We all need an “angel” now and again. Life gets in the way of our plans and dreams, and these angels offer an escape for a while, a respite from the real world, a safe place in our search for comfort.

These angels are not your stereotypical spiritual beings, but the kind recorded in the song Angel by Sarah McLachlan. I’ve never really understood the lyrics until now. The song’s beauty and melodic value has always moved me, speaking to my soul rather than my intellect. I knew it was a sad song, but just not how sad. A closer look at the lyrics and background to the song changed that.

For the angel in this song is heroin, and McLachlan wrote it in response to the accidental death by heroin overdose of a fellow musician. It’s a sad story of a person’s search for release told with understanding and compassion.

It is easy to understand the attraction of heroin. Heroin promises the user a complete temporary freedom from stress, worry, fear, anxiety, depression, and insecurity for however long the drug courses through the user’s brain. Of course heroin takes a terrible toll, and death and destruction are all too commonly an outcome.

There are other “bad” angels out there. Tobacco, alcohol, excessive exercise, porn, gambling and others offer the same temporary release with varying degrees of self-inflicted suffering.

But there are good angels too, and I have found mine. My “angel” holds me in her wings and takes me away from the stresses of my career, professional obligations and family responsibilities for however long the skies will hold me.

Here I find the distraction that sweeps away the fears of the fight ahead. Here is my shelter from the storm that I feel is coming as I confront the vultures at my back.

I have taken on a giant in the world of South African healthcare, a company that enjoys the support of big business by virtue of its success. It’s not going to be an easy confrontation.

I have my family, my friends, my faith and a small group of supporters, and of course they matter greatly to me. They share my struggle. But for an escape, the “beautiful release” spoken of in the song, I’ll rely heavily on my particular angel.

I have a feeling I am going to need her in the days ahead.


Martin Young

Martin Young

Martin Young is an ENT surgeon living an idyllic life in Knysna. He is a firm believer that "the unexamined life is not worth living", writes for a hobby and is happy to speak truth to power www.drmartinyoung.com...

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