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THE Angel LadyA Journey with My Spiritual Companions
By Susan Reynolds
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Susan Reynolds
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIntroduction to Life
Once upon a time is the usual way a fairy tale begins. This however is no fairy tale. I know this because I lived it. Reading these accounts may have you wondering, scratching your head if this really is some fairy tale made-up in my head. I can assure you; these events are real and true.
I was born in The Bronx, New York on November 12, 1957 to Susie and Benny Cusimano, and I am the third and youngest child of three. We were a typical Italian-Catholic family growing up with relatives, siblings and friends (seen and unseen), and always gathering for one event or another. My parents came from very large families, eight children on each side of the family, as well as eighteen children born of their grandparents ... each. Whew!
My mother had a total of seven children, but only three of us survived. Mommy had a strong, lively faith. Daddy, a quiet, strong, and enduring faith. My maternal grandmother Rose, also known as Grandma, was what one might call very religious and mystical. As the story goes, my Uncle Frankie was accidentally shot by a friend as a teen, Grandma stayed at home to pray. Miraculously, as she prayed by the window, a dove appeared and she was instantly shown that two doctors were operating on my uncle and he would survive. This was all taking place while two unknown surgeons who happened to be available performed intricate emergency surgery on my uncle.
Grandma was praying to Saints Cosmas and Damian for their intercession. These two saints were doctors. Shortly after this occurrence Grandma developed, what some might consider, unusual spiritual gifts including prophecy. It always amazed me how her bedroom looked like a mini-church, complete with candles, statues, and many prayer books. When I visited her after school, which was a block away, she would immediately bring me into her room and read stories of the lives of the saints. It fascinated me. All the while, during some of our visits I noticed some of these "saints" appearing in the room. They would smile at me and put their hands on Grandma's shoulder.
She had a large picture of St. Michael the Archangel slaying the dragon. I remember my cousins used to say how afraid they were to go to Grandma Pokey's because of all the spooky stuff she had at her house. I was not afraid, I was comforted. These were familiar faces to me. Somehow I knew Grandma knew that I was aware of these beings. During these story sessions I could see myself in the scenes that were taking place. When she read me stories of Jesus and Mary, somehow I felt I had already experienced and knew these loving people.
Let me just say, I was all of seven years old when this was happening to me. She was also a devout Catholic and attended Mass daily. If I were visiting with her for longer periods of time, we had to go to Mass first, and then off to the five-and-dime for a sandwich and ice cream. Whenever I was with her and especially at Mass, I knew I was safe and able to relax. Grandma with the candles, as my nieces and nephew referred to her, was the one person I could curl-up with and be myself. I loved her dearly.
When I was about four we moved from New York to California. My sister RoseMarie (Ree) is fourteen years older than me and we were very close. She was my other mom, so to speak. Ree wrote about me in her diary as always speaking to my Angel and becoming upset if anyone interrupted me. I named my first doll, Angel. She sits on my bed till today.
This was my normal. There was no reason to think otherwise. Ree moved out of the house and got a job while we were still living in California. I was devastated. My sister and best friend moved away. I never forgot how empty this made me feel. However, my wonderful companion, my Angel was there to comfort me.
By the time I was six and a half years old we all moved back to New York. My parents, Ree and my brother Bernie were all together again. Life was good. Shortly after we moved back I had a life altering experience with a man who worked at the park. I became a statistic. I was a victim of child molestation. My parents immediately moved to the Castle Hill area in the Bronx.
However, the impact followed me. I became secluded, shy and distrustful of adults. We lived in a very small attic apartment and I remember crying out to a statue of the Virgin Mary. I felt as though no one heard me. Then the unimaginable happened. Mary appeared to me. She was dressed in a light blue gown with a white veil. She was surrounded with a gold iridescent aura. Her hands were small and she reached out to me to take my hand.
Through my tears, I could see other figures behind her but was unable to identify them. However, I was not afraid. She told me that she would always be with me and not to be afraid. I asked her why the man hurt me.
All she said was, "He is not going to hurt you anymore".
I looked at my hand in hers and felt as though she was the only person I could trust. The amazing colors and light that flowed from her hand into mine was something I cannot describe. She said she loved me and that I would never be alone. I believed her. I knew my life was never going to be the same and it was not. Other than attending St. Helena's school, I had no interaction with many children.
Within this attic apartment, there were secret (or so I thought) hiding places I could go to and have full-blown conversations with my spiritual companions. Who needed human friends? There was a younger girl next door that I associated with, but I would rather go to Grandma's house and visit with her. By the time I was eight or nine years old we moved again to a different part of the Bronx on Waterbury Avenue. This time I had my own room and where I could retreat to play and study. All the while thinking my mother was totally oblivious with whom I was communicating. Guess what? I was wrong. Mommy knew.
