There is a shop in Haymount where angles gather. On hand-crafted instruments they play sweet melodies, summoning passersby to step inside. Unless one glances through the frosted windows, aglow with Christmas warmth and southern cheer, the angels appear amazingly lifelike.
Upon stepping through an ornate verdigris iron gateway, holiday shoppers are greeted by a bevy of angels... 60,000 in all. As if creating an elaborate collage, each one is laboriously and painstakingly arranged. A canopy of angels watches vigilantly over browsing clientele, their very presence evoking a sense of tranquility.
A virtual heaven on earth, this enchanting shop, with its magnificently carved fireplace, pressed tin ceiling and bubbling fountains, casts its own beguiling spell.
"If its not an angel or an antique, it doesn't belong in here," says Wanda Cangiano, owner of Angels & Antiques, who acquired the store from her mother, Ann Canady, in May of 1991. And shes right! Over the fireplace, upon the walls, in the antique breakfronts, tucked in every odd corner, the angel theme is echoed.
Cupid, with his golden bow and arrow, awaits an unsuspecting heart, wind chimes harmonize with classical music playing softly in the background, child-size angel dolls stand near the fireplace hoping to catch a glimpse of Old St. Nick, and a menagerie of winged stuffed animals await a child's touch.
Delicate rice paper angels grace Christmas trees swathed in Victorian lace, crystal angels dangle from doors and windows, emitting a prismatic aura, Victorian angels pose sublime in billowy, velvet robes, lithophanes, delicately etched with angels, illuminate dark hallways, and clay angels entice gardeners with encouraging messages.
Even the clocks, mirrors, plates, millinery, stationary and soaps emulate these radiant, winged beings.
When Ann Cannady began collecting angels several years ago, she never dreamed her avocation would blossom into a successful career. Being an interior designer, she merely wanted to fill the nooks & crannies of her home with the splendor of God. Her passion for these winged messengers emanated from a sojourn with an angel named Thomas. Her story, a miraculous portrayal of insurmountable courage and unwavering faith, will cast an illumination upon the most disbelieving heart.
It all began when Ann was diagnosed with uterine cancer in July of 1977. After alternative therapies failed, Ann faced the reality of a hysterectomy, coupled with radiation treatment. Devastated, she relayed the heartrending prognosis to husband, Gary, who had lost his first wife to the same type of cancer.
"Cancer is a terribly scary word," confesses Ann. "We spent the next eight weeks scared and praying, praying and scared. I kept begging God, saying, please, if I'm going to die, let me die quickly. I do not want Gary to have to face this again."
Ann's prayers were answered three days prior to her scheduled surgery. On a cool, crisp, September morning, a mysterious black man, dressed in loose pants and a tunic top, rang her doorbell. He stood six feet, six inches tall.
"He was the blackest black Ive ever seen," recalls Ann. "His eyes were a deep azure blue. His teeth were sparkling white, as if a light were shining behind them."
The stranger introduced himself as Thomas and announced in a soft, benevolent voice, "Ann, God sent me at four o'clock this morning to tell you the cancer in your body is gone." Not knowing whether or not to believe him, and startled that this stranger knew her name, as well as her ailment, Ann turned to her husband for guidance.
Before Gary could respond, the wingless messenger stepped inside and quoted a scripture from Isaiah 53:5: "And with his stripes we are healed." Again, he reassured the dubious couple that Ann's cancer had indeed been cured.
With a sweeping motion of his right hand, he held its palm in front of Ann and leaned forward.
"I'm telling you," says Ann. "The heat coming from his hand was incredible! I felt my legs go out from under me and I fell to the floor. As I lay there, a strong white light surged through my body. I knew then, with every part of me, that something glorious had occurred."
When Ann regained consciousness, Gary was leaning over her body, worried if she were still alive. Unfortunately, the enigmatic visitor, who had left an unforgettable imprint upon her life and her soul, was gone forever. In her weakened condition, she crawled over to the telephone and called her physician, informing him that she was cured and the surgery was unnecessary. Three days later, a second biopsy revealed that Ann had indeed been healed. Eager to acquire a symbolic reminder of Thomas, Ann sought out craft fairs and antique shops. Her exhaustive search culminated in Greensboro, where she purchased her first figurine. By 1990, her pastime comprised five dozen angels.
It was not long before Ann's domicile was overflowing with these celestial keepsakes. Upon the suggestion of a friend, Ann began sharing her vast collection with visiting clients who fancied a particular piece.
Shortly thereafter, an opportunity to lease a shop near her home for three months, coupled with an assemblage of antiques acquired through her design business, prompted Ann to open up Angels & Antiques in November of 1989.
"I had absolutely no intention of going into the retail business full-time," says Ann. "My interior design practice was thriving and I had no time for anything else. Besides, I really did not want to part with my angels. I only wanted to share their joy with others."
Angels & Antiques, with its supernal allure and serene beauty, offers a soothing sanctuary from the pandemonium of everyday life. "Our customers find peace in here," says Ann. "Sometimes, only a gentle reminder of God's grace is needed to make it through a stressful day."
Wanda has also observed the tumbling of burdens off a weary customers shoulders upon entering their shop. "What is amazing," admits Wanda, "is a customers eagerness to discuss their experiences with angels. It's as though a wall had suddenly been removed. They feel safe to unburden themselves."
In today's hectic world of computer-age technology, fast-food restaurant franchises, and panoply of disposable products, is it any wonder we possess an insatiable craving for things unruffled, unhurried by human hands? In discovering our own unique centers, we are able to unmask life's aesthetic pleasures. Poetry, love, and romance are the riches that abound, giving life its highest beauty. Amid today's confusion, it is refreshing to know these gifts will withstand the passage of time.
The very concept of a guardian angel guiding us through our fiery trials brings sweet repose to our daily existence. Somehow, life's burdens seem lessened when we realize we are in the company of angels.
Although Ann is eternally grateful her life was spared, she does not try to understand God's miracle. "All I know is that its not for me to question," says Ann. "It is up to me to live my life as an example, in faith. In this life we don't have all the answers... just questions and discoveries."
Fortunately, Ann was granted the unique privilege of meeting her guardian angel. The rest of us will simply have to trust that the invisible, ethereal hand is nearby, ready to catch us if we should suddenly fall.
As the whisperings of Christmases past whistle through our eardrums, and the bustle of holiday shoppers ensnare us in a whirlwind, we neglect to remember the promise God made to His children. For it is in the company of angels... the seraphim, the cherubim, the archangel, and the angel... that we see God's highest glory and hope for the world. Their guidance and protection offer tangible proof that God is amongst us. In sweet repose, we humbly bow to the nine choirs of angels, for in their exultation is our grace.