Lancaster County

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is nothing but cornfields, barns, and grain silos. Amish buggies periodically clop down the old roads. The four-beat gaits of the high-stepping strutters sounds like overwound metronomes.

Tonight I’m attending a garden party in the country. Before the guests arrive, I’m helping with odd jobs, setting up tables, loading coolers. My work partner this evening is 82-year-old Miss Annie.

You’d like Miss Annie. Everyone does. She is a woman who tells me upfront that she can see angels.

“Really?” I reply.

“Oh, yes. Mmm hmm. Angels.”

Miss Annie weighs maybe 90 pounds soaking wet. She wears an Amish head covering, a long black skirt, and Teddy Roosevelt glasses. She was Amish for most of her life, and it shows. Her voice has a Germanic lilt. She speaks in a singsong way. Like a Bach prelude minus the organ.

“Actual angels?” I say, stocking a cooler. “You don’t mean the ones in Los Angeles?”

“Real angels. Mmm hmm. Yes. I see them.”

“What do they look like?”

“Like angels.”


“Oh, yes.”

“Long white bathrobes?”

“Mmm hmm.”

All afternoon she has been saying things like this. You never know what she’s going to say or do next. Earlier, for instance, radio music was playing and Miss Annie put down her broom, lifted the hem of her skirt, and began to buck dance. I haven’t seen a woman buck dance since my granny died.

“I have always loved to dance,” she says. “When I was sixteen, we Amish kids would sneak off and have barn dances. We would dance all night long to records.

“Oh, I loved it. When someone’s parents would find us, we’d run and hide in the fields. But it was fun.”

Miss Annie lived in the Amish community from the end of the Great Depression until ‘94, after her husband died. When she decided to leave the Amish she was in her mid-fifties.

She was shunned for defecting, which is the punishment du jour for all who leave the fold. She was disowned by family, neighbors, and lifelong friends. It’s hard for me to imagine this level of emotional pain.

It’s even harder to imagine what it must have been like for a middle-aged woman and her children to suddenly find themselves thrust into a noisy, technological, self-absorbed, fast-paced, dangerous, modern American society.

“It was great!” she says, clasping her hands to her chest. “Oh, I felt like a little bird who’d been set free. Oh, yes. Mmmm hmmm.”

The first thing Miss Annie did with her new freedom was take driving lessons. The Amish, of course, are not allowed to drive cars. So this was huge. She got her learner’s permit, passed her test, then bought a car and took to the interstates. Lord help us all.

Try to imagine the thrill. You’re 50-some years old, set free for the first time. Windows down. Hair blowing. You’re sitting atop four thousand pounds of Dearborn steel with two fingers on the wheel, traveling 65 mph.

“I drove all the way to Florida,” she said. “I just couldn’t stop.”

At this stage of her life, Miss Annie considers herself a helper to ex-Amish people who feel alone. Her main task is to pray for those who need it. This woman does a lot of praying.

“Praying is my full time job.”

Today Miss Annie awoke at four in the morning because she says God told her to pray. So she did. The old woman crawled into her car during the morning hours and drove to her church to pray. She does this often.

“I pray for their financial worries, for their families, their health, or that they have a good home. Oh, yes. Mmm hmm. Home. We all need a home. And peace. I always pray for peace. Mmm hmm.”

In the middle of our conversation, the old sage announces that she is going to pray for me right now. This is not up for discussion.

The woman’s eyes close. Her voice does the Bach thing again. She prays in what sounds like perhaps German, then in English. Her words are precise, not haphazard like the blues-solo prayers from the wordy Baptists of my youth. And I suddenly realize Miss Annie is not improvising, she is reciting a Psalm.

“Do not fret because of those who are evil,
“Or be envious of those who do wrong;
“For like the grass they will soon wither,
“Like green plants they will soon die away…”

For some reason hot tears come to my eyes as she speaks. I’m not sure why. I am not a particularly religious guy. Then again, it’s not every day an 82-year-old seer prays for you.

Her words finally fizzle out. She remains silent for several minutes. Eyes still closed. At one point I am certain this old woman has fallen asleep, but she hasn’t. Miss Annie takes my hand, smiles, and speaks in a whisper. “Oh, do you feel that? Yes. They’re here. I can feel his angels.”

And I, for one, believe her.

Oh, yes. Mmm hmm.


