"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
~~ Psalm 139: 14-16 NIV

Hi all,

This is the issue in which we celebrate Andrew's Observed Birthday.  The story you'll find below isn't what I set out to write.  But I went with it.  Cause I'm living vicariously through the Dyelanders now.  Whatever's going on in my mind and heart that led to this story... I hope John knows that some day all the love and all the hugs and all the enamored words these characters heap on Andrew are coming to him.  For all eternity.  So he better be prepared.  :-)

God bless,

To get us started... a birthday message from Rebecca:

Dear Andrew,

I am so grateful that God gave you to us. You have helped me so many times and I truly hope you know that.

I thank God for the presence of many angels that have been in my life.

You have taught me about love and courage and I adore you.

Thank you and Happy Birthday,


Andrew's Birthday Quilt


September 20th, 2011


If anyone had happened upon the wide expanse of lawn between Willowveil Castle and Serendipity, they might have thought they were viewing the birthday party of any average thirty-something man.   The yard was teeming with picnic tables, each donning brightly colored balloons and framed photos of the birthday boy.  Only if the visitor examined each of the photographs would they begin to suspect that there was something decidedly different about the honoree.  One photo of Andrew teaching some children to fish had been taken only a few days before.  But on the table beside it the same gentle face, here rimmed by sideburns, stared out of a tin type photograph.  Two tables from that was a print of a cave drawing on which an arrow had been drawn pointing to one primitive individual.  Andrew's name was scrawled above the figure.  Though it was a joke, it was also true that no one could definitively rule out the possibility that Andrew had at one time or another been the muse of an ancient artist working in the Magura Cave.  And the angel of death himself remained coyly silent on the subject when asked. 

Whatever they made of the photographs, any newcomer with a kind heart would have instantly warmed to the guest of honor.  Andrew's usual friendliness and cheer were even more evident as he made the rounds, chatting with friends old and new.  He was visiting with Mick St. John when JenniAnn approached and tapped his shoulder.

"Billfold, please," she requested, holding out her hand.

Mick looked on with an arched eye brow as Andrew chuckled and handed over his wallet without question.  The P.I. was further surprised when JenniAnn began rifling through it and the angel continued to refrain from making objections.  Eventually, the woman seemed to find what she needed, folded the wallet back up, and returned it to its owner.

"Thank you very much!" she called as she trotted off towards Willowveil. 

"All right, explain what that was just about," Mick demanded as Andrew slid the wallet back into his pocket.

"It's the traditional checking of the driver's license."  The angel's airy tone suggested he saw this as a perfectly normal event.

"Because JenniAnn's suddenly become worried that you've been driving illegally?"

The angel of death laughed again, took a sip of his champagne, and shook his head.  "No.  See, when they first came up with this 'observed' birthday idea for me they covered my cake with candles.  You know, because I'm so ancient."

"Very," the youthful octogenarian agreed.

Andrew shot him a look but continued.  "But then in 2003, there was a goatee singeing incident..."  He winced and absentmindedly stroked his chin.  "So... after that the girls decided I'd only have three candles to represent the past, present, and future.  But then that really confused the kids who couldn't understand why I only had three candles when I'm definitely not a toddler."

"Apparently they haven't seen you attempting to play hop scotch.  That's some toddling all right," Mick teased, grinning over the rim of his wine glass.

Andrew crossed his arms over his chest.  "If anyone ever decides to roast me, I know who I'm gonna suggest as host!"

Mick laughed.  "Only if I get Adam as a co-host.  But go on... no more three candles so?"

"So JenniAnn went out and bought some of those candles shaped like numbers.  Now every year she checks whatever driver's license I have on September 20th and uses the corresponding numbers for my cake.  So this year I'm getting a 3 and a 6 because for the time being I'm 36."

"Logical.  I like it.  So did JenniAnn even bother to buy the whole set or did she stick with 3 and , I dunno, maybe a 4, then 5, 6, 7... has she ever needed the 8?"

Andrew paused to consider this.  "You know, I've never thought to ask.  Since we started this she's only had to use 35, 36, and 37 but..."  His voice trailed off.

