“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.”
~~Morrie Schwartz

Hi all,

So every Valentine's Day or thereabouts for several years now, I've written a Valentine's story that had Andrew and/or JenniAnn interviewing the other Dyelanders about a type of love.  I've been very grateful to the other writers for their input.  However, this year I was really busy and just didn't have time to put together something of that length.  And I know the others have been really busy, too.  Further, the last Valentine's interview story served as a tribute to John and, I feel, our resilience in staying committed to honoring his legacy even as we were grieving.  Part of me feels that the entire Valentine's interviews theme should end there, with the image of three daffodils in the snow.  We'll see.  Maybe next year I'll want to do it again.  But this year it just didn't seem right.

So... I couldn't decide what to do and began to reflect on one of John's favorite Bible passages: 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.  I decided to take verses from that and form little vignettes around them then loosely tie the tales together with a frame story of Andrew and JenniAnn prepping Mick's and Beth's wedding video.  In that way, something of the old tradition lingered, too.  I think it's simpler than other stories.  There's nothing game-changing here.  It's more a story of reflecting on what it means to have someone who carries and shares so much love in one's life.  Also... who doesn't love an excuse to strand Andrew in a bridal shop?  ;-)

Happy Valentine's Day!  God loves ya!

God bless,

PS- Sorry to the Moonlight fans.  I did intend for this to be more about Mick (who I now realize doesn't even have one line...) and Beth but... well, there was Andrew to consider.  ;-)

The Greatest of These

February 13th, 2012

Andrew stood on the porch of a cabin in the Fields of Gold, staring out at the site of Mick's and Beth's wedding.  He smiled as he remembered blessing the rings, saying the words that had joined them together forever as their friends gathered around... the Father watching over them all.  The angel had seen a lot of weddings in his day but he never tired of witnessing that sublime moment when a man and a woman became husband and wife.  It took on a little more meaning, too, when that man and woman were his own friends, people he'd seen struggle and celebrate together.  But not even that fully accounted for the surge of emotion Andrew felt.  Maybe it was the knowledge that the wedding had taken place in the same spot where, nearly twelve years before, he'd first appeared to some of the people who would become dear friends.  Though many had since moved on, others never had and still more people had joined them since.  The angel was grateful for the friendship of each and every one of them.  He said a prayer, thanking the Father, as he stared up at the stars.

Andrew was beginning to rouse from his contemplative state when JenniAnn stepped out of the cabin.   "Got the last of the kids settled in.  We have got to stop being such pushovers about these camp-outs but... it is good to get em outta the city."  She noticed how wistful Andrew looked and hugged his arm.  "Whatcha thinkin'?"

Andrew sighed and smiled at her.  "Just remembering the wedding.  How happy Mick and Beth are...  It was great, wasn't it?"

"Yep.  And the wedding most definitely took the award for Handsomest and Loveliest Officiant Ever."

The angel looked down to see JenniAnn smiling devilishly at him.  He chuckled then pretended to be offended.  "And yet you didn't give me a single glance during your whole walk down the aisle, Ms. Maid of Honor.  I kept trying to catch your eye but no...  I mean I know I'm no Mick but..."  Andrew stopped abruptly when he realized JenniAnn was blushing and averting her gaze.  For a moment he was seized with panic that maybe she had feelings for the newly married man... but that didn't fit at all with the woman he knew.  Yet she had been acting peculiarly so maybe...  "I... I..." he stuttered in confusion, hoping he hadn't hurt her feelings.

"If I looked at you," JenniAnn explained as she picked at a piece of lint on her sweater, "then I would have wound up dragging poor Josef down the aisle in a race to reach you.  I'd confessed as much to Mick last night at dinner so he told me to look at him."

"Laja... you're not that... that..."  Andrew couldn't figure out what he wanted to say but he knew there was no way JenniAnn couldn't handle being a few yards away from him for a full minute.  She was too used to being a world away for weeks at a time!

"Obsessive?  No... I'm not quite that far gone... yet."  She smiled for a moment then sobered and began to trace the grain of wood in the porch railing.  "Andrew, we've now been in three weddings together and it's just... it's much easier to go down the aisle with you than, well, toward you.  I mean it's not like I wanted it to be our wedding or anything like that but... well, two years ago today Mick proposed to Beth.  But something else happened two years ago, too.  And I guess being at a wedding, thinking about that morning, heading down the aisle towards you...  It suddenly hit me that... that time's marching on and... and...  We made our own vows that morning in a manner of speaking.  And I know it's only a matter of time before you decide to act on your decision and... so if I'd focused too much on it all... on you... I mean it's bound to shake a person up a lil, isn't it?"

