A 14-year-old girl with a history of serious health issues lay dying of pneumonia in a hospital room. But as her mother waited for the girl to take her last breath, an image of bright light appeared on a security monitor. Within an hour, the dying girl began a recovery that doctors are at a loss to explain.
But Colleen Banton, the girl's mother, has an explanation. “This was an image of an angel,” she told NBC News in a story reported Tuesday on TODAY. She credited the apparition with saving the life of her daughter Chelsea.
The incident happened in Charlotte, N.C., in September. Chelsea had been born five weeks prematurely with developmental disabilities and had battled serious health problems all her life. She is particularly susceptible to the types of pneumonia infections that had taken her to death’s door.
Told that there was no hope for Chelsea, Colleen Banton had just instructed doctors to take her daughter off life support and allow nature to take its course when the apparition was seen.
It would be another two months before Chelsea finally left the hospital to return home, where she is about to celebrate her 15th birthday as well as Christmas. Her mother is convinced that Chelsea was saved by divine intervention.
“It’s a blessing,” she told NBC News. “It’s a miracle.”
Banton took a picture of the television monitor on which the image appeared. Some who look at it would describe it as a flare of reflected light. Others — including nurses who were on duty as well as Banton — say the three vertical shafts of light are indisputably an angel.
‘They walk amongst us’
Banton is hardly alone in her belief in angels.
“I think angels really do exist,” the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook told TODAY’s Ann Curry after watching the report on the Bantons’ experience. “They protect us. They walk amongst us.”
Cook was joined by Rabbi Irwin Kula, who looked at angels as more of a metaphor for the unexplained wonders that life brings.
Angels do not play a large role in the Jewish faith, but they have a prominent place in Christianity, which teaches that an angel told Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus.
Cook said she believes that angels are messengers from God. “They bring the message of hope,” she told Curry.
According to some polls, 75 percent of all Americans believe in angels. That level of belief varies with geography and political affiliation, with more Republicans than Democrats and more Southerners than Northeasterners believing in the existence of the heavenly messengers.
The high level of belief is unique in the developed world. In Canada, Great Britain and Australia, the same polls say, belief in angels does not exceed 40 percent.
Being open to wonder
Kula said whether you believe in angels or not, there is a deeper message in Banton’s story.
Angels, Kula said, “can be anything.” In that sense, he said, one could say that someone who just shows up when you most need a hand can be seen as a very real angel.
“You’re having a bad day, and a child comes up to you and smiles and right away you feel better. Is that an angel or is that a child smiling?” Kula said.
Cook had to wipe away a tear of joy after watching Banton’s story. It is particularly appropriate, she said, coming at the Christmas season during a year in which many people are experiencing economic hardship.
“People are looking for a miracle right now,” Cook said.
Some, like Colleen Banton, feel they’ve found one.