  1. Ed (Bear) - July 12, 2021 7:06 am

    We humans should not expect ourselves to be perfect but we can improve and we can love. That is what God (and the angels) teach us. We do well to listen.

  2. Debbie g - July 12, 2021 7:11 am

    Pure love. Amazing

  3. Dawnie B - July 12, 2021 7:27 am

    You are loved…such a divine moment!

  4. Kay Williams - July 12, 2021 7:30 am

    Oh, yes. The angels are awesome! I’ve never seen them but I ask them for help often. Ex. When trying to merge onto a freeway or such I always ask for their help and, sure enough, there is always a gap big enough for me to glide in smoothly.

  5. Meredith Smith - July 12, 2021 8:46 am

    Hooray you have gotten close to my house! I go to Lancaster just about every weekend. I live about an hour from there, in Maryland. You are deep in Gods Country, Sean, so beware! Watch your P’s & Q’s (what does that mean? Maybe you’ll do a column about that one day.).
    Anyway, so happy you’ve been prayed over and your angels were present, what a glorious treat.
    Be safe on your way home. Write a column if you snake through Maryland!! We’d be honored to have you!

    • Cynthia Woods - July 12, 2021 1:23 pm

      😄Regarding ” watch your P’s and Q’s,” I was told it means pints and quarts. When a fight would break out in an Irish pub, and I’m sure many did, the barkeep would shout, ” Watch your pints and quarts!” 🍻

    • Tim - July 12, 2021 6:12 pm

      Pints and Quarts

  6. Bar - July 12, 2021 11:27 am

    Amen and Amen

  7. Karen Holderman - July 12, 2021 12:09 pm

    What a special lady.

  8. Jan - July 12, 2021 12:18 pm

    Amen. Brought tears to my eyes … beautiful Miss Annie!

  9. Cheryl W. - July 12, 2021 12:22 pm

    Sweet Miss Annie has discovered the power of praying God’s words and then quietly waiting for His comfort. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. The wisdom we pray for.
    “Her words are precise, not haphazard like the blues-solo prayers from the wordy Baptists of my youth.” Love that description! I was raised Baptist so heard a lifetime of that.

  10. Lulu - July 12, 2021 12:28 pm

    She does hearts good…and she is loved.

  11. JACKIE LEON DARNELL - July 12, 2021 12:31 pm

    You done good on this one. Love it and Lancaster County is one of my favorite places in the USA. We are headed back there next month. Thanks for a sweet read and a little education.
    Sherry & jack in NC looking forward to a road trip.

  12. Ginny Judson - July 12, 2021 12:35 pm

    Absolutely beautiful!

  13. Rochelle Biffle - July 12, 2021 12:44 pm

    I hope I am praying like Ms Annie when I am 80!!! What a blessing for you!! Thanks for sharing all your experiences, I look so forward to reading about them!! Praying the scriptures is powerful and spirit filled!!

  14. Julie Messick - July 12, 2021 12:45 pm

    What a beautiful way to start a day, especially a Monday. Thank you Sean.

  15. Barbara - July 12, 2021 1:04 pm

    No higher calling than to be a prayer warrior. Miss Annie has the wisdom to listen as the Holy Spirit speaks to her heart, and acts upon the prompting. Blessed woman knows the way to God’s ear by praying His Word. Listen to that still small voice, Sean. It’s no mistake that you encountered Miss Annie. You’ve been blessed.

  16. Liza Bragg - July 12, 2021 1:18 pm


  17. Cynthia Woods - July 12, 2021 1:19 pm

    Oh, Sean! What a blessing you have received. Never doubt God has assigned angels to walk with you! Miss Annie saw them! And what a workout you give them! 😂😘

  18. Betty F. - July 12, 2021 1:36 pm

    Don’t know how she “‘made it” after leaving the only life she knew, but she must have found some real angels along the way. What an amazing woman, and an amazing example of giving back. So glad you were able to meet her.

  19. Margaret Kuulei Houk - July 12, 2021 1:50 pm

    Oh,Sean! You have NO idea how near & dear to my heart this post is.

