"You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside,
but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man,
 nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.
Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and
view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?
Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding."
~~ Francis Pharcellus Church

Hi all,

First, merry Christmas and happy holidays!  I hope you all have an absolutely wonderful one and blessed time!

This story is unlike what I've done for the past several years.  There's no big, crazy Dyeland party scene.  The allusions to beloved holidays tales and movies are few.  To be honest, I was dreading writing this year's Christmas story.  Looking back on last year's... it's hard not to feel eery about it.  It focused so much on Andrew growing older and he and his friends being together in the years ahead.  I could never have imagined while writing it that only a few short weeks later, John would leave us.  So I wasn't really looking forward to going back to the Willowveil ballroom and having Andrew and Co. merrily deck their tree and LJA saying adoring things about a graying, aging Andrew.  I spose I was jealous of them having Heaven so near.

But Christmas, after all, is about Heaven coming to Earth.  It's about life and light eternal.  It's about Immanuel: God with us.  It's about the veil falling away.  So I took that message to heart.

Some of you may know that I really love the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  One of my favorite moments comes in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I think Lucy perfectly expresses the longing I feel and have felt especially strongly since John went Home:

"'Oh, Aslan,' said Lucy. 'Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?'
'I shall be telling you all the time,' said Aslan. 'But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder.'"

As we come upon our first Christmas since John's passing, the only story I could bring myself to write was a story of the Bridge Builder.  John is not gone.  He's only gone across the bridge... a bridge that began to be built when Love came down.

God bless you all,
Jenni

Love Came Down


"Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine."
~~ Christina Rossetti

December 2011

The black and white bells finished tolling and It's a Wonderful Life came to an end.  With a contented smile, Andrew reached for the remote and turned the TV off.

JenniAnn sighed happily.  "Still just as good as the very first time I saw it.  I just wish Shelby coulda seen the end.  I think she was really enjoying it."  She smiled at the girl who had drifted to sleep with her head nestled against Andrew's shoulder.

"Oh, something tells me she'll have plenty of chances to see it in its entirety," the angel whispered.  "You only watch it at least twice every year," he teased.

JenniAnn's face contorted into a dramatic pout.  "And you have a problem with that?"

Andrew chuckled as quietly as he could manage.  "No problem at all.  And one of these years I'm going to get you to do the Charleston with me.  It doesn't even have to be by a pool."

The woman smiled.  "As much as I'd love to... I just envision that ending with you having bruised shins."

"I've got tough shins."  The angel shrugged.  "Shins of steel."

JenniAnn burst out laughing causing Shelby to stir.  "Oops..."

"I'll carry her upstairs before we irresponsible adults wake her up," Andrew jested, gently scooping the sleeping child up.

The levity in JenniAnn's eyes gave way to misty nostalgia as she followed the angel out of the living room and up the stairs.  "It wasn't so long ago I could carry her...  Do you remember how tiny she was that first Christmas with us?  I-I could balance her on my hip and she felt like nothing at all."

Andrew was silent but softly kissed Shelby's curls as he remembered the tiny toddler she had been.  After a few more paces, he entered the guest room where Shelby slept when she stayed over at Willowveil. 

JenniAnn quickly turned down the bedding then watched as the angel tucked the seven year old in.  She felt her heart melt still more than it had during the film when Andrew bowed his head and prayed over the child.  Once they'd both whispered their good nights, they closed the door and returned to the hallway.

Andrew hugged his emotional friend.  "I have a feeling Shelby's gonna be the kinda kid who isn't too anxious to be a grown-up."

"Yeah, you're right.  I'm sure of it."  JenniAnn beamed up at the angel.  "So where to now?  Do you have an assignment?  Going Home?"

"Actually..." Andrew took a step back in order to better gauge the woman's reaction.  "I was just going to go to my workshop and try to get started on the ornament."

