed.

    I hope the pain of your losses ease in time. I hope mine will too.

    Thanks again. This is a brilliant piece of prose.

  5. Today was a day very bad for me. I needed this, so thank you from bottom of my heart for this wonderful story. Just incredible. ..I know the Angels are out there..keeping watch. I’m so happy that you met one and shared the experience with all of us. Thank you, my friend.

  6. well done, my friend, well done.

    and to think all these years i’ve neglected peoples advice such as you received in favor of those morsels of knowledge in the center of fortune cookies.

    ancient chinese proverbs my ass! 🙂

  7. I read this thinking, even before reading the note she shared with you, that very thing — people come and go through our lives as we need them. Isn’t it interesting that the Higher Power sends someone for us to meet at over-priced grocery stores (must be the “mystery ways” thing in action) just when we need them most?

  8. It’s strange…that I’ve come to know so many new and different people in the last couple years, and how each of them have fulfilled some void in my life, and then only to see them move on — not out of my life, but past it. Sure, I miss the familiar, but now I see that it is all for it’s own reasons. I get it.
    As always, thanks for sharing.


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