Iridescent angel gives hope, healing
Belen resident Lucy Urtiaga credits her cure from breast cancer to an iridescent angel.
He stands more than two feet tall, covered in feathers glistening in incandescent blues, greens and black.
This peacock’s tail stretches out from his body creating a more than six-foot fan of eye-spotted feathers. Atop his head stands an erect crest of mini feathers resembling those in his tail.
“She’s cancer free and everything else, because that peacock did something to her,” said Ben Urtiaga, Lucy’s husband.
Beautiful, named after the first time Urtiaga took in her peacock’s breathtaking image, arrived three days after Urtiaga had her left breast removed in 1998.
The Belen woman was lying on the couch recovering from surgery while Ben was fixing a water fountain in their backyard.
After Ben took a short break, he was surprised when he opened the back door to resume his work and saw Beautiful. The peacock was standing in the middle of the couple’s backyard with his feathers spread out.
After feasting his eyes on Beautiful, Ben called out to Urtiaga, who took a peek at the bird.
“Oh, he’s beautiful. He’s beautiful,” she said.
Unsure of where he came from or how he got over the couple’s six-foot fence, they fed the peacock bread crumbs. The couple, who have been married for 54 years, continued on with their day, but not before noting Beautiful had disappeared.
“We thought he was gone,” Urtiaga said.
Later that evening, the couple took in the beauty of the day on lawn chairs in their backyard when Ben once again saw Beautiful. The peacock was perched at the top of a Chinese elm in their backyard, camouflaged by leaves and branches.
“So he never left,” Urtiaga said.
Ben added, “And from that day on, he’s been with us for 14 years.”
As Urtiaga recovered from her surgery, she looked forward to walking to her backyard and checking if her “little pet” was still around.
“I didn’t want to stay laying down and stay in bed, so I would take off and go see if Beautiful was out there, and sure enough he was out there,” she said.
The two would play by stomping their feet at each other before Beautiful would take Urtiaga on a tour of the backyard. She held onto his tail fathers as he led the way through Urtiaga’s garden, past the water fountains and tree where Beautiful made his home.
In those moments, Beautiful inspired Urtiaga to get better.
“To me, he inspired me to get well, and the doctors couldn’t believe how well I had healed. I had healed so fast from my surgery,” she said.
He remained at the couple’s home as Urtiaga underwent two series of four chemotherapy sessions and 33 consecutive radiation treatments. She didn’t get sick, “not once,” because of her angel, who watched over her, she said.
“No one can tell me that he didn’t help me,” Urtiaga said.
She even returned back to work full time a month after her surgery, and worked as a cafeteria lady at Rio Grande Elementary School during her treatments.
About 10 years after Urtiaga’s mastectomy, treatments and cancer screenings, a doctor shook Urtiaga’s hand and told her she was cancer free.
“He (Beautiful) is an angel sent by God,” Ben said.
After living with the Urtiagas for 14 years, neighbors have come to love the bird, taking care of him and viewing him as a neighborhood mascot.
“They say, ‘Hey Ben and Lucy. Don’t worry about Beautiful. He’s in my backyard,’” Ben said.
One neighbor laughed when she saw Beautiful standing in the middle of the road with three cats and two dogs at his side as if he was having a conversation with them, Ben said.
Another, who spotted the peafowl, snapped a close-up picture of him and sent it to the couple as the cover of a Christmas card.
But through his excursions in the neighborhood, he allows only one person to get near him — Urtiaga.
At times when Beautiful is gone for days, Ben reminds his wife not to get sad that he may have moved on.
“And she says, ‘Well if he does that means he’s through taking care of me and is taking care of somebody else,’” Ben said.
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