"It's not going to stay that way, is it?  You still set on that whole aging along with them thing?"

The angel surveyed the crowd, smiling tenderly at Yva as she helped one of the children decorate a cookie with the frosting and candy decorations Willy had supplied.  His gaze shifted to where Rose was playing tag with some other children.  Then to C.J., showing off one of her horses to some Tunnel dwellers.  Lastly, Andrew looked to Willowveil where he knew JenniAnn and Lady Beth were putting the final preparations on his cake.  "Very set," he answered softly.


"Thirty six!" JenniAnn called as she returned to the kitchen. 

Adam began to dig through a box of cake decorations with Andrew's name emblazoned on it, finding a green 3 and 6.  He handed them to Lady Beth who situated them in the center of the beautifully decorated red velvet cake she had baked.

"Well?" she asked.

Adam and JenniAnn admired the cake.

"Very impressive," the angel of death complimented as JenniAnn nodded in eager agreement.  "Although..."

"What?" Lady Beth prodded, looking concerned.

"Nothing about the cake itself.  It's great.  Trust me.  I snuck a bite."  Adam grinned when Lady Beth affectionately punched him in the arm.  "It's just something I was thinking about when I was looking for the candles.  Something that was missing."

"You mean your candles?  JenniAnn put them in a different box.  I remember from your party last year," Lady Beth explained.

"No, I noticed my box in the drawer."  Adam laughed.  "It was hard to miss the neon turkey stickers.  I just mean... well... JenniAnn, you bought a 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and even a 9 although I noticed the last two were still in boxes.  But you don't have 0, 1, 2, or 4."

JenniAnn shrugged.  "When I bought them I was having a rare lapse of practicality I guess.  The whole time Andrew's been here, I don't think his driver's license has ever listed him as younger than 35 so I didn't think I'd ever need his green candles for 30, 31, 32, 33, or 34.  Trust me, if he ever shows up in September with ID saying he's 34, I'll rush right out and get him a 4," the woman assured with a smile as she began to pile silverware into a basket.  "I rather hope he doesn't, though...  Kinda got that thing for older men, ya know.  And at 34 next year Andrew would be scarcely older than me... appearance-wise, I mean."

"I know," the angel of death began cautiously, "but I was thinking more... 40, 41, 42, and so on."

JenniAnn abruptly stopped what she was doing while Lady Beth set down the cake she had been prepared to carry outside.

"You mean he hasn't... had second thoughts about that?" the former asked Adam.

Setting a hand on her shoulder, Adam shook his head.  "JenniAnn, you know Andrew's not going to have second thoughts.  That's not who he is."

JenniAnn nodded, biting her lip and twisting her ring. 

"It's going to be all right when it happens," the angel assured.  "Sure, I might develop some sort of complex when Andrew's going around looking older than me.  I enjoyed lording it over him with my very obvious maturity," Adam joked, trying to lighten the mood.  "But Andrew... he'll be great.  And, hey, maybe it won't even happen for a long time.  Who knows.  Maybe next year you'll need a 4 because he'll have had a run of stress-free, walk-in-the-park assignments and be 34.  Forty might be a long, long way off."

"Adam's right.  Let's just focus on Andrew's 36th... again."  Lady Beth picked the cake back up while Adam grabbed a massive bucket of ice cream.  They carried the sweets through the hallway and out into the yard. 

JenniAnn followed them, carrying the silverware.  She tried to heed Lady Beth's advice but it was easier said than done.  She had a sneaking suspicion Andrew's "fortieth" birthday would arrive before any of them knew it.  And nearly two years after his announcement of his plan, she still hadn't completely made peace with it.  Nonetheless, she smiled brightly as they stepped onto the lawn.  Whatever the future would bring, Andrew deserved to have this particular birthday pass without any drama or angst.

Tess was the first to see the two women and Adam approaching.  She abruptly pulled Andrew away from his conversation with Mick and plopped him down at a table near the center of the yard.  "Your cake's coming, baby, and the sooner we get that cut up the better.  I love those little babies over there but if I get asked one more time when the cake and ice cream are being served..."