The smile melted from JenniAnn's face and was replaced by a look that mixed sadness and immense tenderness.  She knew exactly what ornament it was that Andrew planned to work on.  For years now the ever-growing group of friends had gathered together to deck the giant tree that stood in Willowveil ballroom.  The ornaments hanging from the boughs each had significance.  Most represented the people themselves.  Others represented highlights from their time together.  There was an ornament to commemorate the Caribbean cruise many of them had shared.  There was another to mark the 10th anniversary of Andrew's arrival in Dyeland.  Bulbs covered with photos of the friends during more mundane occurrences were there by the dozens.  Births were marked by plaster hand and foot prints made by infants.  Lastly, there were the ornaments that were hung in remembrance of loved ones who had gone Home: Vincent's parents, JenniAnn's great-aunt, Josef's beloved, assignments much loved by the angels. 

The ornament in question was of the latter sort.  It was John's ornament.  For weeks the necessity of creating the ornament had come up again and again.  While JenniAnn and the other women all felt very strongly that John deserved to be honored in their customary way, there was still a pervading sadness that prevented them from beginning the work.  At last, Andrew had volunteered to take on the task.  There had been some argument.  The women had insisted that the angel had already done so much.  But there had been something in his eyes... something in the way he spoke of the task at hand that soon silenced their protests.

"All right," JenniAnn finally responded.  "But just don't..."  She became intently interested in a piece of lint on her sweater.

"Don't what?" Andrew prodded gently.

"It's just... you know how you get."

Andrew's eye brow arched.  "How I get?" 

JenniAnn forced herself to look up at the angel.  "When you feel strongly about something... well, sometimes you can be a lil hard on yourself and too demanding and... well, it's why I always said George Bailey reminds me of you.  When he couldn't fix everything for everyone he turned on himself and..."

"John deserves the best," the angel interjected.

"Yes, of course he does.  I'm just saying..."

"Just saying you'll be over to check on me in an hour?"  Andrew smiled tenderly though with a humorous glint in his eyes.  "Make sure I'm not bullying myself?"

JenniAnn blushed.  It was sometimes awkward to realize just how much Andrew could intuit.  "Well, I did intend to although I'd no plans to say it in advance... but, yes, I think that might be a good idea."

Andrew hugged the woman.  "I'll see you in an hour, Laja."

"See you," JenniAnn echoed as he headed towards the stairs.  She watched him walk down them... already looking determined and pensive.

*~*~*

An hour later, JenniAnn tread softly as she entered Andrew's workshop.  She hung back near the door, observing the angel.  He was bent over his work table, flipping a piece of wood in his hands.  He raised his hammer for a moment then replaced it on the table.  Finally, he set the plank down and began to draw furiously on a pad of paper.  Watching him, the woman blinked back tears.  Despite her admonition, it was obvious Andrew was struggling to create the ornament.   While JenniAnn knew the angel had long been something of a perfectionist, this level of determination was new.  He had changed in the past year.  It was as if, while remaining every bit the angel he'd always been, Andrew had somehow become more human.  Only recently had JenniAnn clued into what exactly made Andrew seem more akin to herself and the others.  He was embarking on the very human reality of living not only his own life but trying also to live the life of another, to do John's living for him.  At that moment, the angel of death seemed to be operating under the assumption living that life meant giving his friends something to help them heal.

Still oblivious to his company, Andrew dragged his hand through his hair in frustration, set down his pencil, collapsed onto his work bench, and rested his head in his hands.


JenniAnn stepped forward.  She set the basket and baby monitor she was carrying on a table and took a seat beside Andrew, embracing him. 

Andrew smiled sheepishly at her.  "You know me too well.  I just... I thought it would be easiest for me," he explained.  "I mean... you know... I can get to Heaven.  But... I hadn't counted on all these feelings.  I didn't realize how nothing... nothing I think of even begins to measure up to... to express all that John meant to us.  All he means to us now.  And then trying to think of what would help everyone..."

"Andrew, whatever you come up with is going to be wonderful and special," his friend assured.  "And it will help us simply to have this way to remember John, to make him part of our Christmas.  I know you'll do fine!"

Andrew forced a smile.  "Your trust in me means a lot, Laja.  It does.  But I just...  I want to be able to look at this and feel like it expresses all the appreciation and gratitude and love we feel towards John.  And so far... not doing so great."