When I look back at that time in my life, I now realize those alone times were really a time for developing greater relationships with these spiritual beings. Truthfully, my grades were not that good and my mind seemed to be preoccupied with thoughts that were more important than school. Be assured that did not fly with the nuns at St. Helena's, especially Sister Margaret Mary. Wow, she was a tough one.
The apartment we lived in was only about a block and half from Saint Raymond's Cemetery, which was probably the largest cemetery in the Bronx. Many, many times I was drawn to go into the cemetery and just walk around and talk to whom ever was there. Don't get me wrong, I was not seeing ghosts; I was seeing Angels, saints, and other beings.
As a kid, there was no way in hell I was thinking, Yep, I'm talking to ghosts. No one really knew I was frequenting St. Raymond's. My thoughts were, Why should I say anything? Again, I believe this was my training time for what was to happen in the future.
Chapter TwoJoining the Land of the Living
By the time I was finishing sixth grade at St. Helena's, I was almost failing in all my classes, except Religion ... no kidding. My parents were talking about moving and I was thrilled. My brother is eight years older and was drafted into the Vietnam War. My mother was beside herself. Maybe by moving, we could all start fresh, at least that's what I was thinking. Thankfully, we did it.
We packed up and moved to Upstate New York. It was Piermont, all of forty-five minutes from the Bronx. The family thought we were practically in another country there was so much drama. This was the absolute best thing that could have happened to me. New friends, new school, new home, and no one knew anything about me.
This was heaven. My parents reluctantly enrolled me in public school with the promise I would work extra hard academically. This was easy. I was ready. My grades went from being in the toilet to honor roll. Who knew? Friends were made and puberty began. My thoughts went from hanging with my Angel and other companions to boys, boys, and more boys. All this was happening simultaneously and it was confusing the heck outta me. I would hear my Angel tell me that someone was very down today, perhaps you can offer a kind word and let them know they are not alone. Yea right. That's not happening. No way was I going to jeopardize all the good that was going on in my life.
My answer to that was, "Why don't you tell them?"
So little by little I broke away from my time with my spiritual companions. Sure, I knew they were still there, but finding a boyfriend and all that good stuff was far more important and I told Jesus, "Please, no more. I just want to be normal."
Junior high came and went and high school began. Just when I thought it couldn't get better, the bottom fell out. My parents, once again told me we were moving, this time to South Jersey. Yes, that is New Jersey. It may as well have been Istanbul as far as I was concerned.
It was sophomore year and here I am starting in a new school knowing no one. My mother and I became best friends. We went to movie marathons together and worked like crazy to get me into great shape. While being a recluse, I discovered eating as a means of comfort. At sixteen I needed to lose about 35 pounds. With not a whole lot happening in my life except crying, I decided to diet and exercise like crazy. There was definitely a presence with me during this awful time. But because of my own will, I saw nothing. Low and behold after a year I was a sleek 118 pounds. Now I was ready to face the world.
I remember Daddy coming to me and saying, "I found a better job, so we will be moving to North Jersey by September."
I did not know whether to laugh or cry. This would be the third high school and I was only a junior. But, with my new svelte body and good grades I was sure I would meet the perfect boyfriend. At sixteen we moved to Blairstown, New Jersey and life took on a whole new meaning. I met my first love and we dated for three years.
I enjoyed learning to play guitar and all the amazingly fun things teens do. No one told me that when you have all these great moments in your life and learn to trust another human being, sometimes you leave yourself wide open to hurt. We broke up and I thought I was going to die. I can recall crying and asking God to let me hear my Angel again so I would not feel so alone. Nothing, nada, zip. Maybe God was really ticked off at me. Who could blame him? I was given a gift, and I threw it back in His face. Who would ever believe me that I was sorry? Grandma, that is who.
I drove myself into the Bronx to see Grandma. I knew she had all the answers.
"Poppy (that's my nick name)," she said, "God loves you very much and He wants you to be happy. Your time will come when that happiness will be deeper than you can imagine. When you are mature enough to handle what He has in store, you will know."
After that she began speaking in Italian and I did not understand a word she was saying. I went home feeling dejected. I thought, Why not now??? Grandma knew that my heart was in pieces and she in her wisdom, only gave me enough information to keep my hope alive.
When I got home, my mother saw that I had been crying, again, and as lay on my bed wondering whether life was even worth the trouble, Mommy came in and lay down next to me and said, "Turn to your Angel, Poppy." This hurts so much right now but you are not alone." For sure, Mommy understood.