Andrew laughed as Tess warily eyed a circle of Tunnel children she had been visiting with.  Then he looked to his dessert-bearing friends.  He could already taste the red velvet cake.  "Tess, I am happy to oblige." 

"Everyone gather around Andrew!" Henry yelled when he, too, noticed the cake's appearance.

Andrew blushed as Lady Beth placed the cake in front of him and he read the icing message of "Happy '36th' birthday to the dearest and loveliest of all Andrews." 

Lady Beth laughed.  "Since I made the cake, JenniAnn offered to help decorate it.  And I happen to like what she did with it."

"The icing does not lie.  Its message is very true."  JenniAnn nodded solemnly before shooting Andrew a teasing smile.  "Just, ya know, thought you should match your nice, red cake there."

Rose grinned.  "A nice red cake I can tell he's about to start sneaking frosting off of if we don't hurry."

"Gettin' very tempted here!" Andrew confessed.

"Can we sing now?" Shelby asked eagerly as she hopped up and down to the side of Andrew's bench.

"Just one last thing..."  Adam produced a lighter from his pocket and lit the two candles.  "Happy birthday to you..." he started with the others soon joining in.

As he was serenaded, Andrew smiled at the many, many friends clustered around him.  There were at least three dozen Tunnel denizens including a number of the children along with Vincent, Catherine, Owen, and Father.  The entire Los Angeles contingent was singing with gusto.  Lady Beth, JenniAnn, Rose, Yva, Sir Sven, Willy, and C.J. were all beaming at him.  Several of the pets were clustered near his feet, looking up at him with doting eyes.  And interspersed through out the crowd were many of the angels who were closest to Andrew: Adam, Henry, Eli, Nigel, Monica, Tess, Gloria, and Sam.  Thinking about how many people from all different walks of life had come together to celebrate his own life brought grateful tears to the angel's eyes. 

Andrew wasn't the type to make a wish while blowing out his birthday candles.  But when the song had ended and the children giddily egged him on, the angel made a silent birthday prayer:
"Dear Father, whatever the years ahead bring, please keep my friends in my life.  You know I love them.  Don't let us ever be parted for long.  And please let those who have drifted away from us know that we still think of them, that we still love them.  Thank You.  I love You."

Just as he finished the prayer and stood back up after extinguishing the two candles, Andrew felt drawn to look at his house.  He felt immense warmth and love as he stared at his bedroom window.  The urge to run up there was strong but the still, small voice that guided his life told him to stay put.  Thus, he turned his attention back to his friends who were vying for hugs.


Unbeknownst to the crowd on the lawn, there was a visitor at Andrew's party.  But this Visitor would never have been confused by the photos of Andrew because this Visitor was no stranger at all.  He knew the celebrated angel better than anyone.  He had created him.  Even though September 20th had been chosen on a whim by Andrew's friends, God Himself celebrated the day, just as He celebrated the births of all His children.  And He had come to bestow His own gift.  But first he surveyed Andrew's room, growing closer to His child by experiencing the room and all it held while in human form.

The Father picked up some car keys and held them in His hands for a moment, smiling as He recalled Andrew's dismay at finding himself saddled with a green mini-van three years before... a van the angel had thanked Him for countless times since.  Next, God's gaze rested on the well-worn leather jacket hanging from Andrew's desk chair.  He could still remember how the angel of death's face had lit up when he'd tried it on for the first time.  He knew that tucked inside the right pocket was a creased note reading "Just wanted to let you know we're thinking of you.  And that I think you look super adorable and lovely today.  Okay, so I'm not there.  But I still know.  Love, Laja."  On the bedside table, offering a little late night aspirational reading, was a handmade cookbook from Lady Beth.  At the center of the bed was a hand-stitched teddy bear still wearing the plaid bow Yva had tied onto it years before.  Coiled in a box sitting on the dresser was a shark tooth necklace Rose had made for Andrew when they'd found it during a walk on the beach.  On the angel's desk was a paper weight formed out of a horseshoe that C.J. had designed for him.  Lulu's bed, seldom used as she preferred Andrew's, was pushed into a corner.  Drawings from the children were on display in the small study that adjoined Andrew's bedroom.  Inexplicably, the football he used to play with Adam, Henry, and many of the others was balanced on the top of a lamp.  God smiled when He glimpsed an Irish coffee mug Monica had once given Andrew as a sheepish thank you gift.  Finally, He focused on the quilt folded along the bottom of Andrew's bed.  It had been his birthday present from his friends the previous year.  A meaningful piece of fabric from every person gathered around Andrew at that moment was stitched together, forming one eclectic whole that somehow had become a masterpiece.