JenniAnn stood and surveyed Andrew's drawings.  There were at least a dozen.  "Andrew, these are all beautiful," she commended.  "Any one of them would be fitting."

Andrew moved to his feet and shrugged.  "Thank you.  I'm just not feeling what I thought I'd feel when I found the right design.  Nothing seems big enough or complete enough."

"It's after midnight.  You've been on assignments almost constantly this month.  Why don't you just try to sleep for a bit, Andrew?  Or at least go relax.  You can work on this tomorrow.  It might even come easier to you with a little sleep."

"I know I should wait but I just feel like tonight... I need to."

JenniAnn sighed, recognizing defeat, and reclaimed her spot on the bench.  "Do you want me to stay with you?  I brought the monitor so I can hear Shelby if she needs anything."

"Laja, I really appreciate your checking on me and bringing whatever it is that's in that basket that smells so great."  Andrew glanced at the table with a flicker of eagerness as he sat beside JenniAnn.

"Gingerbread coffee and spice cake."

The angel squeezed her hand.  "Thank you.  And if you're... I mean if you're having a bad night and want to stay then..."

JenniAnn could tell that while Andrew wasn't willing to kick her out, he did seem to want to be alone.  "I'll go back to my place."  She hugged him tightly.  "But please take care of yourself."

"If nothing comes to me in another hour, I promise you I'll get some sleep," Andrew vowed.  "Rest well, Laja.  Good night."

"I'll pray for you," JenniAnn promised.  "G'night, Andrew."  She stood, kissed the angel's hair, and left.

Andrew drew in a steadying breath.  He fumbled with his tools for a couple of minutes.  He brushed away chips of wood.  Then he looked back to his drawings.  They remained wholly disappointing.  "How do you commemorate someone who is responsible for some of the best parts of your life?" he murmured.

"I think you've made a good start on your selection of materials, Andrew.  I always did like things made of wood.  And it's a perfect choice for John: rooted to the earth, reaching up to the heavens."

Andrew nearly fell off his bench when he spun around to see who had spoken.  The intruder's back was to him and all Andrew could make out were dark blue jeans, a hunter green sweater, and a ponytail of thick, wavy black hair.  And yet...  The angel felt no fear.   Only hope.  Hope that this man was indeed...

The visitor turned to reveal a warm smile set in a deeply tan, bearded face and eyes that would forever signify one thing to Andrew: Love.  "What I would have done with one of these..." he mused as he tilted his head towards a circular saw.

"J-joshua!" Andrew cried.  "What are you doing here?  I mean... of course you're welcome but..."

Joshua grinned.  "I'll let you in on a little secret: sometimes I like to wander around on Christmas, take in the decorations.  I saw a bank with a neon baby me on its roof.  Stable and all.  But half of the donkey was out.  He's fine now."

Andrew continued to gape.  He didn't know whether he was more shocked by Joshua casually showing up in his workshop or walking around the roof of a bank fixing Christmas lights.  Not knowing how to respond, he simply started laughing.

"Well, that's promising!  You know, I can still remember the first time you laughed, Andrew.  I loved it then, I love it now."

The angel smiled, touched by Joshua's words.  "Thank you.  So... you went to Earth to scope out Christmas lights and then... you came here to hear me laugh?  I mean... you always can..."

Joshua nodded.  "Yes.  I'm always with you, Andrew.  But tonight calls for some special intervention.  See, I'd just finished with the donkey when I heard them: a bunch of your friends.  Praying that you wouldn't overdo it, hoping that you'd know that whatever you come up with will be treasured."

When Joshua had finished speaking, the room resounded with voices... voices Andrew recognized.   

"Dear Lord, please guide Andrew's hands tonight.  And help him to know that we trust him, that anything he creates will be wonderful... cause he is and so is his inspiration."

"Just keep him from stressing out too much.  You know how he is.  You created him!  Calm him down, Jesus, please!"

"Oh Father... You know I... I love him.  And I can tell Andrew's already putting too much pressure on himself.  I know You don't want that!  Nor would John.  "

Andrew blushed but looked lovingly over at a photo of his friends.

