12/10/2012 02:39 pm ET Updated Feb 09, 2013

Legacy Gifts From Angels

Not long ago I was reintroduced to angels -- not the kind with rosy cheeks or gauzy, transparent wings, but the angels in real life. You know, the people who come into your life with special support, a gift of wisdom, full-hearted support. Sometimes those angels may not even know you or know they are giving you something you need. Other times those angels are with you for long periods of your life.

Whether they know it or not, whether you know it or not, their gift is exactly what you need at that moment, either to support you at a difficult time or teach you a lesson you need to grow.

In Honey from a Rock Lawrence Kushner describes this phenomenon using a metaphor of jigsaw puzzle pieces. He suggests that none of us are whole, that we each carry pieces that are not ours, and that we are the messengers, or angels that provide missing pieces to others, often without knowing it, and others similarly give us the pieces we need.

"But know this. No one has within themselves
all the pieces to their puzzle."
-- Lawrence Kushner

A recent personal example: I'm more than somewhat perfectionistic and was, in my first career, a teacher of English; misspellings gnaw at me. Several years ago a fellow Al-Anon member brought in the twelve steps written large as a wall hanging. There were (and are) three misspelled words in it. Every time I looked up at the steps, my eyes were riveted on the misspellings. I'd struggle to stop myself from marching over to the person to ask her to correct it or remove it. Of course I never did, but I continued to be stressed and obsessed every time I looked. Then I'd calm myself and return to listening to the speaker. One day, a young woman was speaking and turned around to read the step, and said cheerfully, "Oh, there's a word misspelled in the step. What a good reminder of our slogan, 'Progress, not perfection.'" I was awestruck. This angel had given me a great gift. I can and do now look at the words on the wall with respect for the person's effort, appreciating its imperfection in a new way. I'm free from obsessing about it, and accept the reality. A second gift from this angel was a reminder that everything and anything can change the instant perception changes.

In this season, as we yearn for light, and our faiths celebrate festivals of light, let's be aware of the light we radiate to others, and awaken to the light that real-life angels bring to our lives.

Suggestions for Action:

1. Muse and write about those angels, mentors, and supporters throughout your life. Who has lit your way, offered you a gift you really needed? What discoveries, lessons, blessings did they offer you that shifted your habitual perspective, helped you grow, or become more whole?

2. Write a legacy letter to one of those angels in your life describing the gift or message. Express your appreciation and gratitude for the gift. Be specific about what their gift meant to you, means to you, how their gift enriched your life.

"The best lives and stories are made up of minute particulars that somehow are also universal and of use to others as well as oneself."
-- Barbara Myerhoff

3. At this season celebrating light and the giving of gifts, you may want to write more than one of these letters, assuming more than one angel has touched you. Remember that an angel need not any longer be alive (relationships don't end with physical death).

4. Perhaps a gift for this season is a letter to younger generations expressing a jigsaw piece you can offer from your lived experience and life lessons learned: that a shift in perspective may bring to light the angel in everyone, and appreciation for all who are offering them gifts they need and may have been unaware of.

"May you be blessed to be a legacy angel
to many, and open to the legacy of
angels' gifts in your life."

Happy Holy Days,
Rachael Freed

NEW 2012 editions now available of Rachael Freed's Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations, The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman [also available as pdf downloads at] and Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient, and The Heartmates Journal. She is currently working on Your Legacy Matters: An Intergenerational Legacy Guide, to be published early 2013. Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and legacy consultant. She has seven grandchildren. Her home is Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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