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U is for Unseen Help

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is for unseen help. If you’ve bought There Must Be An Angel – and if you have, thank you so very much! – and you’ve read the acknowledgements, you may have noticed that the final thank you was to Emma Crook and her kind. It’s an unusual thank you and I suppose a lot of people, if they knew the story behind it, would think I was a bit eccentric at best, and certifiably insane at worst. Nevertheless, I’m going to take the risk and tell you about her.

Way back in 1985 I visited a clairvoyant. I was in a pretty dark place at the time. I’d just had my second child and my hormones were all over the place. I was very depressed and there was a lot going on in my life that wasn’t helping. I needed something to hang onto, I suppose. When my friend suggested we visit a clairvoyant that she’d heard really good things about, I wasn’t impressed with the idea. I didn’t really believe in them, and I thought it would be a waste of money. But my friend really wanted to go, and it was a couple of hours away from the children, so I thought, why not?

The clairvoyant wasn’t anything like I’d expected. She was quite young, blonde, attractive, and wore jeans and a T-shirt rather than a shawl! She didn’t have a crystal ball or anything like that. She simply took my hand and held it for a moment in silence. Then she began to talk.

There were some things she said that day that immediately struck a chord with me. The first thing she said, in fact, before I’d even opened my mouth, was the main reason I’d been feeling so low. There was no way she could have known, but she did. Other things she said made little sense to me at the time. It was only years later they struck home, and I was filled with awe that she’d told me they would happen. For instance, she was insistent that I had five children in my timeline. I told her there was no way. I’d just had my second – and last – baby. I was quite adamant on that subject! She told me quite gently that she saw five children, and that’s just the way it was. Six years later I gave birth to my fifth and final child. How had she predicted that?  I certainly hadn’t! There were other things. She told me about a medical problem that one of my sons would have, and that I shouldn’t worry as it would be corrected and that he would be football mad. I only had one son at the time, but later, my second son had exactly the trouble she had told me about, and he lives and breathes football – unlike my two other sons who aren’t interested in it at all.

She gave me quite a lot to think about that evening, and before I left, she told me that I was never alone, because I had a guardian angel who stayed with me. She said that the angel was an old lady, a member of my family, whose name began with E. I simply couldn’t think of anyone because, although my grandmother had recently died, her name began with N, and the only two of my great grandmothers names that I knew of both began with A.

It was many years later that I started to research my family tree. I discovered quite a few ladies I was descended from whose name began with E, and I often wondered which one of them was my guardian angel. I was particularly keen to research my paternal grandad’s family as, when I was a little girl, my grandad had given me a “big penny” and told me it was a medal won by his father in the Great War. I later discovered that it was a memorial plaque, given to the families of those servicemen who had been killed in the First World War. My great grandfather was in the navy and had been killed during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. My grandad had been just four years old at the time. I was touched that he gave me the plaque to look after and I treasured it. I still have it with me as you can see from the photograph.

So I wanted to find out more about my great grandfather, and I did. I got his navy record and learned he had dark hair and grey eyes and that he’d lied about his age when he joined up. He was actually younger than is stated on his official records. He’d joined the navy when a teenager, and had been killed when he was forty-one, although officially he was forty-two. He’d left behind a widow, Ellen, and their children, and his parents, George and Emma. I wanted to know more about his parents, so I sent for George and Emma’s marriage certificate.

I was really struggling to finish a degree I was doing with the Open University at the time. I was studying literature, and with a couple of my children still at home, grandchildren, college and other commitments nagging at me, I was wondering if it was worth continuing with my studies. It all seemed a bit pointless. What was I going to do with a degree anyway?

Then George and Emma’s certificate arrived, and I remember the strange sensation I felt when I opened that envelope and read the paper. George and their two witnesses had made the mark of the cross as their signatures, but there, in slightly wobbly but defiant writing was Emma’s name, Emma Crook. Emma was the only one who could write her name! I felt so proud of her. I can’t explain the feeling it gave me to see those two little words. I was filled with love and pride for this woman who I had never met, but who had raised and lost a beloved son in war, and had been the grandmother of my own darling grandad. I felt quite shivery, and suddenly I was absolutely sure that Emma was the guardian angel the clairvoyant had told me about, all those years ago. Because I saw that signature, because I realised what an achievement it was, I was filled with a new determination to complete my degree. Emma Crook became Emma Booth, and because of that, when I write, I use my maiden name – a name I share with her.

I said in my acknowledgement that Angel was for Emma Crook and her kind, because I wanted to dedicate it not just to her but to all those ancestors who came before me, including my own lovely father, without whom I wouldn’t be here. And I said, ‘Oh, I really hope you know why,’ because I do. Somewhere, somehow, I hope they know how much they mean to me. Angel is for them.

Have a great day xx

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