We took another move, only this time it was across the country to California. At that point I guess I was ready for a big change. We moved in August of 1978 and in November I was turning twenty-one. Immediately I got a job working for a big Savings & Loan in Beverly Hills. After training to become a credit evaluator in the mobile home department, I came to realize that helping people live their dreams to own their own place, made me feel good. The only thing that kept me sane was thinking maybe this was a second chance at finding some happiness.
My prayer life at this point was slim to none. On occasion I would attend Mass but found my connection with God was more powerful at that time, by the ocean. Most times I drove to Santa Monica beach to stare out into the vastness. God knows I knew He was real, He heard me call out to Him so much, that I kind of felt like He was covering His ears. I was wrong. By the time winter rolled in, I had met a guy whose mother lived in the same apartment complex as my parents and I. He was three years younger and very nice. We began to date and before I knew it he had asked me to marry him.
On July 29, 1979, I got married. We struggled at first, but then settled in to life and actually became active in church life. In January 1980, my Mom got a phone call that my beloved Grandma was very ill. By January 31st, Grandma had been taken home to heaven. She was 83 years old. My heart was broken, but I knew she would find a way to stay connected to me forever. In March of 1980 I found out I was pregnant. It felt as though Grandma's spirit would live on in this precious new baby. This was the best gift God could ever give me. The only problem was that I was transferred into collections and the stress level to get people to pay their loans was taking its toll on me.
At six months pregnant I developed extreme gallbladder pain that forced me to make a decision. Either I have my gallbladder removed and risk losing the baby, or tough it out. I chose to tough it out. Thankfully, I went on temporary disability to keep some of my income. My due date was December 10th. Lo and behold, on December 10th the most amazing baby boy was born, my son Michael. When I looked into his beautiful eyes and held him for the first time I knew he was very special. His spirit was familiar to me and for the first time in a very long time, I could feel the presence of a strong Angel, Mary and even more extraordinary, Jesus Himself. That feeling has never left me.
Unfortunately, I was very sick since I had lost a lot of blood and was extremely weak. Michael seemed to be fine until a couple of weeks after we were home and he became very sick. It was one illness after another until finally the doctors told me he was very dehydrated. They were unable to find the cause of all his symptoms and he needed to be hospitalized. They warned me he was extremely sick and was unsure if he was going to pull through.
Michael had IV's in his head, he was pale, and losing weight. Please God don't take my baby was all I could think. Take me, not him. It was around three in the morning and I was exhausted trying to rest in a chair next to Michael's crib when an older woman with a newspaper and magazine cart entered the room. She saw me standing over the crib holding Michael's tiny hand. She never asked me if I wanted anything, she cradled his face in her hands and she said, "He is going to be alright, don't worry. God hears your prayers."
At first I thought, that is very kind of her to say that. Within minutes I sat down and fell asleep. In the morning it had dawned on me how odd it was that this woman would be coming around at three in the morning. Deep in my soul I knew an Angel had visited us. As of this moment, to me, that Angel was Michael's spiritual companion I had known all along was with him. Michael survived.
Chapter ThreeBaby Come Back
Michael spent the first few months of his tiny life sick. It was awful never knowing what was going to happen next; in and out of doctor visits and emergency rooms was the norm for the first three months. At 23-years old, I wondered if I was ready for motherhood ... too late.
Michael was special in so many incredible ways and I was finding out every day what a spirit-filled baby I had. Amazingly, through all of the illness he was still a joyful little Angel. The connection I had with him was more than what was just a normal mother and son relationship. It felt as though he could look into my eyes and I in his and read each other's thoughts. What I am sure was happening is Michael's guardian Angel and mine were communicating through us to one another. I understand this may sound really strange, but this is a communication that continues today.
By the time Michael was six months old the three of us were moving back east. We wound up in Hackettstown, New Jersey in a two-bedroom apartment. Since there was no way my Mom was going to stay in California without Michael, her little Angel, they followed six weeks later. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was home. As life happens, my husband and I drifted further apart. He and my Dad worked together in New York City and all was not paradise.
We separated two weeks before Michael's second birthday. With no job, twenty bucks to my name and no car, I thought I was thrown into a salad spinner. God? Who had time for God? I had to scramble to find full-time work. I was only working part-time at a Dunkin' Donuts and I needed some serious work. Well as God planned it (of course this is all in retrospect) a friend told me of a job at a food broker, and I'll be darn, it came with a company car. Short of begging and weeping, I approached the interviewer with my heart on my sleeve and a boatload of determination. I wanted that job and I was out to prove it. A food broker basically travels from grocery store to grocery store making sure that the products our company represented were properly displayed as well as fully stocked.
Excerpted from THE Angel Lady by Susan Reynolds Copyright © 2012 by Susan Reynolds. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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