The Father was running His hand over the assorted squares of fabric when He heard.

"Dear Father, whatever the years ahead bring, please keep my friends in my life.  You know I love them.  Don't let us ever be parted for long.  And please let those who have drifted away from us know that we still think of them, that we still love them.  Thank You.  I love You."

God smiled.  If only Andrew knew what He did...


A few years later...


Adam led the crowd of people through the tunnel that connected Willowveil to Serendipity.

"Just remember, the third stair from the top really squeaks.  So step over it," JenniAnn whispered.  "Pass it along."

A murmur went through the tunnel as the tidbit of information made its way to the end of the line.

"You speak like you've done this before," Adam teased as he quietly opened the door to Andrew's basement.

JenniAnn became very intent on smoothing her son's fly-away hair as she balanced him on her hip.  "Well, I have to come collect laundry sometimes...  Only fair since Andrew does all the yard work...  Isn't that right, Avi?" she asked the baby.

"Funny how Andrew's laundry always seems to consist solely of flannel shirts when you collect it..." Eli mused with a devilish grin.

Adam chuckled then focused on the clipboard he was holding.  "All right, kitchen crew goes in first.  Remember to keep it down.  As far as Andrew knows, he's the only one in this house," he reminded as ten people hurried past him, carefully maneuvering trays and dishes of food they had prepared at Willowveil.

"Gloria, your team set?" JenniAnn checked.

The angel nodded eagerly.  "I came over yesterday and did the extra wiring.  We won't even need the full twenty minutes to get everything strung!"

Adam and JenniAnn balked as Gloria led her team up the stairs. 

Tess made her way towards the front of the dwindling line.  "Did that baby say extra wiring?  I better go check in on this and make sure they don't send this whole place up in smoke."

Before she could respond to assure Tess that was unlikely to happen, JenniAnn felt a tug on her dress and looked down to find her daughter, Annabel.

"Mommy, when we gonna bring Uncle Andrew his breakfast?" she asked while holding up the picnic basket she was carrying, her tone revealing that she thought "Now" would be the perfect response.

Adam chuckled.  "Why don't you three head up now?  Just remember, don't let the birthday boy leave his rooms until 7:30 at the earliest.  And keep the curtains drawn!"

"Will do.  Thanks for handling the rest of this.  Trust me, we'll make it up to you next month," JenniAnn assured as she took Annabel's free hand and headed towards the stairs.

"Let's wait on that until we see how this wiring issue goes. 
I may want to celebrate my birthday in a cave," Adam responded with a grin as he waved her on.

Once JenniAnn was on the main floor, she smiled in amusement at Gloria and Henry as they whooshed by with reels of twinkle lights.  The latter whispered something about the banisters that JenniAnn thought she was probably glad not to have heard.  She led Annabel up another set of stairs, Avi still resting against her. 

"Now remember, we don't tell Uncle Andrew about the other people being here cause it's a surprise.  Got it?"

Annabel nodded excitedly. 

"Very good.  Now just a sec."  JenniAnn went to Andrew's door and set her ear against it.  No noise.  He was likely sleeping since it was only just after 7:00 and he'd had a run of exhausting assignments.  She hated to wake him but Adam had already cautioned her that Andrew would be disappointed if he later learned he'd been allowed to sleep in at the cost of spending time with friends... some of whom he hadn't seen for years.  Relying on that, JenniAnn waved her daughter over and knocked on the bedroom door.

"Mmmmm?" came the response.

