“Mom, why does nobody else in my class know the name of their guardian angel?” She’s at it again – the five-year-old with the unanswerable questions. She’s never been puzzled for a moment as to the identity of her angel. He’s her “Uncle D” – whom she has never met, unless you count two years of hangout time (supposing you measure time at all, up there) before her birth and after his death.

I did not give her the idea. But I have told the kids countless stories about my brother Duane, who never spoke or walked, but lived thirty-one years and lived them well. Our family’s hearts were shaped around him, and we were so ­accustomed to one-way conversations that I often find myself talking to him in my head still, with a sense that he’s quite close, tilting his chin and quietly listening. That’s not just because of the photo on the living room wall.

I’m aware that we small humans can never understand the world of angels – great, inscrutable beings created before our time. Still, not only the child beside me, but the child within clings to the idea that God takes care of guardian angel duties in the here and now. And he might just delegate an uncle to watch out for a small niece with a penchant for accidents.