Mar 18

More Than Angels

WARNING Trigger Alert


More Than Angels by Shelli Proffitt Howells

More Than Angels by Shelli Proffitt Howells

I remember the joy.

I was finally old enough to take a bath on my own. I had washed my hair and underarms and private parts. The water was still warm, and I felt playful. I swooshed like a dolphin playing in the waves, curling up small, then blasting off, jettisoning myself the length of the tub. I loved the sound of the water lapping against the sides. I did it again, and again, and again.

Then, my grandmother came in, her eyes blazing.

“Look what you’ve done!”

Only then did I notice that all that whooshing water had spilled out of the tub and onto the bathroom floor.

Her anger felt tangible as she berated me, stood over me while I used my own towel to sop up the soaking mess. Then she stomped off and ignored me the rest of the day.

I should have known I wouldn’t get off that easily.

That night, The Punisher came and left blood on the sheets that I couldn’t clean off, no matter how hard my tiny, desperate hands tried. Then, there was another bath in the middle of the night, and the water turned red as an Egyptian curse. My grandmother emptied and refilled the tub, with cold water this time, because it was bad enough she had to pay for the water, but she wasn’t going to pay to heat it again, not for a worthless little whore like me.

I went to bed, afraid I would die because even at six years of age, I knew that you died when you lost so much blood. I started to shiver and I couldn’t stop, and then my fear of death became a burning wish. I want to die. I want to die. I want to die.

You know those stories about little children who are hurt, and Jesus comes to them? I know those stories are true because he came to me. He held me and let me cry and kissed the top of my forehead. I told him I wanted to die.

“You can choose,” he said. “But first, I want you to see this.”

He showed me my life, a gift and reasons to live. When he left, my angels came, and they held me through the rest of that darker than night, stayed with me through the gray until light shone through the window and I smelled pancakes and bacon cooking in the kitchen.

I grew up, and I married my gift, and shortly thereafter my angels came back: a girl, a boy, a girl, a girl, a boy, and a boy. As I held each one for the first time, I kissed their pink, wet forehead and whispered in their ear.

“I stayed for you.”

Prompt: Describe a near-death experience. This story is true.


  1. Eydie

    Soooooo —- was the Punisher her father, uncle, someone who was sexually abusing her? How sad.

  2. Shelli Proffitt Howells

    Grandfather, and yes, Eydie.

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