As JenniAnn peered up at him, the images of February 13th, 2010 flooded back to Andrew.  JenniAnn had found out about his intention to age along with his friends.  She'd reacted in horror.  He'd pressed on, refusing to change his mind.  They'd fought, she'd fled, and for a few minutes Andrew had truly thought it was the end of their friendship.  But then with a little help from the Father via Eli... everything had fallen into place.  Andrew was still determined as ever and he knew that the time before he made his request of the Father was growing short.  The thought had come to him more than once during the course of the day.  JenniAnn was right.  Weddings had a way of making everyone think about their future.  He hugged her and set his chin on her hair.  "Yeah, I can see how it would shake a person up," he finally responded.  "But you know everything's gonna be all right, don't you?"

"Yes.  I know the Father's watching out for us all.  It's just still daunting to think about sometimes...  The sacrifice and the change and..."

"I'm still gonna be the same angel I've always been.  Same feelings, same habits, same ugly loafers that *some* people just can't seem to get over..."  Andrew's eyes twinkled.

JenniAnn giggled.  "Oh for crying out loud!  We're having a deep moment here and you bring up the loafers!"

"Maybe next year, if we get back to doing interviews, we could change things up.  Interview people about what they *don't* love.  Maybe I could get to the bottom of your deeply rooted lack of love for tassels," the angel continued to tease, glad that JenniAnn was laughing even if she was glaring at him.

"You do that!"

Andrew chuckled.  "Ya know, I really did miss doing those interviews this year.  I know we couldn't.  Between my assignments and your classes and all the wedding activities..."  He shook his head. 

"I missed em, too," JenniAnn agreed, feeling much better after getting in a good laugh.  "But at least a part of the tradition lives on: you and me staying up crazy late to work on a video!  You ready to get started on editing the wedding footage?  It'd be nice to at least have a rough cut to show Mick and Beth before they leave for their honeymoon.  And I can think of few better ways to welcome Valentine's Day than putting a commemorative wedding DVD together with an angel of death whilst listening for stirring children."

Andrew laughed.  "Well, that is what every girl dreams of, isn't it?"

The woman grinned.  "You bet.  So ya ready?"


The two walked into the cabin's den where a laptop was waiting on a coffee table in front of the fireplace. 

"So where do we start?" Andrew asked once they sat down on two overstuffed floor pillows.

"Hmm... seems to me the dress picking was the first official type wedding thing we did once they finally set a date," JenniAnn recalled.  She opened a folder on the computer and browsed through some reel-shaped icons.  "Ooh, here!"  She giggled as Andrew appeared on-screen, mocking horror as he wandered through racks of fluffy white dresses.  "Soooo dramatic."

"I break out in hives whenever I see tulle now," he deadpanned.

"You really were a good sport... not too many guys could sit for three hours in a bridal salon but you..."  JenniAnn looked back to the screen where Andrew was hugging a young woman and waving to her as she left the shop, all smiles.

"Flora."  Andrew smiled.  "I wonder how she's doing?"

As the video progressed to footage of Beth showing off the tenth and final dress of the afternoon, the two editors remembered how their visit to the shop had begun.


Love is patient, love is kind...

August 2011

JenniAnn paced the pristine, floral-infused room, occasionally pulling back the lace curtain and glancing into the hallway.

Andrew looked up from his newspaper and chuckled.  "She'll be here, Laja.  Things probably just ran a little late with the caterer.  And Beth told them Rose and Lady Beth couldn't even be here until 2:00."

"I know...  but the workers are getting anxious about us taking up this room with no bride in sight... no dress changes happening..." the woman fretted.

"The appointment only started fifteen minutes ago.  But if you're concerned then just start trying on dresses."  Andrew shrugged, thinking the solution simple enough.

JenniAnn looked down at him doubtfully.  "Andrew, I love you dearly and think you're the wisest person I've ever met but..."

Andrew tried valiantly to keep a straight face.  JenniAnn looked so earnest.  "But?"

"But I'm not sure you entirely get the whole bridesmaid dress thing.  I mean brides can be very particular and it's not just like... like grabbing some jeans and a sweater.  Although you're obviously very talented with that..."  She looked admiringly at him.  "But for this... I can't just make this decision on my own!"

"Didn't Beth pick a color and tell you three to use your best judgment on the style?"

"Well, yeah but..." 

"So she obviously trusts you."  Andrew reached up and squeezed the woman's hand.  "You *can* make the decision.  And it's probably best you do because then it'll be settled when Beth arrives and you can focus on helping her choose her dress and I... well, I can be... what did she call me?"  His brow crinkled as he tried to remember.