Joshua smiled.  "You know how it is: 'Where two or three are gathered in My name...'  So I'm here.  Let's work on this together."  The carpenter approached Andrew's bench and looked down at the drawings.

"Why not this one?" he asked.

"At first I thought a heart made sense because we all love John very much.  And he carried a message of love to the world," Andrew explained.  "But then... it just didn't seem right.  It looks like a valentine."

Joshua flipped to the next. 

"A star.  Because he is one.  I mean not just in the Hollywood sense humans have latched onto.  But like a real star, giving light and beauty and guidance.  But it would blend in too much with the other stars on the tree."

Joshua remained silent and merely set that sheet on the bottom of the pile.

"His initials.  Too impersonal.  And then I tried some sort of abstract thing..."  Andrew wrinkled his nose at one drawing.  "And the rest are just variations on those first three ideas."

"So what is it you most want to express, Andrew?"

"Gratitude.  Love.  Respect.  With only a few exceptions; every friendship, every relationship... they all can be traced back to John either by their origin or by their longevity.  None of the girls would know each other without him.  JenniAnn and I probably wouldn't be on speaking terms... assuming we'd even met which we might not have.  None of us would have anything to do with the Tunnels.  Owen might have died.  I doubt we'd know Mick, Josef, Beth...  Mick and Beth probably wouldn't be getting married.  Vincent and Catherine might never have.  Jacob may never have been found.  I wouldn't be a supervisor.  Whole lives hinge on the work... the life of this one man.  How can a single ornament ever possibly pay tribute to him?  How can it say everything they never got a chance to say?  How can it help my friends continue to heal?  Sometimes their feeling of loss is still so intense, Joshua!"  Tears were forming in Andrew's eyes as he thought of his friends' grief.

Joshua's own eyes misted over but he smiled softly.  "It's the hardest part of being human.  When Abi died, I felt... unmoored.  This was the man who raised me.  Who kept my Ama and me safe.  Who taught me his own trade.  Who comforted me when I had nightmares.  Who taught me about Abraham, about Moses.  About our Father.  I felt like there wasn't a single part of my life that didn't come back to Abi.  And I was a teenager when he died.  With a lot left unsaid.  So I got it in my head that I would build a box... just as he taught me to do.  And into that box I placed reminders of my Abi.  Each time I added something, I prayed that he would know how grateful I was, how much I loved him.  The box wouldn't have impressed anyone.  My carpentry skills were still a little rough.  And who would have seen much value in a bent nail or a pebble from the river where we'd stop when we journeyed back from Sepphoris?  But it helped me.  And when Ama found it after I'd gone back Home... it helped her, too.  She kept adding to it.  For both her Yosef and for me."

Andrew brushed at a tear.  "That's beautiful.  I never knew about your box."

"Thank you.  I'm telling you this now for a reason.  Andrew, there isn't a single ornament you can design that will capture all John was and continues to be to everyone.  No more than I could settle on a single expression of love for Abi nor my Ama of me."

Andrew nodded, his eyes wide as an idea began to formulate.  "So I need a box...  Like yours.  But big enough so that everyone could put something in it.  But then how would it hang from the tree?  No... what about multiple boxes?  Strung together because John brought us all together..."  The angel grabbed some paper and began drawing.  "More like garland than a single ornament... but the tree decorating is tomorrow night and how can I make so many with so little..."  Hearing an odd clunk, he paused to glance over at his guest.

Joshua had begun to unroll an ancient looking bit of cloth that had appeared before him on the table. 

Andrew's eyes lit up when several well-worn woodworking tools were revealed.

"Let's help ourselves to some coffee and cake then get to work," Joshua suggested with a smile that illuminated his features.

Overcome with relief and love, Andrew hugged the man.  "I'm so glad you're here."

Joshua patted the angel's back.  "I am, too.  But never forget, Andrew.  I'm always with you.  Always."

The angel nodded enthusiastically, his spirit and soul strengthening at the reminder.