"There's someone here with a very special birthday breakfast for you," JenniAnn called as Annabel beamed beside her.

"Happy birthday, Uncle Andrew!" the girl yelled.

A moment later a sleepy but thrilled looking Andrew threw open the door.  Avi began flapping his arms excitedly while Annabel hugged the angel's knees until he lifted her up.  JenniAnn simply stared.  Even wearing flannel pajamas and a clashing robe, with hair wildly askew, and glasses slightly crooked in evidence of being hastily thrown on; Andrew still sent butterflies a-flappin' in her stomach.  Nonetheless, JenniAnn wrested her focus back onto her charge to keep the angel from suspecting his house had been invaded.  She grabbed the picnic basket Annabel had dropped then closed the door. 

"Well, now this is a really great birthday surprise!" the angel declared, hugging Annabel once more before taking the clamoring Avi from JenniAnn.  "I wasn't expecting anything until the party this afternoon."

JenniAnn smiled.  "I know.  But Annabel couldn't wait."  She tilted her head towards where her daughter was already unpacking the basket and loading the contents onto Andrew's bedside table.  Lowering her voice, she continued.  "She made it all by herself.  Wouldn't let me help at all.  We'll get you more breakfast later."  It was all she could do to keep from grinning at the thought of the smorgasbord being prepared below them. 

For his part, Andrew was touched by the messy strawberry jam sandwich and what appeared to be an Annabel-designed cereal consisting of equal parts Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, Fruity Pebbles, and dried cranberries.

Seeing Andrew cradling one child in his arms and looking so tenderly upon the other, JenniAnn found herself getting misty-eyed.

"Laja..."  The angel shifted Avi so he had one arm free to hug her.

"Sorry...  I'm just being a sap.  Got to thinking about... well, it was one of your birthdays.  Probly 7 or 8 years ago.  Can't remember exactly.  And I was feeling all worried about you doing the aging thing.  I was particularly hung up about your fortieth.  And now here we are and..."

"And?" Andrew prompted.

"Everything's more wonderful than I could have ever thought."

The angel smiled.  "I couldn't have said it better myself.  Although I'm definitely thinkin' forty is right on."  He quickly glanced at himself in the mirror, waving at Avi's reflection and making a face which caused the baby to giggle loudly.  Turning back to JenniAnn he added, "
I think I found a gray hair yesterday."

Before JenniAnn could make a response, Annabel skipped over and yanked on Andrew's robe.  "S'ready!" she cried as JenniAnn took the baby back.

Andrew was about to suggest they go down to the kitchen but seeing how perfectly Annabel had arranged the food, he kept mum.  He then realized how dim the room was, lit only by his bedside lamp.  "Let's get these curtains open and let some sunl..."

Annabel dashed towards the window and shook her head.  "Let's pretend we're in a cave.  Like bears.  No windows.  Roar!"

JenniAnn suppressed a laugh and made a mental note to later congratulate her four year old on her quick thinking. 

"All right..." Andrew agreed, eye brow arched.  "But do you think we could be bears who have more lights on in their cave?"

"Yep!" Annabel agreed.

Andrew roared something that sounded vaguely like "Thank you" then turned the ceiling light on. 

"Can I use your quilt?" the little girl asked.

As Annabel was in the habit of tossing his quilt over the table in his study and rendering the space into a makeshift tent whenever he babysat, Andrew thought nothing of assenting to the child's request and smiled after her as she trotted into the study.  Little did he know that as soon as the girl was out of sight, she met Catherine at the door leading out to the hall and the two hurried down the stairs with the quilt.

Back in his room, Andrew sat on his bed and tilted his head towards the cereal bowl and sandwich.  "Did the three of you already eat?  Cause I can share."

JenniAnn nodded, telling herself that since Avi had had his first bottle of the day and she and Annabel had grabbed bananas it was technically not a lie.  "Yep so you go right ahead.  Lotsa yummy sugar right there."  She settled cross-legged on the edge of his bed, setting Avi on her lap.

Andrew grinned.  "Yummy," he agreed after taking a bite of the cereal concoction.