"'The unbiased male viewpoint.'"  JenniAnn smiled.  "Think I should try to get that onto my Andrew's Nicknames pajamas?"

Laughing, Andrew shook his head.  "I'm hoping that one doesn't take off, thank you very much.  But for right now, I'll be that.  *You* be someone calmly trying on bridesmaid dresses."

JenniAnn took a deep breath and nodded.  She stepped into the hall, caught the attention of an employee of the dress shop, and was quickly whisked into a dressing room with a rack of silver dresses.  One by one she tried them on, sometimes seeking Andrew's opinion... and then touched by his feigned interest... and sometimes too horrified to even consult him.  At last, there was only one dress left.

"Ah, yes!"  The attendant smiled.  "This is the one of our newest arrivals.  It might suit you.  Here's hoping, eh?" 

JenniAnn blushed.  It was clear the woman very much hoped to be done with her and focused on the bride soon.  After all, there wasn't much commission to be had in the dresses JenniAnn was willing to consider.  Once alone, she tried on the dress then gaped at the mirror.  It wasn't like anything she would have ever chosen for herself.  There was nothing hippie or bohemian about it.  And yet...  She stepped out into the room where Andrew waited.  "Wh-what do you think?" she asked shyly.

Andrew beamed at her as he stood up.  "I think you look beautiful.  And... in my unbiased male viewpoint... I think this is the one, Laja."

"You don't think it's too elegant for me?  Too unnatural?  I mean this isn't really who I..."  The woman stopped talking when the angel slid his arm around her waist, took one of her hands in his, and began to dance to the schmaltzy muzak.  She smiled.  "Ya know, dancing isn't always the answer."

"Pretty sure it is," Andrew countered with a smile.  "But really I was hoping that you'd see the dress suits you."  He led them towards a wall-length mirror.  "I think it looks perfectly natural, don't you?"  He looked himself and for a moment was taken aback.  From the first they had met, Andrew had known the apparent age difference was perceived as sizable.  In that moment, however, they looked like two people who might have grown up together.  Time was so fleeting...

JenniAnn glanced at the mirror, affirming Andrew's opinion.  "Uh huh."  She didn't feel the need to tell him that what struck her as most natural about the image reflected back at them had little to do with her dress.  She looked up at him, unsure what to make of the enigmatic expression on his face.  Nervous, she grasped for a conversation topic.  "So do you think... I mean Mick and Beth will be okay, right?  A lot of sacrifices on both sides..."

Andrew snapped back to attention.  "I think they'll be better than okay, Laja.  Marriage always involves sacrifice and I think Mick and Beth have a better understanding of what those will entail going into the marriage than most couples do.  And they have a great support system.  And they have faith."  He smiled.  "I can see us dancing at their fiftieth anni..."

"Oh God!  I'm so sorry!"

Andrew and JenniAnn broke apart and spun around to see a young woman, clad in a wedding dress, with mascara trailing down her cheeks.
"I just... right into the wrong room!  So sorry.  I obviously don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing and..."  The woman began to sob.

Andrew and JenniAnn exchanged alarmed glances before approaching the stranger.  "If you don't mind my saying so," JenniAnn began, "you look like you could stand to sit and rest a bit before you get to where you're going.  We were just, uh... well, the bride isn't here yet so you're welcome to take a few moments here if you'd like."

Not needing further invitation, the woman nodded and sunk into the chair Andrew had recently vacated.

"My name's Andrew and this is JenniAnn," the angel introduced. 

"Flora," the woman responded, holding out a shaking hand.  "And thanks again for letting me hide out here.  I just never imagined it would be this traumatic!"

Andrew frowned.  He prayed the woman wasn't in danger or being forced into a marriage.  "Are you... I know we've only just met but... I have some experience in helping people get out of bad relationships if..."

Flora laughed then guilt washed over her pink-hued features.  "I'm sorry.  You're being very kind.  And now I feel bad because my problem doesn't come close to what you're thinking.  I'm not in any danger.  My fiance is a wonderful man, a gentle man.  I love him so much and I know he loves me and...  If he were here I wouldn't be in the state you see me in now, trust me!"

"So what's the matter?  I mean if you wanna talk about it.  Andrew and I are both very good listeners."

Flora drew in a deep breath and forced a teary smile for JenniAnn.  "It's my mother and sisters!  I thought this would be a great bonding experience.  Smiles, happy tears.  But instead I've spent two hours hearing about how what I want is wrong and drab and how my arms look 'chunky' and..."

JenniAnn gasped as Andrew shook his head. 

