Title: An Unseen Angel
Author: Alissa Parker
Publisher: Ensign Peak
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 179
Reviewed by Trudy Thompson for the Association for Mormon Letters
If there is one single and solitary thing that unites parents across the globe, I believe it has to be that each and every one of them hopes and prays that their children will grow to adulthood and be productive members of society. That hope often includes prayers said for the protection of their children against the evil amongst us. No parent wants to think of losing a child. That unspeakable thought goes against the very nature of life and death as we expect it to be.
An Unseen Angel is author Alissa Parker’s story of moving from the horrifying act of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where her daughter lost her life, through the difficult grieving process, and finally reaching the point of peace, hope, and healing.
To the readers of this review – -please don’t stop here. The events of that tragic day are but a very small portion of this book. They are only briefly covered and with sensitivity. The story of this family centers around uplifting stories of compassion from friends, neighbors, relatives and fellow church members, and the miracles that followed many prayers.
Parker describes her first experience with a sudden and tragic death when her Father is in a senseless accident during a bicycle marathon. He had been going forty-five miles an hour down a mountain, when another cyclist passed him and clipped his wheel, sending him crashing headfirst to the ground. A short time later he died in a nursing home.
Parker was plunged into shock by the sudden death of her father. But, she took comfort from what he had taught her in her youth. As practicing Mormons, he taught his family these wise words of comfort: “Heavenly Father will never give you something you can’t handle. And, when trouble comes he will give you everything you need to overcome any challenge. He will never abandon you.”
On the morning of December 14, 2012, when the news came of the school shooting at Sandy Hook, Parker and her husband, along with other parents, waited for hours at a nearby firehouse for word of their children. Conflicting information coming in made the wait even more agonizing and painful.
Many hours later, when the Governor came in they learned the horrible truth — that along with six adults, all twenty children that had been shot had perished, and that their beautiful daughter Emilie was one of them.
The most beautiful passages of this excellent book are the inspiring and faith promoting examples of how God does indeed provide for their every need. From the time they are told that all funeral and travel expenses would be paid for by others, to miraculous stories of friends and strangers receiving comfort from Emilee herself, the main message of this book is an uplifting one that promotes faith and testimony.
I found the most comforting and heart warming stories included examples of how even total strangers were touched by Emilee’s story. One was a letter from a 17 year old artist who had drawn a charcoal drawing of Emilee and sent it, along with a heartfelt letter, to her parents. In the letter she describes how, after seeing pictures of the victims, she felt prompted to do what Emilee had often done — to use art to help comfort others through their pain. The teenage artist sent a charcoal drawing to Emilee’s parents and stated in the letter that she felt Emilee had asked Jesus to prompt her to do so.
Another tender mercy shown to Emilee’s mother was when she received a letter from the mother of one of Emilee’s friends from another state. Emilee’s friend Arianna was devastated to learn of her friend’s passing, and was upset for days. Her parents were very concerned. Then, one day, Arianna’s father went to check on her as she played in the back yard. He noticed his daughter was speaking, but that it did not sound like the prattle of a child engaged in play with an imaginary friend. Upon asking his daughter who she was talking to, she enthusiastically stated, “It’s Emilee! She is here with me! She is okay!” This happened several more times over the next few weeks.This is but one example of this type of miraculous and beautiful manifestation, that helped to heal the broken hearts and spirits of many.
This well written and comforting book will help all those who have lost loved ones to know that the bonds of love continue beyond this life, that despite heartache and tragedy, we can at times feel their continued influence and presence in our lives, and that we can find increased strength in our family and faith.