"So, umm, were you serious about the gray hair thing?" JenniAnn asked after a few moments.

The angel swallowed a bite of sandwich and nodded.  "It actually wasn't the first one I found."

"And how... well, how do you feel about that?"

Andrew shrugged.  "It was a little surprising, I guess.  Hadn't really planned on that starting so soon."

"It's maybe not surprising given the work you do.  All those emotions... all the stress... all the desperate people... then tending to matters here."  JenniAnn shook her head, daunted.

Reaching over and squeezing her hand, Andrew peered into his friend's eyes.  "I love my life, Laja.  And I love people.  Even the emotional, stressed, desperate ones," he assured. 

JenniAnn returned his smile.  "Good.  But if you ever do feel anything the least bit negative upon finding a stray gray hair, I want you to remember something.  You've never looked better to me.  And I'm not the only one who feels that way.  A few of us were just talking about it earlier this week actually and feel you ought to consider maybe getting some restraining orders in place before, say, your 45th birthday.  Cause if you keep getting better and better looking... which the evidence before me suggests will be the case... we can make no promises about keeping our distance."

Blushing, Andrew burst out laughing.  "Restraining orders, huh?"

"Might be for the best.  Catherine even took the time to draw a sample up for your consideration."  Handing Avi off to Andrew, JenniAnn got up to retrieve a document out of the picnic basket and handed it to Andrew.

He chuckled as he read.  "Defendant shall not stray from a distance of 120 yards..."

"Football field length.  We thought it would make it easy for you to remember," JenniAnn interrupted.

Eyes twinkling, Andrew continued.  "'From the plaintiff, His Studly Awesomeness.'"  Andrew's brow crinkled as he tilted his head and looked up to the woman.  "You know, I've been a lawyer before and I'm pretty sure these usually say 'Defendant shall not come *within* 120 yards of the plaintiff'.  And I think proper names are usually preferred..."

JenniAnn shrugged.  "Typos.  Easy mistakes to make."

Andrew smiled at the ridiculous document then reached for the woman's hand.  "Laja, thank you.  For this.  For all that you said... for bringing the kids over."  He kissed the top of Avi's downy head. 

JenniAnn settled beside the angel and hugged him.  "Happy birthday, Andrew," she murmured.

"It is," he assured.

For a few minutes, as Andrew enjoyed his breakfast, the two chatted with Avi merrily cooing along between them.  They reminisced about the nearly twenty years their ever-changing but constant group had shared.  Then, when Andrew had emptied the cereal bowl and finished the sandwich, he called to Annabel to thank her.  Of course, there was no response.

Andrew looked at JenniAnn in alarm then leaped up from the bed and darted into the study.  The woman cradled Avi then hurried after his namesake and set a hand on his shoulder. 

"Annabel's fine, Andrew.  She's just working on another surprise for you downstairs."  JenniAnn hoped that partial truth would keep Andrew from guessing at just how big of a surprise was about to be unleashed.

Andrew turned to JenniAnn and folded his arms over his chest.  "What have you got going?"

JenniAnn grinned.  "If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise.  So just go get dressed and Avi and I will wait in the hall for you."  Before Andrew could make any further comment, she stood on tiptoe, kissed him on the cheek, and darted out the door with Avi.  She prayed that Andrew's curiosity would push him to hasten his morning routine and keep him from wasting time glancing out the curtained windows.

Carefully cradling Avi to her, JenniAnn hurried down the staircase and began hissing "You have five minutes at best!" to every person she ran into.  Avi giggled the entire time, seemingly amused by his mother's frenzy.  After three minutes, JenniAnn rushed back up the stairs, did her best to look nonchalant, and waited at Andrew's door.

He was smiling widely when he stepped out; shaggy hair tamed and pajamas replaced by jeans, a white T-shirt, and a green and black flannel shirt.  "Now I wanna see just what exactly you've..."  Turning towards his staircase, Andrew gawked.  The railings and banisters were covered in the twinkle lights of all different colors that he loved so much at Christmas.  The strands stretched up to the ceiling, creating the appearance of a tunnel of lights.  He was also aware of an assortment of enticing scents wafting up from the kitchen.  He turned to JenniAnn.  "This isn't just your and Annabel's thing, is it?"

