Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Angels

To fight aloud, is very brave — | Emily Dickinson


~~~Charge of the Light Brigade, painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.

What does it mean to be brave? Emily Dickinson gets right to the heart of things with her focus on true heroes. My comments follow.

To fight aloud, is very brave –
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Cavalry of Woe –

Who win, and nations do not see –
Who fall – and none observe –
Whose dying eyes, no Country
Regards with patriot love –

We trust, in plumed procession
For such, the Angels go –
Rank after Rank, with even feet –
And Uniforms of Snow.

c. 1859

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

The USA is besotted with romantic notions of Bravery. Captivated by monuments to those who fell to ‘ensure our freedom.’ Memorials to those who displayed Bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

We pause to honor those who stood or fell on our behalf. And yet….Who are the true heroes among us?

Emily’s poem is a slow, pensive hymn of remembrance for individuals who fought and fight battles, unseen and unacknowledged. Women, men, girls and boys more gallant than national heroes. In their hearts they charge daily against The Cavalry of Woe that would take them down in misery, sorrow, despair, pain, agony and defeat.

The poem, written in about 1859, brought to mind Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” along with paintings that memorialize tragedies.

Emily’s poem could also be a eulogy for uncounted heroes and heroines who bravely fought their internal enemies. Few, if any, know their names or the stories of their gallant deeds. Unseen and unsung, they remain hidden. Small bits of unexplored or never remembered history.

Does anyone notice or care? Emily does. She is one of these more gallant souls. Her poems remind us of her internal battles, though we don’t know what each was about.

Emily’s final stanza lifts up internal bravery for our respect, perhaps also for her personal comfort. She sees more than one Angel per warrior. Imagine it: unnumbered ranks of Angels process reverently in soft, snowy plumes. Their uniforms drop blankets of snow around and over uncounted heroes and heroines. Snowy flags of honor drape each unsung warrior who charged bravely ahead against all odds.

Angels also recognize the bravery of patriotic heroes, though not because of visible service. No one gets a pass when dealing with the internal Cavalry of Woe threatening daily to undo us.

My heart has been an unseen battlefield most of my life. It’s littered with spoils of war—war I’ve waged against my Cavalry of Woe. I fought much of it silently, assuming I was a loser. The woes weren’t strange or unusual, but common and everyday. Things like Fear of Harsh Punishment, Getting through Harsh Punishment, Perfectionism, Depression, Self-loathing, Self-doubt, Fear of Abandonment, Fear of Speaking in My Own Voice.

Whether we believe we’re gallant or not, Emily invites us to trust the cloud of Angel witnesses passing by, clothed in snow-white plumes. Reverently and respectfully they accompany us in life and in death. Honoring us as patriots who fought and still fight gallantly on behalf of our true selves.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 Sept 2016, edited and reposted 8 Oct 2020
Painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.,
found at


beneath snow
life sleeps

Is there an angel in your life? Someone who was there for you at the very beginning when you were most vulnerable? Someone who gave you a gift you didn’t know you had until very late in life?

When I was born, my father had already been flat on his back for 8 months in a TB sanatorium. He came home weak and alive when I was 10 months old. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll know my ordained clergy father was no angel in my life. For a quick summary, read Why I haven’t buried God.

When I was born, my mother was living with a young couple and their 8-year old daughter. Hence I lived the first 10 months of life surrounded by my mother and friends who thought I was God’s gift to each of them.

When my father came home from the sanatorium, things changed quickly. Dad was never one to take his duty lightly. It didn’t take long to change the atmosphere, beginning with a push and shove about whether Uncle Ed was my father or not. And, of course, who was now in charge of our little family. My mother or my father. I believe my mother lost dearly in that transaction. As did I.

Eight months after my father’s homecoming, we moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to Seattle, Washington. I took with me the seed of that elusive thing called resiliency. They say some children have it and some don’t.

In my case, I believe that seed was planted in me the first 10 months of my life. By my mother, Auntie Wyn and Uncle Ed, and their only child Grace. They loved and played with me, fed, encouraged and doted on me. I was the most beautiful baby in the entire world. And I got to hear my mother playing the piano, nurturing in me another invisible seed of resiliency.

See the lovely photo at the top? All the important people (except me, of course) are there. My parents are already surrounded by my surrogate family: Auntie Wyn was mother’s maid of honor; Uncle Ed (with glasses) gave my mother away; Grace was my mother’s flower girl.