    You see, my grandmother was (Kansas) Amish; my mother was raised Amish to the age of 12, along with her younger sister & brother. And they were all shunned. Pap (my grand dad, who died long before I was born) “went west” to find a better life. It was The Great Depression, aboout 1924. Grandma & the kids had no belongings except the clothes on their backs, the horse & wagon. Grandma’s sister (my great Aunt Mary) hid them in her attic. They had to be absolutely silent during the day, creeping downstairs after dark (when the famiily was all asleep) for their one meal a day (Aunt Mary always cooked extra & left it out; my great uncle must have known but had enough compassion to not turn Aunt Mary in to be shunned as well).

    Eventually, Pap sent word to come west. In the dark of night Grandma hitched the horse to the wagon, made sandwiches, loaded the three kids in the wagon & drove to the train station where she sold the horse & wagon for train fare. After what must have been an arduous journey they met up with Pap in San Diego. And the rest, as they say, is history.

    But my abiding memory of Grandma is that she was always a cheerful woman who believed in “the old ways” & would lapse into German, midsentence, when she got excited. Her eyes twinkled. She loved a good joke. She always sang & recited Scripture. She taught me to sew, knit, crochet & bake bread & put up the harvest. She never learned to drive (though she tried).

    But the thing I remember most? She saw angels. Often.

    “Oh, yes. Mmm hmm.”

    • CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 12, 2021 1:57 pm

    • Adrienne I Possenti - July 13, 2021 8:01 am

      If you don’t mind my asking, why did the family have to hide away? What would happen to them if they were found? Thank you. Fascinating story.

  20. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 12, 2021 1:51 pm

  21. Christine - July 12, 2021 1:53 pm

    Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life♥️

  22. sparkerlpc - July 12, 2021 2:00 pm

    Sean, you keep saying you aren’t “religious.” But every time you write about anything to do with faith in God, you sound like you are talking from your heart. God bless and increase your faith!

  23. Stacey Wallace - July 12, 2021 3:01 pm

    Sean, I think Miss Annie was an angel. MmmHmm. Also, it’s not about being “religious,” It’s about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Thanks for starting my day off right.

  24. Christina - July 12, 2021 3:21 pm

    Love Miss Annie!

  25. Marilyn - July 12, 2021 3:25 pm

    Yes, I believe in angels, without ever seeing any. Sometimes they tell me to make a phone call or to put on my brakes to avoid an accident. Today’s story brought me peace, and Miss Annie had an effect on you as well. Thank you for the uplifting words. Keep them coming, Sean! Blessings to all…

  26. RC - July 12, 2021 3:42 pm

    I thought mind your Ps and Qs had was a saying about being accurate, because the lowercase letters of p and q when you write them can be easy for kids to confuse. It could have as easily been mind your bs and ds. 🙂

  27. Linda Moon - July 12, 2021 6:30 pm

    I believe Miss Annie. The old woman’s recitation of the Psalm spoke to me. “Not particularly religious” describes some folks I know and love, and that’s not necessarily inferior in the religious realm. Roads less travelled have led those folks and me to an understanding of God. You’ve been on some of those difficult roads, too, Sean. Keep travelling the good trails, believing what they offer, and telling us about them!

  28. Lee - July 12, 2021 10:30 pm

    Minding your P’s & Q’s is an old English pub expression. The barkeep would tell the patrons that when a kerfuffle broke out. What does it mean? Simple, mind your own pints and quarts – the typical size of pub drinks.

  29. Dennise Romine - July 13, 2021 4:24 am

    What a beautiful column for today♥️

  30. Annie - July 13, 2021 2:05 pm


  31. Peggy Garvey - July 17, 2021 6:48 pm

    I enjoy how you make a story come alive and the compassion you seem to have for others. It is a God given talent, no matter how many degrees, etc you may have earned… bothers me though that you say you are not of the religious type……..Christianity is not a religion, it means you are a follower of Jesus Christ who is the only way for you to actually meet up with those angels that Miss Annie speaks. I would hate for you to miss all that awaits you in acceptiong Jesus as your Lord and Savior, for then you would have stories to tell beyond your imagination.

  32. Joann - July 17, 2021 7:44 pm

    This is a beautiful story, and I don’t believe for one minute that you are not religious. Your gentle loving spirit belies that fact.

  33. lynda - July 21, 2021 5:04 am

    Hi, Sean,

    Is it possible to send your posts from July 13-20? Somehow they were not sent to my email. I am heartbroken. If at all possible, thank you!

  34. Bill Harris - July 22, 2021 1:08 am

    Thank you Sean


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