"Thanks."  The would-be bride rewarded their commiseration with a small smile.  "And I know what I have in mind isn't stylish. You see, I met Mason shortly after his mother died.  And I really helped him through that grief.  His dad wasn't really in the picture.  No siblings.  She was really all he had.  And he's always told me that I was his angel.  Th-that I brought him hope when he didn't have any.  S-so I wanted to look like his angel as I came down the aisle."

JenniAnn peered over at Andrew, wondering how he was taking this highly romanticized view of angels.  He caught her eye and smiled, feeling untroubled and touched by the woman's obvious love for her betrothed.

So I want a long, simple dress but with huge bell sleeves.  And they just keep telling me 'No, later you'll wish you'd had a ball gown!' or 'Oh, but you'd look so beautiful in something more sleek!'"  Flora grimaced at the A line gown she was wearing.

Andrew patted the woman's hand.  "You know, I've seen a lot of weddings in my day and talked to a lot of people on their 40th, 50th anniversaries.  And not one of them has ever told me 'All I remember about my wedding day is my mother scowling at my dress.'  Even when I happen to know their mothers did exactly that."

Flora giggled.

"What they do say is that they'll always remember the look of love in their spouse's eyes... the love they felt in their own hearts.  The joy.  And how all the stress just melted away for a while..."  Andrew smiled wistfully.  "And I also know a little about angels, too.  And I think if an angel really wanted to wear bell sleeves... they would.  Because angels are true to themselves and to God."

Flora drew in a deep breath and wiped away her tears.  "Yeah, I think they would!" she agreed, all smiles.  "I'm going to go get *my* dress!  Thank you!  Can I... can I come back and get your opinion when I have it on?" 

Andrew was startled when Flora threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.  "Well, sure.  I don't know much about dresses but yeah.  Great.  Look forward to it."

"Oh thank you!  I'd just love to have an unbiased male opinion and you've been so kind and I feel like I can trust you, Andrew." 

Smiling widely, Flora turned to JenniAnn who was very close to erupting in laughter at the sight of Andrew's reddening face.  "You're a very blessed lady," Flora congratulated the other woman.

For a moment JenniAnn opened her mouth to protest, afraid Flora had gotten the wrong idea.  But she was blessed...  Instead she simply smiled and looked fondly at Andrew.  "Thank you.  I know I am."

With another smile, Flora flounced out of the room and sped down the hall with a spring in her step.

"You were wonderful," JenniAnn murmured. 

"I didn't really do much."  Andrew shrugged, another blush coloring his cheeks in reaction to his friend's admiring gaze.

"But you did!  You helped her stand up for what she wanted with her dress and that'll make standing up for herself easier the next time and the time after that and...  What is it?"  JenniAnn noticed the angel of death was looking at her with an arched eye brow.

"Well, I'm really glad Flora is getting the dress she wants no matter what but... what are bell sleeves?  Is she actually going to have bells on her sleeves?  I should be prepared for that when she comes back..."  Andrew frowned, unsure about the idea of the blissful bride making her way down the aisle amid the sound of jingle bells.

JenniAnn burst out laughing.  "Trust me, you haven't just turned a bride into a walking percussion section.  You'll see.  It'll be lovely."

Just then the two heard familiar voices coming from the hall.

Andrew grinned.  "Good.  Because I think any moment now my 'unbiased male viewpoint' is going to be needed again."

The two were smiling as an excited bride-to-be... the expected one this time... and Rose and Lady Beth walked into the room and the dress saga began all over again.


February 13th, 2012

"You really were so patient and lovely," JenniAnn mused.  "Not too many guys woulda sat through the dress decisions of four... well, kinda five... different women."

"You know, I think that was one of my favorite planning-for-the-wedding days.  Maybe a little overwhelming.  But I had a good time.  And I have a whole new appreciation for what women go through."  He smiled and shook his head.  "Makes me appreciate the fact that the Father chooses most of my clothes... with some help from certain fashion-conscious friends."

"Mmm... that reminds me.  Hawaiian Ocean is one of the big spring colors for men and you'd look so great in it.  We should go shopping and..."

Andrew arched his eye brow.  "So... blue is big this coming season?" 

"Well, not just any blue!"  Andrew's ill-concealed smile alerted JenniAnn to the fact that he really didn't put much stock in trends.  "Well, anyhow...  what was next?  While you figure that out, I'm making some chai.  Would you like some?"

"Sure, thanks."

"Fantastic.  I'll put yours in the Seafoam mug and I'll take the Smoky Rose one."

"So green for me, pink for you?" Andrew jested.

"I'm so glad I'm not a boy...  No sense of shades..."  JenniAnn stepped into the kitchen with Andrew's laughter trailing after her.  She smiled, loving the sound.  However, when she returned a few minutes later with the tea, the angel of death was far less jovial.

