Friday, November 23, 2012

Angels in the Architecture

I have always been a fan of Frank Ticheli’s Angels in the Architecture. Ticheli’s notes read

This ‘angel’ — represented by the singer—frames the work, surrounding it with a protective wall of light and establishing the divine. Other representations of light — played by instruments rather than sung—include a traditional Hebrew song of peace (“Hevenu Shalom Aleichem”) and the well-known 16th-century Genevan Psalter, “Old Hundredth.” These three borrowed songs, despite their varied religious origins, are meant to transcend any one religion, representing the more universal human ideals of peace, hope, and love. An original chorale, appearing twice in the work, represents my own personal expression of these aspirations.

In opposition, turbulent, fast-paced music appears as a symbol of darkness, death, and spiritual doubt. Twice during the musical drama, these shadows sneak in almost unnoticeably, slowly obscuring, and eventually obliterating the light altogether. The darkness prevails for long stretches of time, but the light always returns, inextinguishable, more powerful than before.

I had my iPod on shuffle as I was cleaning my house and beginning to wrap my brain around the week ahead… While this Thanksgiving Break is perhaps the least stress-ridden academic break of my college career, it packs no less of a punch as I come to terms with an inevitable goodbye looming at the finish line. Just as the floodgates behind my eyes breech maximum capacity for the countless time, Angels in the Architecture begins to play. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a religious experience, but I will confess that in that moment, the presence of angels has never been more apparent.

Angels in the Architecture is a fifteen-minute piece and for all of those fifteen minutes I sat and listened as I thought about the angels in my life. I thought about who they are, where they come from, where I’ve found them, and where they’ve found me… On any given day I am graced with more angels than I deserve, but today I’m focusing on one: Anderson Mambwe.

Anderson arrived in America March 8, 2012 by the grace of OMNI: Orphan Medical Network International and Seeds of Hope Ministries to have a reconstructive surgery on both feet that were severely misshapen due to a rare birth defect - an operation that, if performed in Zambia, would have resulted in a double above-the-knee amputation. On a life-altering journey to America and 21st century medicine, Anderson has been a source of pure joy for those of us who have shared in the pieces of his journey.

Anderson possesses an infectious love of life, a contagious wonder of the world and all things in it, and a smile that puts the lights of NYC to shame. He has taught me more about the good side of humanity than I ever knew existed and I can’t begin to imagine what my life would be like having never met him – just as I can’t imagine my world without him as a part of my daily life. 

I have read and re-read a column by Stephanie Koehler called “Waiting for Fireflies” and I’ve found this segment to best exemplify life in the presence of this young man. “I too, know people I would characterize as fireflies. People who go unnoticed in the glare of sunlight – but given the right circumstances, they give off a spectacular glow. They are not typically “flashy” people. Quite the opposite really. They don’t really try to shine – it’s just who they are. It’s part of their being. The source of their light is often mysterious – or at least not obvious – but they are undeniably attractive to be around.”

Anderson is a firefly.

He’ll begin his journey back to Zambia tomorrow morning able to walk on his own two feet in his very own shoes for the very first time in his 18 years of living. In his wake, Anderson leaves behind former strangers turned forever family by the bricks and mortar he may never know he so significantly placed.

As I put together a scrapbook that can’t help but fall short of doing justice to the undeniable impact Anderson has had in all of our lives, I think of the moments when these weren’t memories. While I am deeply saddened by the rapidly disintegrating time to create more, I’m forever grateful for the opportunity we’ve had to make them in the first place. I am constantly amazed by the mosaic life creates in passing, and I treasure that he has been a part of mine.

This will be a goodbye of record-breaking difficulty. There will undoubtedly always be an Anderson-shaped hole in my heart – but perhaps it’s the perfect treasure chest for these memories to weather the test of time.

I will greet the shadows that will surely follow his departure with open arms knowing that the sun must set to rise. I have all the faith in the world that as the sun fades on his chapter in our lives, he’ll rise with it tomorrow, brighter than ever before ready to change the world one sure-footed step at a time. His future is locked and loaded with more potential than the average human would know what to do with – but he’s no average human.

We talked one day about the 7 wonders of the world and as he flies into the sky on his journey home, I’d like to offer an 8th. You see, the stars are a unique bond that binds this universe. At any point, from any place on this earth, we share the same stars – the only difference is the vantage point. So when I miss him more than words can say, I will look to the sky and know that we share that piece of architecture. 

To the world, I challenge you to find the people who are the angels in your architecture. Life has a funny way of teaching you that time is really all you have – someday, you will wake up and realize you have less than you think. So I challenge you not only to find them, but also to let them know they are valued as the vital pillars they so obviously are – today, not tomorrow. 

To my brother, Anderson Mambwe, who’s inextinguishable light transcends every shadow of the valley of death, thank you for the hope you’ve given me, the faith you’ve restored in me, and for the light you are in my life. I wish for you safest travels home and the very best this life and this world has to offer. You will always be an angel in the architecture of my life – my world is forever a better place and I a better person for the time I’ve spent encompassed by your unconditional love and vibrant light.

Though the miles lie between us, we're never far apart, for friendship doesn't count the miles...
It's measured by the heart.

I hope and pray to the heavens and back that the winds of life will blow our sails in such a direction that eventually our journeys overlap again, but until then, I will look to the sky, I’ll pick the brightest star and I’ll watch you shine.

Walk tall, stand strong & love fearlessly.
It doesn't matter how far you are, we're right behind you. 

1 comment:

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