*~*~*

The Next Day

The tree was secure in its stand.  The last strand of lights was strung and illuminated.  The crowd in Willowveil ballroom all stared, admiring its unfinished beauty but also feeling an abundance of emotions.

When word had spread that John was to be honored that Christmas, several former Dyelanders had returned along with friends who, though not residents, cared about the place and the one who had brought so many people there.  Each individual held small bags or boxes or had items tucked into their pockets.  Andrew had requested that they all bring some symbol of what John meant to them.  Now he was about to reveal the reason behind his request.

The angel of death made his way to the front of the group, standing behind a table littered with ornaments and one large box.  He looked out at his friends and smiled, tears already forming in his eyes.  "So... well, it wasn't long after I started this that I realized it was probably going to be impossible to create something that showed everything John meant to all of us.  Just look around you.  Look at your friends. 
In most cases you probably wouldn't know them if not for him, would you?"

The crowd did as Andrew asked.  They smiled at those around them, feeling humbled and grateful.

"I didn't know... I mean I couldn't figure out how a single ornament could appropriately honor the man who, really, binds us all together.  So I didn't create an ornament."

Everyone looked at Andrew in surprise. 

He began to open the box.  "I made something else.  Sometimes even angels need a little divine inspiration and help and last night... well, this morning I guess it was... I got it."

Every man, woman, and child watched as Andrew pulled out a lengthy string of finely carved wooden spheres strung together by thick golden thread.

"
These are actually small boxes that open and there's one for everyone.  And we can always add onto it.  John brought us together.  He kept us together.  We honor him together," Andrew managed as thankful tears rolled down his cheeks.  "Please, come up and add what you've brought.  If you'd like to, you can say why you chose what you did."

Sensing that everyone was nervous to be the first, Adam approached.  He pulled his memento from his pocket: a mirror.  Smiling at the others, he spoke.  "I chose a mirror because even though I've been at this angel of death gig for a long time, I feel like I learned a lot from John.  It's easy for Andrew, Henry, Eli, and me to tell people about Heaven.  We've seen it.  We've spent eternity there.  But John... he spoke about it with just as much passion and just as much assurance as we do... but all simply from faith.  So whenever I get discouraged I think about that.  I think about the fact that there existed a man who knew about the pain, sorrow, and cruelty in life but could still speak about God's love and about Life on the other side.  And so I do my best to mirror John.  I always will."

Adam placed the mirror in a sphere then went back to his spot, touching Vincent on his shoulder as they passed.

"I chose an apple to represent the respect I feel for Mr. Dye.  As a teacher, I recognize how powerful and valuable the lessons we pass onto our children are.  John taught many lessons both with his life and with his work.  He taught us about faith, about compassion, about commitment to what is right.  He taught us about love.  I have seen the impact of his lessons in the lives of my godchild, my sister, and my friends."  Vincent smiled at JenniAnn, Yva, and the others.  "Catherine and I look forward to our Jacob learning from John, as well.  He was a superb teacher."

The man placed the apple in the box Andrew handed to him, reverently closed it, and returned to his wife and child.

Rebecca took Vincent's spot near Andrew.  She carefully removed tissue paper from the item she was holding then held up a ceramic dove with a peace sign clutched in its beak.  "John was such a loving person... like a dove.  And he was always a proponent of peace, recognizing that we need more of it in this world and doing his part to bring peace to others.  So when I saw this... I thought of him."

Andrew hugged her as she added her dove to the garland.

Nigel approached the table once Rebecca had rejoined the crowd.  "I have had the privilege, thanks to Yva, to have seen some of Mr. Dye's work.  Among my most favorite of his productions was the Touched by an Angel episode 'Beautiful Dreamer.'  In the story the characters ponder what it is that comprises being a hero.  Is it someone who reacts in haste or someone whose words can empower and inspire?  It seems to me a hero is most assuredly of the latter category.  Is that not what John did in life, inspire and bring out the best in others?  Thus, in honor of his words of inspiration and love, I have chosen a quill and scroll.  My sincerest thanks, Mr. Dye."