"I, uh, just found the footage from November," he explained.  "You remember.  Mick, Josef, Logan, Adam, and I had done our tie shopping that afternoon.  And Mick and Logan both got tuxes.  And it was Mick's birthday so we met you girls at that club to celebrate..."  

"Oh yeah..."  JenniAnn frowned.  She sat the mugs on the table then settled beside Andrew and put her arm around his shoulders as he clicked the Play button.

They watched their friends' antics on screen... all of them blissfully unaware of what was about to enfold.


Love always protects, always trusts...

November 2011

"Andrew!  Put the camera down and just have some fun!" Josef shouted above the music.  "Relax.  Live a little.  The night is young, my friend.  Unlike us."  He winked at the lens.

Andrew lowered the camera.  "I just want a few more shots of everyone dancing.  And then maybe get a few statements from Mick and Beth.  Well, when they're ready."  He smiled at the end of the table where the happy couple was talking quietly with their heads together. 

"Gimme that," JenniAnn demanded as she and Logan stepped off the dance floor.  "You're not gonna be in this part at all if ya don't." 

Andrew obediently handed the camera over to JenniAnn and found himself staring into the lens.

"So, Mr. Officiant, how did the tie shopping go?" JenniAnn asked.  "Lucky you already had a suit.  That had to help."

"Very much.  It went great.  Although we all found ourselves wishing we'd thought to bring an unbiased female opinion," Andrew responded with a grin.  "How about this music?" he shouted as a new song started.

Rose, who had just approached, grabbed the camera from JenniAnn as she began to teeter with laughter while Andrew demonstrated some dubious rave-style dance moves.

Josef rolled his eyes.  "They wanted to come here because it was the site of their first dance but this place has really gone downhill."  He took a sip of his wine.  "Millennials..."

"Hey!" Rose and JenniAnn shouted in unison.

"Wait... am I Millennial?" Rose asked.

Laughing, Andrew shrugged.  "I don't know but Josef seems to be forgetting that past generations haven't always provided the most elegant of dances, either.  In fact, I seem to remember..."  Before he could finish, the angel felt a tap on his shoulder.  "Violeta!" he greeted when he'd turned around.  "I'm so glad you made it!"

"Ronald needed some help in Records and I would have stayed longer but he thought it was important I spend time with you.  He said bonding time had been so important to you with Monica and Tess and so..."  The angel shrugged.  "Here I am."

Andrew blushed.  He hadn't realized his affections were a topic of conversation.  "I do like spending time with the other angels I work with.  But just..."  He eyed the crowded room.  He hadn't been really comfortable there to begin with and found himself constantly checking to be sure he could see Rose, JenniAnn, and Lady Beth who were unescorted, unlike Yva and Beth.  But, though younger, they were all much savvier than Violeta who hadn't left Heaven for more than an hour or two prior to Halloween.  "Just stay close to the group.  It's crowded in here," he advised. 

Violeta nodded, surveying the motley crew on the dance floor. 

"Can I get you a drink?" Andrew offered.  "Something tells me you'd like a Shirley Temple."  He tilted his head.  "Or maybe a Roy Rogers?"

"Aren't those people?" the AOD-in-training asked.

Andrew chuckled.  "Yeah.  But they have drinks named after them.  A Shirley Temple is lemon-lime soda with grenadine which is a cherry flavored syrup.  A Roy Rogers is the same thing but with cola."

"The girl one," Violeta responded, still a bit confused.

Andrew smiled, pat her hand, and went over to the bar.

Rose and JenniAnn stood by, witnessing the scene with dopey smiles on their faces.  Whatever angst they'd felt over Violeta's arrival was gone.  They could get used to seeing this new, almost fatherly aspect of Andrew.  They approached Violeta and struck up a conversation about the recent cases she had accompanied Andrew on. 

As the evening wore on, the group of friends danced and laughed over stories told in the birthday boy's honor.  Andrew was recording Mick and Beth dancing when he felt an odd twist in his gut.  Pulling the camera away, he glanced back at the table where his non-dancing friends were gathered.  He saw Rose and JenniAnn chatting with Josef, occasionally smiling upon Mick and Beth.  Lady Beth was on the dance floor with Adam.  Yva and Sir Sven were also dancing.  He knew Logan had left earlier for a comic book release party.  But Violeta was no where to be seen.  The angel of death dashed over to the table. 

"Where's Violeta?" he asked.

The three at the table looked to a nearby chair in alarm then around the club, searching for the angel.

"She was just right there!" Rose responded.  "I remember because she asked what you'd been drinking.  And JenniAnn and I thought it was cute because she took out a notepad and wrote it down."

