THE MARK OF ANGELS

Many years ago my husband and I visited Bern, the charming capitol ofSwitzerland. One evening, we had a night free of planned activities. Feeling liberated from itineraries, we wandered through the medievalStreets into the heart of Bern. The warm evening breeze had lured swarmsOf people into the town’s square. Old men played checkers at cement tablesAmid musicians, jugglers and other assorted street performers. Frank and IPaused to drink in the carnival of sights and sounds. An American accent rang out above the bustle. I grabbed Frank’s handAnd pulled him toward the sound of home. “One’ Two’ Three!” A burst of laughter erupted from the crowd around a juggler. I movedIn closer, drawn in by his act and familiar accent. After a finale of quick-handed magic tricks, appreciative onlookersThrew coins and moved on. As the juggler bent down to collect the loose change, I felt compelledTo connect. “Excuse me. Uh, I liked your act.” The Juggler looked up with a surprised expression, as if he didn’tExpect anyone to stay around. “Hey, thanks! You sound like an American.” I laughed, admitting that I’d been drawn to speak with him, maybeBecause of his Yankee accent too. As travelers tend to do, I politelyAsked him what part of the States he was from. “California.” The Juggler replied. “And you guys?” I responded in the same general way. “Pennsylvania. OutsidePhiladelphia.” The juggler stopped picking up coins. “Oh! Where outside Philadelphia?” I was slightly taken aback. Why did the name of the town matter if heWas from California? Feeling silly, but strangely compelled to talk, IAnswered. “Havertown.” The Juggler’s jaw dropped and his bearded face softened. He spokeBarely above a whisper. “I went to Haverford High School.” Now Frank caught the compulsion to talk. “But I thought you said you were from California?” The Juggler got up off his knees and sat on the edge of a concreteFlower container. He drew in a breath and poured out a story he’d longLocked away. “I discovered I loved to perform while I was in high school. I wantedTo study the Arts in college but my stepfather felt I should study aSerious subject — like dentistry or something. I felt I had no choice, soI went to college in California, but I couldn’t study what I didn’t love.Rather than go home and face my stepfather, I left the States to travelAround Europe. I haven’t seen my mother in 7 years.” After further discussion, Frank and I learned that his mother livedThree minutes from our house. In fact, I drove past her home every day onThe way to work. We stood in awe of the “coincidence” of our meeting. The Juggler broke the silence. “If I give you my mother’s number,Would you call her for me when you get back home? Would you tell her I’mOkay?” As a mother of two, I ached for this woman who was separated from herSon. I nodded a tearful yes. I tucked the number away and the three of us parted, forever changedBy a chance meeting thousands of miles from home. On the plane ride back to the States, I worried out loud to Frank.”What if his mother is angry? What if she doesn’t want to hear from me?” Frank squeezed my hand and said, “You already know the right thing to do.” Once back in Havertown, I picked up the phone and put it back in theCradle countless times. But, I couldn’t ignore the strong inner voice thatUrged me to call. After taking a deep breath, I dialed the number on theCrumpled piece of paper. A woman answered the phone. I spoke quickly –Before I lost my nerve. “Hello. You don’t know me but…” The story of our trip to Bern spilled out, rapidly reaching the partWhere we met the Juggler in the town square. As I relayed her son’sGreeting, the woman cried. “Oh, Thank God!” In a voice thick with emotion, her questions tumbled out one afterAnother. “How did he look? Was he well? Is he okay?” I found myself in the peculiar position of describing a son to hisMother. I assured her that he was healthy, making a nice living and seemedTo be doing fine. I described the Juggler’s hair, his beard and hisRequest that I make contact with her. The Juggler’s mom spoke between sobs. “My son sent me a letter last year saying he was thinking of comingHome. He said the next time I heard from him would be a sign that he’d beHome soon. Thank you! Thank you so much for calling!” After I hung up the phone, I wondered about the odds of meeting theJuggler at just the right place, at just the right time and at just theRight moment in his life. I smiled through tears of my own and knew thatChance had nothing to do with it. Signs, coincidences, accidental meetings, inner voices — all the markOf angels at work.

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