Angels of hope and a modern-day miracle

by Lee Adams

It’s an icy Thursday and Joe Caveness strolls across the living room floor of his home wearing a bright red jacket. It’s not the same one he received from a stranger after an automobile accident in 1987, and neither he nor his wife Jean notice the coincidence as Jean tells me the story of how events unfolded that day.

Sitting in cozy leather recliners across from one another Jean tells me how Joe was struck head on by an 18-wheeler and lived to tell about it. He was on his way to Smithfield that day when the driver of the oncoming truck fell asleep at the wheel. Joe didn’t see it until it was too late. He was traveling behind a gas-tanker, whose driver pulled into the left-hand lane when he noticed the oncoming disaster. With the truck now beside him in the left-hand lane and nowhere to go Joe took the semi head-on.

Joe remembers being pulled out of his car by a stranger who wrapped him in a red coat to keep him warm, possibly saving his life. The force of the impact shattered his bones and Joe was pronounced dead three times. But he lived, and a Smithfield doctor wrote him to tell him he was a walking miracle. The Caveness’ were never able to find the stranger who cared for Joe ‘— he left his name with no one at the scene.

‘“The dimension of angels is much closer than we think,’” Jean says. She’s a firm believer that God surrounds people with angels ‘— angels all around us that we just can’t see.

Her home is filled with them. Both those that are unseen and those that are more tangible.

Jane has been a potter for years and made a few clay angels before Joe’s accident. After his accident she began to concentrate her work on their form, or her ‘“artists rendition’” as she calls it.

Working out of her small studio behind her Greensboro home, she’s made angels for family and friends, to encourage them in hard times. She’s made them for the sick, the lonely and the dying. She’s done therapeutic workshops for organizations like Hospice and she’s donated them to raise money for disabled children.

Over the years hundreds have requested angels from her and have bought them from her to give to loved-ones of their own. Every year she changes the theme of her angels. Last year it was ‘“From the Heart,’” where little angels carried pink and red hearts. The year before it was ‘“You Light Up My Life.’”

This year’s theme is ‘“Same Moon.’” The idea comes from a love story between a mother and daughter who are apart ‘– the daughter away overseas and the mother at home in the states. The mother told the daughter that anytime they felt lonely they could look at the moon and know they’re both looking at the same object from thousands of miles away. The mother approached Jean with the idea for an angel and, after making one, Jean decided to make it this year’s theme.

Many of her angels are functional, as well. They hold flowers, candles or oil lamps. Some are three-dimensional objects that sit on shelves or countertops and some hang on the walls or under a lamp.

Some have six wings of a Seraph ‘— two for flying, two for covering their eyes in the presence of God and two for covering their feet. Some sing. Some play a horn. Some look to heaven.

Jean can make her angels in an array of colors, but chooses to concentrate on three crystalline glazes she has developed over a period of time ‘— periwinkle blue, snowflake white and animal-fur brown. As the glaze is heated in the firing process, beautiful crystal structures grow in whites, golds and blues that resemble delicate, wintry snowflakes.

Jean makes each piece by hand. There are no molds and each angel has it’s own distinct look and personality. Throughout the year she numbers each piece to give it value in the themed collection. This year she made 1,050 pieces. When they’re sold or given away there will be no more of that series made.

‘“I’ve been blessed,’” Jean says, who is able to make a living producing her artwork.

A deep sense of reverence and holiness pervades the Caveness’ home and Jean’s work.

‘“The big thing about angels in they bring us hope. We all need hope,’” Jean says. ‘“There’s a spiritual dimension out there you need to tap into.’”

Looking around her living room, unaware of the red jacket her husband wears, she says, ‘“Heaven may be closer than you think.’”

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