"I didn't see her leave."  Josef frowned and stood up.  "She couldn't have gone far..."

"The drink!" JenniAnn cried.  "She wasn't asking for future reference.  She probly just wanted to know cause she saw you'd almost finished and she likely wanted to treat you since you had her."  She sighed with relief.  "So I bet she just went over to the bar."

Andrew was somewhat calmed by this information but the knot in his stomach still lingered.  He made his way to the bar with Rose, JenniAnn, and Josef in tow.  They all deflated when they reached it and Violeta was no where to be seen.

"Do you think she might have gotten... you know... called back?" Josef suggested, pointing to the ceiling.

Andrew shook his head and walked up to the bar.  "Excuse me, did a lady... black hair... green eyes... just come up here?  Maybe order a Roy Rogers?"

The bartender laughed.  "Yeah, only the second one of those I've sold all night.  Hey, weren't you the first?"

Andrew nodded hastily.  "Do you know where she went?"

"Too busy to pay much attention.  In fact, unless you need a refill yourself... or maybe something stronger..."  The woman pointed behind Andrew where a customer was waiting.  "I need to see to this next order."

The angel stepped away from the bar and anxiously scanned the room once more.  And then, near the door, Andrew saw Violeta.  And she wasn't alone and she wasn't happy.  He tore across the room.

"I told you I'm not interested!" Violeta hissed at a strange man.

At the same moment the stranger's hand closed around Violeta's wrist, Andrew grabbed his arm.

"I suggest you take your hand off her right now," the angel demanded, staring the man down. 

The man smirked and opened his mouth but when he looked Andrew in the eyes he blanched, released Violeta, and pulled away. 

Andrew wasn't finished.  He didn't break eye contact as he continued to glare at the man.  "I'm going to be here until close.  And I'm going to keep my eye on you.  And if I so much as see you look at a woman the wrong way, I'll be right back over.  Don't test me, Dillon."  He hadn't known the man's name a moment before but thanked the Father for the tidbit of information when he saw how it spooked the man.

The man took several steps back from Andrew, raising his arms to chest level in surrender.

Josef approached and softly punched the angel's arm to get his attention.  "Andrew, let's go back to the table now."

The angel of death nodded, feeling his body begin to untense.  The knot had gone away.  He turned from Dillon and saw Violeta with Rose and JenniAnn on either side of her.  The two women were fussing over the angel. 

"Are you all right?" Andrew asked, looking her over with concern.

Violeta nodded, her cheeks reddening.

"Good."  Andrew inhaled deeply, calming himself, then headed towards the table.  He just wanted to sit down with his friends safely around him.

Violeta smiled appreciatively at JenniAnn and Rose then locked step with Andrew. 

"I... I'm sorry, Andrew.  I know you said to stick with the group.  I just wasn't thinking.  I wanted to get you a drink.  To thank you.  And then... then I just wanted to step outside for a moment and when I came back... that... cretin stuck his arm out in front of me and said some... piggish things.  I... I didn't do anything to encourage him!  I wouldn't!  I'm sorry!"  

Andrew turned to Violeta in surprise.  "You think I'm angry at you?" he asked, incredulous.

"I disobeyed...  I know it was wrong."  The usually proud angel bowed her head in shame.  "I wouldn't blame you if you write up a report about my disobedience."

Andrew briefly pulled her into a hug, mindful of the fact that Violeta wasn't as affectionate as most of his friends.  But she had to know he wasn't upset with her.  "Violeta, I am *not* angry with you.  And I didn't tell you to stick with the group as an order from your supervisor!  I told you that because that..."  He waved his arm in the direction of Dillon, "could happen.  I said it out of concern for you.  You are so bright and I can tell that you have taken so, so much from your years in Records.  But that can't fully prepare you for life here.  It can't fully prepare you for the reality that some people... they just don't have the respect they should for other people.  And I don't want you to have to learn that alone and not like that!  I care about you and I don't want you to get hurt or scared.  Are you sure you're all right?"

Violeta nodded, biting her lip.  "You care about me?" she glanced shyly at him.

"Of course I do!" Andrew cried.  "You didn't think I did?"

"I know you're a wonderful, considerate supervisor and I've already learned so much from you, Andrew.  But I didn't know that you thought much about me outside of that."

Andrew clasped one of her hands in both of his.  "Violeta, one of these days you're going to be ready to handle cases on your own.  I won't be your supervisor any more.  But I will still care about you.  I don't just care about you cause you're my trainee.  I care about you cause you're you!"