Grinning, JenniAnn shook her head.  "C'mon!"

Taking her free hand, Andrew followed the woman down the sparkling stairs.  His face lit up when he entered the living room and found Tess, Gloria, Henry, Adam, Lady Beth, C.J., Catherine, Vincent, Jacob, Shelby, and Annabel waiting for him with wide smiles.

"Happy birthday, Andrew!" they cried in unison.

Andrew laughed and began to hug each of them.  "I can't believe this!  How did you all get this done?"

"Well, there was a little work ahead of time while you were out this week," Adam explained.  "But we also very wisely used the time JenniAnn and the kids kept you distracted."

"That wasn't really breakfast!  Just a snack!" Annabel gleefully informed her uncle.

The angel chuckled.  "Well, it was a very good snack.  But I suppose I can find room for whatever you've all got prepared.  It smells wonderful."  He lead the group into the kitchen where he happily surveyed an array that ranged from piping hot cinnamon rolls to biscuits and gravy to cheddar grits to fruit salad to thick Belgian waffles and fluffy French toast to eggs prepared in a variety of ways.  A variety of juices, teas, and coffees were also arranged on the counter space.

"Birthday Boy goes first," Tess informed him, hugging him then pushing him forward. 

Andrew started to dish up his breakfast, grateful for a few moments to gather his thoughts.  He was more than a little overwhelmed by just how much thought had went into this celebration.  Behind him, his friends exchanged meaningful smiles, each knowing Andrew was truly and immensely touched... all without even knowing that this was only the beginning.

"Umm, so maybe we could all eat in the living room?" Andrew suggested once everyone had their food and beverage.  "I don't think my table's big enough."

"Perhaps, since it is such a beautiful morning, we might dine outside?" Vincent suggested.

The others nodded eagerly, glad that Vincent had taken it upon himself to offer the solution.  They didn't trust themselves to do so without betraying their anticipation.

"That's a great idea!" Andrew readily agreed.

"I'll go check to see if leaves need to be brushed off the picnic tables," Henry offered, dashing out of the kitchen ahead of them.  He went as quickly as possible to the front door and, standing on the porch and looking out, put his finger to his lips and waved to the door Andrew would soon be exiting.

Back inside, Andrew was making his way through the living room, still shaking his head.  "I can't believe all the work you all put into this.  I'm really, really... this is just... wow.  Thank you all so..."

He came to a standstill when he stepped onto the porch.  Monica had been waiting for him there and quickly took his plate and coffee and set them down, knowing that he was about to drop them both.

"M-monica," Andrew greeted.

She beamed at him.  "Happy birthday, Andrew.  A few of us wanted to come celebrate with you.  Forty's a bit of a milestone, you know."

Andrew was still in shock when his fellow angel hugged him.  "A few" was quite the understatement!  There were easily over a hundred people in the yard... all smiling at him, all waiting to give him a hug and extend their personal birthday wishes.  He spotted Rose and her husband who had journeyed in from where he was stationed.  Yva and Sir Sven had returned from Germany to join in the festivities along with Willy and Nigel in from London.  Mick and Beth were there with their two sons.  Logan was grinning beside them and enthusiastically waving to Andrew.  Josef had travelled from Russia.  Joe Maxwell and his wife and brother were present.  The angel of death was supremely and happily surprised to glimpse Raquel and Nico.  He couldn't even imagine where they had come from!  And then there were so many Tunnel dwellers and even some former Dyelanders that Andrew hadn't seen in well over a decade.  And so many angels!  Andrew lost count after twenty.  And former assignments that before that moment had no ties to Dyeland!  Andrew could make out some members of the Greene family, Audrey Carmichael, Ben Mason and his brood, and a handful of others...  All there for him...

Behind the crowd, suspended between two large trees, was the quilt Annabel had borrowed.  Along the sides, new squares were being added, each representing an individual or an important event that had happened in the years since the Dyelanders had first presented it to Andrew on another birthday.