Perhaps the bond between my mother and me is stronger and deeper than I ever realized.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 January 2018
Photo of my parents’ wedding in September 1942, Charlotte, North Carolina

Monday Morning after Margie

Bent on a mission from God
Not derailed by frivolous sidetrips
One painful step at a time
Thoughtfully paced and ordered
You showed up at God’s doorstep
Right on time

Too early for me and for your friends
Left gaping at the huge sinkhole
In our hearts and in that pew
where you were not sitting yesterday
Our breath sucked into silence
at the news of your death
I will not call glorious

In memory of a friend, one of the Angels in my life. She died Saturday afternoon.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 September 2017
Photo taken by DAFraser, Longwood Gardens, Sept 2017

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Glorious

Who has not found the Heaven — below —

Wouldn’t you love to find heaven on earth? If so, Emily Dickinson’s little poem offers food for thought. My comments follow.

Who has not found the Heaven – below –
Will fail of it above –
For Angels rent the House next ours,
Wherever we remove –

Emily Dickinson, Poem #1543
Found on

When I went looking for this poem, I found a second version. One of the pitfalls of having poems published is dealing with editors who think they have a better way of saying things. In general, Emily’s cryptic, almost abrupt speech and layout betrays her hand.

Just for comparison, here’s the edited version that’s out there. All cleaned up and, from my perspective, changed in its meaning.

Who has not found the heaven below
Will fail of it above.
God’s residence is next to mine,
His furniture is love.

Found in Emily Dickinson, Collected Poems, published by Courage Books 1991

Sweet, but not what Emily wrote.

In the poem at the top, Emily says the key to finding Heaven lies with us, not with God or even with Angels. Not because they don’t exist, but because it all depends on our ability to recognize them. Not high above this earth, but right beside us, no matter where we are.

Emily suggests that each of our neighbors has the capacity to point us toward Heaven. It isn’t because they have deep theological insights, or preach sermons or make statements about heaven. Nor is it because they’re perfect, glow in the dark, or have wings and shining robes.

Rather, it’s because from time to time they bring a bit of heaven into our lives. Just when we most need it. It doesn’t matter what they believe or don’t believe about angels. What matters is that they bring a bit of heaven into our lives. Just when we most need it, even though we don’t always like to admit we’re needy.

This little poem seems to put us on notice. Emily isn’t asking us to become Angels. She’s asking us to keep our eyes open for Angels. They may show up on our doorsteps when we least expect them. Not from Heaven, but from “the House next to ours.”

This life offers preparation for something beyond our current sight. Not doctrinal proof of Heaven or of Angels. Rather, a whisper, a suggestion, a hint of reality that visits us from time to time. Especially when we’re in need, whether we realize it or not.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to accept help from Angels who aren’t wearing brilliant robes or sprouting wings from their shoulders. They might look like the people next door, or just around the corner, or standing next to us in the checkout line at the grocery store. We may have decided they couldn’t possibly be angels.

Yet there they are, momentary messengers from God who let us know we’re not alone. With their words and deeds they show us a bit of what Heaven looks like on this earth. All so that we’ll recognize it “above.”

Have you been visited lately by an Angel?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 September 2017
Painting: Granville Redmond (1871-1935), A Sunset Sacrament
Found at

To fight aloud, is very brave —


~~~Charge of the Light Brigade, painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.

What does it mean to be brave? Emily Dickinson gets right to the heart of things by showing me a different picture of bravery. One with which I can relate, if I’m willing to re-imagine my life. My comments follow her moving poem.

To fight aloud, is very brave –
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Cavalry of Woe – Read the rest of this entry »

The cattle are lowing…

Sing, Choirs of Angels!

The cattle are lowing,
the baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus
no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus,
Look down from the sky,
and stay by my cradle
’til morning is nigh. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Mom, It’s Christmas!

Conservatory at Longwood Gardens, Christmas 2005

Conservatory at Longwood Gardens, Christmas 2005


Conservatory at Longwood Gardens, Christmas 2005

Conservatory at Longwood Gardens, Christmas 2005

I’ve been listening to Christmas music and thinking about you these days.  Remembering what it was like to sing together as a family during the Christmas season, with you at the piano leading us.  We stood behind you, looking over your shoulder or singing from memory Read the rest of this entry »

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