Violeta blinked at her supervisor a few times then, for the first time since they had met, she hugged him.  Awkwardly.  But it was something.  "I care about you, too," she answered softly.  After a few moments, she pulled away.  "When I got nervous... I think I left your drink over there.  I really did want to treat you..."

"Don't worry about it.  I think the last thing I need right now is more caffeine."  Andrew smiled rakishly, glad for the smile it provoked from Violeta.

A few yards away, JenniAnn, Josef, and Rose continued their charade of minding their own business but all three were brushing at their watery eyes.

"Besides, I think our three friends over there have coincidentally all been struck by allergies.  We better tend to them," the angel of death continued, raising his voice to make it easier for the three humans to hear.  He grinned when they looked up with "Who me?" expressions.

The rest of the evening passed without cause for further alarm though every so often Rose or JenniAnn noticed Andrew staring across the club, ready to act if prompted.


February 13th, 2012

"I knew nothing bad could really happen to her..." Andrew explained quietly after the video from that night ended abruptly with the footage of Mick and Beth dancing.  Though the group had lingered at the club until it closed so he could keep an eye on Dillon, no one had felt like recording any more. 

"I know, Andrew.  But sometimes logic doesn't really figure in with those we love.  You love Violeta."

The angel smiled at his friend, grateful for her understanding.  "It was weird.  I suddenly felt...weird.  My stomach knotted up.  I just knew something was wrong."

JenniAnn smiled wanly.  "My mom talks about that.  Parental instinct.  Maybe you have something akin to it."

"Maybe.  I just didn't want her learning about that side of life on her own, you know?"

JenniAnn rested her head on his shoulder.  "I know.  I'm sorry it happened but now Violeta knows that you care about her.  And she's learned one of my favorite things about you."

"What's that?"

"How protective you can be.  NOT over-protective.  But simply protective."

"When I can be..."  Andrew bowed his head.  There were too many times he couldn't be.

JenniAnn laced her fingers through his.  "I know."

They stared at the fire for a few minutes and then Andrew took a deep breath and smiled at JenniAnn.  He wasn't about to let a wonderful day end on such a maudlin note.  "So how about some bridal shower footage?  Am I allowed to see that?" he asked with a devilish grin.

JenniAnn smiled.  "I promise it was perfectly G-rated.  Now... can the same be said for the bachelor party?"

"Well, no..."

Alarmed, JenniAnn crossed her arms over her chest and studied Andrew intently.  "What?!?  What exactly did the lot of you do?"

"Well... Laja, it was the night of the Super Bowl and I couldn't help it if some four letter words snuck out over some of those plays.  Never from me!  I'm much too gentlemanly for that.  But you know how Adam can be..."

JenniAnn laughed.  "All right, all right.  I'll accept that some cussing may have happened.  Let's see what we got."

For a few minutes they spliced together some snippets from both parties but then, missing seeing the group as a whole, they moved onto the rehearsal dinner that had occurred the night before.

"It was so great to have everyone together," Andrew mused as he and JenniAnn watched toasts and goofy dedications to the affianced couple. 

"It really was.  Although... there..."  JenniAnn pointed at a distant shot of Andrew leaving the Willowveil ballroom where the dinner had taken place.  "I remember you leaving for a while.  Where did you go?"

Andrew ran his hand through his hair.  "To the roof."

"The roof?  Why were you on the roof?"

"Josef needed me," the angel answered simply.

"Oh..." JenniAnn murmured.  As she thought back, she realized there had been a space of time during which the best man had also been missing.  She had wondered how Josef had soldiered on through his best friend's wedding preparations when his own heart remained broken over the loss of his beloved Sarah.  She realized at least part of the reason for Josef's resilience was sitting beside her.


Love always hopes, always perseveres...

February 12th, 2012

Andrew looked up at the stars, praying for the words he would need.  After a few moments, he joined the man standing near the edge of the roof. 

Josef forced a smile when the angel set a hand on his shoulder.  "Some night, isn't it?  You can see the stars much better here than in L.A.  Well, the real stars.  Plenty of the other type to be seen sneaking out of the plastic surgeons' offices."

"It's beautiful," Andrew agreed, ignoring the snarkiness he knew was masking Josef's pain.  "But something tells me you didn't come up here just to admire the stars."

Josef took a sip from his bottle of wine.  "I've never seen Mick happier.  And I'm happy for them both.  They deserve to be in love, to be getting married.  They've been through a lot together and it just seems...  Well, the old me would have said fated.  I suppose you'd say something else."

Andrew smiled.  "Willed by God."

"Right.  That.  I just sometimes don't understand why His will for Sarah and me...  Frankly, it sucked," the man spat out.  After another moment, his face clouded with regret.  "Please don't smite me for that."  He sat on the edge, his legs swinging beneath him.