"You better go down to your admiring throng, buddy," Adam suggested, gently pushing the awed angel towards the porch steps.

Nodding, Andrew walked onto the lawn and into the arms of his friends.


September 20th, 2011


"I know I left an extra camera battery somewhere..." Andrew mused as he stepped into his room with JenniAnn and Rose at his heels.  He began searching drawers.  "It'd be a shame to not get some photos while so many people are here."

"Did you carry a briefcase or bag of any kind on a recent assignment that you may have put it in?" JenniAnn questioned.

"Oooh... is that your journal?" Rose asked, pointing to a book sitting on Andrew's dresser.

Andrew glanced over his shoulder to see what Rose was looking at.  Confused, he moved towards the dresser.  "I've never seen that before but it's beautiful."  He picked up the book and admired the leather cover with a labyrinth design that perfectly matched the one on his pocket watch... the pocket watch the Father had given him after he'd gifted his previous watch to Monica.  The angel suddenly felt the same warmth he had a few minutes before after he'd blown out his candles.  "Father?" he whispered.

JenniAnn and Rose exchanged surprised looks.

"Is that... His birthday present for you?" Rose asked, eying the book in Andrew's hands with fascination and awe.

"I think so."  Andrew whole face lit up.  "A little while ago I had this feeling that He... He was here.  And look!  It's exactly like my pocket watch and..."  He opened the book and read the inscription inside.  "Happy birthday, son.  I love you and I have heard your prayer."  He glanced up at the ceiling, willing his love back to the Father, then turned the page.  He realized it wasn't a book at all he was holding but a photo album.  And there was a series of photos already inserted in the first few pages.  It took the angel of death a moment to realize what he was looking at.  He glanced over at his quilt then back at the book.  "Look," he said quietly, holding the album out to JenniAnn and Rose.

"Th-that's your quilt," JenniAnn recognized.  "But... it's way bigger."

"Why would we put white lace on your quilt?" Rose asked, pointing to a section of one photo.  "I suppose if someone got married maybe it would make sense to put some extra fabric from her veil or something on your quilt.  I assume you'd be part of the wedding after all.  But no one has yet.  Well, except Yva but that was long before she met you."

"But look, there's the piece from my plum-colored dress.  And I can see part of Adam's jersey.  And that bit is from their AOD Band jackets.  And Rose you picked up that fabric at St. Thomas, remember?  But there are other pieces I don't recog..."  JenniAnn stopped abruptly and blinked at the photo.

"Hey there, you okay?" Andrew squeezed JenniAnn's shoulder when he saw her go pale.

"I recognize that.  But it's not in your quilt.  Not really."  The woman's finger shook as she pointed at a neon swatch. 

Andrew and Rose looked closer and noticed it was comprised of colorful images of frogs. 

"It's so you, though!" Rose declared.

"I do have it...  It's from a baby's sleeper.  I saw it once shopping and thought it was so cute so I couldn't resist and bought it and I've been saving it... just in case.  But it's folded up in my hope chest and I never told anyone."  JenniAnn stared up at Andrew, waiting for an explanation.

Once again he raised his eyes heavenward.  He closed them for a few moments and a lump formed in his throat when the truth of the photographs' origins came to him.  He set the album down and hugged JenniAnn and Rose to him.  "That is my quilt," he affirmed.  "When I blew out my candles... I prayed.  I prayed that God would keep you all in my life that He... He'd never let us be parted.  This is His answer... part of it, anyway.  Laja, Rose...  This is what my quilt is going to look like some day.  He would know.  He holds our whole lives in His hands: past, present, future.  This... it's our future."

As Andrew finished explaining the origins of the gift to his friends, a dove appeared on his window sill and cooed: one more birthday gift from the Father... a sign of His love and of the hope of a beautiful future to come.

The End

This newsletter is dedicated to John's studly and cuddly awesomeness.  LJA speaks for me in the story.  And I know she's speaking for some of you all, too, cause of our Season 9-related conversations.  ;-)  John was the best looking forty year old I ever set eyes on!  And one day... I'm gonna tell him so.


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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)