As soon as Nigel had made his contribution, Yva followed him with Willy at her side.  Though there were tears in her eyes, she smiled as she held out a small pair of wings and spoke.  "I chose wings because I feel it so necessary to find the courage to break free from the dramas and control in ones life. This is something that I have dealt with to some extent.  And so often it was John's words who encouraged me to break away... and to fly to freedom.  He gave us all wings, didn't he?"

The crowd all murmured assent, many of them thinking about examples in their own lives of how the man they were honoring had given them the strength to be free... free as God had made them to be.

Willy remained at Yva's side as he presented his own ornament: a teaspoon.  "As a candy maker," he began, "I know it takes a good deal of exact measuring to create anything.  But the reason I chose this teaspoon goes a bit deeper.  We are all parts or pieces and without one, then we would not be complete or a part of a whole.   If one ingredient is missing then the recipe will not work, and if one role that John played were to have been missing, then it would not measure to the person that he was.  He had to play each of the roles he played so that the end effect would be the person he was.  If one role goes ignored, then the impact would not be the same."

Together, Yva and Willy placed their ornaments in the boxes Andrew held before returning to their spots in the ballroom.

The crowd looked on with some surprise as Violeta, Andrew's new protege, made her way to her supervisor.  From her elegant handbag, she pulled a simple clay footprint ornament.  Everyone was surprised that the usually poised and prim angel seemed to be shaking a bit.  Andrew promptly settled an arm around her shoulders and whispered something in her ear which caused her to smile.  Violeta drew in a deep breath then gazed out at the crowd.  "I know I'm still rather new to your group but when Andrew told me about this... well, I hoped it would be all right with everyone if I added something.  Back when I first met Andrew, I told him I'd chosen him as my supervisor because I was impressed by the friendships he had with each of you.  And that was true.  But it wasn't the whole truth.  I also... in Andrew's file... saw a note.  'See Dye, John Carroll-Portrayer'  A-and even though it wasn't really my job to be looking through humans' files... I did.  And I saw the work Mr. Dye had done.  And watching the show... that's when I really knew I wanted to work among humans.  I wanted to be like him.  I wanted to follow in his footsteps.  I know I'm not as friendly and gentle and... and warm as he is but I want to try to be!"

The entire crowd stared at the angel, moved by the uncharacteristic tear rolling down her cheek, as she placed the footprint into one of the orbs and for the briefest moment looked to the heavens before stepping away.

When Lady Beth's turn came she cradled a small, sparkling white rock in her hands.  "Along with everything else he gave us, John always seemed stable and grounded.  Someone to be counted on.  Someone who was always there.  A rock to lean on.  And we did.  We do."

After Lady Beth's rock was enclosed, JenniAnn made her way to the table.  The two women embraced as they passed each other.

JenniAnn removed three tiny silk daffodils from a bag.  "I chose three daffodils.  Three because the number always reminded me of John but also to represent the past, the present, and the future.  Because I know he's with us in them all.  And daffodils because they represent love... love that maybe never got expressed but was still deeply felt and..."  She took Andrew's offered hand as her voice began to quake.  "And also eternal life.  Daffodils are among the first to blossom after winter.  They are a reminder of life eternal... the life John spent so much time telling us about."

Once JenniAnn had added her flowers to the strand, she was replaced by Cindy.  "I chose this cross here... with a nativity scene covering it.  After John's death, he pointed me back to Jesus.  And I'm real grateful to him for that."  She smiled tearfully, gladly claimed a hug from Andrew, placed the cross in the box, and closed it. 

Owen followed.  Cupped in his hands was a tiny red and black bear.  The man swiped at some tears but smiled out at the crowd.  "So a few years back my parents refused to let me come home for Christmas.  Not long after that, JenniAnn invited me over to watch Mother, Mother and 'The Violin Lesson.'  And seeing those... seeing this man with an obviously strong moral compass portray a gay man and then, as an angel, insist that we be treated with dignity... that we are loved by God... that there's a place in Heaven for us...  Those messages were the best Christmas present anyone ever got me.  And I thank John for them from the bottom of my heart."

Andrew patted Owen's back as the man shakily placed the vibrant bear in his box before returning to JenniAnn's side.

