A Woman with Wings

My friend Dale is the only person I know whose friends and relatives celebrate not only her birthday but also her death day. We usually celebrate by having a nice dinner at her sister Lindsay’s house, and then we bring flowers and candles and mini cauldrons—made from tuna fish cans, Epsom salts and alcohol—down to a bench dedicated to Dale’s memory on the banks of False Creek.

We don’t say prayers or chant or play music. As we decorate the bench, and light the candles and cauldrons, we usually gossip about people we know who knew Dale, too, and we always speculate about what she would be doing if she were still with us.

Dale drowned one November night, trapped in a brown Jaguar in the middle of False Creek, literally feet from her own front door. The driver of the car escaped unhurt.

Dale was a 9 life path person, and the year she died, she was in a 9/5 cycle year, an ending cycle. Nine life path people are, among other things, known for their generosity and compulsion to reach out and help others. They are usually quite spiritual, but Dale wasn’t, not until that last year. In that year she was drawn to spiritual matters and to one spiritual piece of music in particular, “River of Birds,” which has a line about “women with wings.”

On the anniversary of Dale’s death this year, Dale’s sisters and I were not able to get together, and I ended up downtown, in Holt Renfrew, with that phrase, women with wings, running through my head. I had been thinking about Dale on and off all day, and I was still puzzling about her attraction to that particular song.

In my preoccupied state, I almost walked into one of the women working at a perfume counter. As I apologized for almost knocking her over, I noticed she was wearing a necklace with two small angel wings at her throat. Then I realized that she was also wearing tiny wings in her ears. When I recovered my composure, I asked her where she got her wings. She told me that she had purchased them at a shop in the mall, but she said there might be some at Holts and offered to show me where they might be.

As we walked across the store, I noticed how well dressed the woman was, and I said, “You look very elegant.” Tears sprang to her eyes. The woman told me that she had been having a very bad day and that my comment had brightened it immeasurably.

At that point, I told her about Dale, and about the song that had been running through my head when I stumbled into this woman. She said, “You are an angel for changing my day.”

As I walked away, I wondered about Dale and the wings and women with wings. It felt as if Dale had reached from wherever she is to point to the woman, who, at the very least, needed some cheering up. As it turned out, Holts had no wings, but the mall did, and I bought a pair and put them in my ears immediately. No flowers, cauldrons or candles this year, but definitely wings.