The angel of death stood beside person after person as they added their symbols, offering a hug or a hand to hold when needed.  He helped the children to open and close their boxes, touched to see that John's dream had come true: he had taught countless children about God.  Finally, there was only one box left. 

Andrew stood alone behind the table as he withdrew what appeared to be a folded piece of paper from his pocket.  He closed his eyes in silent prayer, thanking God for the help and for the life they all celebrated.  When he opened his eyes, he unfolded the paper.  "I'm thankful to John for so many things.  As Adam said, he made the lives of us angels of death a whole lot easier.  I've lost count of the times an assignment has said to me 'You're like that nice young man on TV!'  That's always much nicer to hear than, you know, a scream."  The angel smiled as the group let out needed laughs.  "I'm grateful to him for delivering the message of God's love.  I respect him so much for promoting tolerance and responsibility.  But the thing I'm most thankful for is this."  He held the paper out, revealing that it was a group photo from Thanksgiving.  "As I said before, we are all here... we are all friends... because of him.  And I will live my whole life thanking him for that.  John, thank you."

With that the last box was filled and a group hug ensued... perhaps the best and truest testimony to what John had done for them all.

*~*~*

The Dyeland Christmas tree gleamed and sparkled in the starlight coming in from the massive windows.  The ballroom had cleared out and was silent except for the muffled cries of glee coming from the snow-drenched crowd in the front yard.  Only Fawn and Lulu, by now too exhausted from all the excitement of decorating and dinner to do any more than curl up on a settee, witnessed the miracle as the veil between Heaven and Earth evaporated.

A robed figure appeared in the entryway.  His dark hair hung loose though partly hidden by his red mantle.  He gently stroked the dogs' heads as he passed by them and approached the tree.  Joshua smiled as he took in the string of wooden spheres circling around the tree.  He knew what each contained, he knew the memories and emotion behind each symbol.  It was these he had come to collect.  A wooden box appeared in his hands, the very hands that had crafted it.  Etched into the wood were symbols of Joshua's own choosing, symbols tied to events in the life of the recipient that only he and Joshua shared.  Joshua opened the box and gazed up at the tree.  Beams of golden light shot from each sphere.  The very essence of the mirror, apple, dove, quill and scroll, wings, teaspoon, footprint, rock, daffodils, cross, bear, the photograph and all the rest along with all the love the people who had chosen them felt for John glided into Joshua's box.  The box became illumined and shone like gold.  When all the light had gone into the box, Joshua closed it.  He hugged it to his chest then approached one of the windows, setting a hand on the pane.  He smiled when he saw his children, angel and human, dashing around the yard laughing, throwing snowballs, and enjoying their time together. 

Joshua began to speak, knowing he wouldn't be heard audibly but hoping their spirits would hear.  "I love you.  Remember that.  And remember in my Father's house there are many, many rooms.  I know just which one this goes to.  I'll take this to John.  I promise.  Be at peace."

The room became empty once more, looking exactly as it had before Joshua's arrival. 

Almost. 

The next day, during clean-up, Lady Beth pointed out the hand print on the window.  Everyone commented on it, each saying they would make sure it got wiped away once they'd finished with the task at hand.  And yet as each approached they found they didn't want to remove it.  They felt an inexplicable sense of peace when they looked upon it.  No one said anything, each thinking it would seem foolish to be sentimental over a hand print of unknown origins.  And so the hand print remained.  Days would go by before they realized the mark was not a smudge nor an effect of the frost but actually etched into the glass.  A mystery.  No one knew that it had been left by the One whose birth they celebrated, the One who had carried a box filled with love to His Home.  A box that, when Christmas dawned, rested in the hands of the man for whom it had been created, a Christmas gift from Earth to Heaven, from one side to the Other side.

The End

Merry Christmas


May God's peace be with you now and forever more.


This newsletter is dedicated simply to John: to all he was, to all he did, and to all he is now that we will one day see again when we, too, move from this side to the Other.  May God's peace and love be with his family, his friends, and all of us who love him.  Merry Christmas, John. 

JABB TOC


JABB 345

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