"I can't smite you, Josef.  And God wouldn't."  Andrew took a seat beside Josef.  "He doesn't set out to harm His children when they're in pain.  He understands that grief... pain... they make it a whole lot more difficult to trust in Him.  And He doesn't will the tragedies and the sicknesses that happen in this world.  But He can use everything... everything for good.  Even Sarah's death.  Look at your life, Josef!  You've made it a testament to your love for her.  Every time you save someone from a life of suffering, every time you reach out to a lonely, scared, abused person... she lives in you.  And she smiles on you.  The Father does, too.  You have to know that."

Josef nodded and choked back a sob.  "I do know that.  But I still wish she was here.  I wish... I wish we'd had our wedding.  I wish we'd lived the life we planned together.  I don't begrudge Mick and Beth their happiness.  I don't.  But, God, it's hard to see them together sometimes.  And it's hard to watch you..."

Andrew's eye brow arched.  "Me?"

"Never mind."

"Josef, if you need to say it then..."

"Look, for someone I once plotted to kill, I've really become quite fond of you, Andrew."

Andrew grinned.  "Thanks, Josef.  I like you a lot, too.  And you couldn't have killed me."

"I know.  JenniAnn would have killed me first," Josef retorted with a sly smile.

Andrew shook his head.  "She wouldn't have.  And you know that's not what I meant."

"You're right.  She would have
just staked me and then lectured me on your virtues."

"She..." Andrew drifted off.  He couldn't actually guarantee JenniAnn wouldn't have done that for his sake.

Josef laughed.

Andrew let him enjoy the moment then looked seriously at him.  "You're being evasive.  What did you start to say?  Why is it hard to watch me?  Watch me do what?"

The man looked away from Andrew and to the moon.  "It's hard to watch you with the girls and not think... one day it's going to be you and me on this roof again except we won't be talking about Sarah.  We'll be talking about Rose or JenniAnn or... or even Shelby."

Andrew blinked back tears and stared straight ahead. 

"You love them.  Not like I love Sarah.  But you do.  I see it.  And they're all going to leave you.  Probably not by choice.  But they will."

"I know."  Andrew's voice cracked as he said the words.  "And it's not that I never think about that.  I do.  But I can't let it consume me because then I'll miss out on the time I have with them.  And I carry with me the hope that when they have gone Home and I'm still here... I'll still feel their love.  I'll be cooking and Lady Beth's voice will warn me off a mistake.  And every time I grow a beard I'll hear Rose laughing and calling me 'Amish Boy.'  I'll hear a song and remember how Yva would sing to cheer me up.  I'll be walking... not wanting to be alone... and I'll remember how JenniAnn's hand fit in mine.  I'll be reading my Bible and remember how Shelby would curl up on my lap with one of her Bible story books and we'd go through the Garden of Eden and Noah's Ark and name the animals.  And then they'll be there again.  It won't be the same... but they'll be with me.  And I'll carry on for them."

Josef swiped at some tears.  "Carry on for them...  That's what we do."

"Yes.  Not without tears, not without pain... but we will.  And you do already for Sarah.  And never forget that God is right there with you, too.  You'll see Sarah again some day, Josef.  Hold onto that hope, hold onto the memory of her love for you and yours for her.  It'll see you through tomorrow and the next day and every day after that."

Josef smiled at the angel who was looking at him with an abundance of compassion.  "Thanks, Andrew.  I needed to hear that.  Just give me a few moments, could you?  Then I'll come back down to the party."

"Great, sure."  Andrew returned the smile, squeezed Josef's shoulder, and headed back to the stairs.  Just before he turned to go down them he saw the man blow a kiss to the stars. 


Love never fails...

February 13th, 2012

Andrew hadn't shared with JenniAnn what had passed between Josef and him.  It was too personal and parts would only bring her to tears.  But she seemed to sense it had been emotional and took the lead on editing that portion of the DVD.  Once that was finished, only the wedding itself was left.  Since both Andrew and JenniAnn had participated in the ceremony, Owen had taken over the camerawork. 

As Andrew loaded the footage onto the laptop, they heard a door open and quick, light footsteps pattering down the hall.  Andrew and JenniAnn craned their necks and saw Shelby running towards them, her face puffy and tears streaking down her face.

The angel was the first on his feet and approached the little girl.  "Hey, sweetheart, what's wrong?" he asked, stooping to be level with her.

"I... I dreamed about the... the crash and mommy and daddy and..."  Fresh tears began to pool in her eyes.

Andrew pulled Shelby into a hug.  Though she had been only two when she and her brother had survived the car crash that claimed her parents, it sometimes seemed as if she'd retained at least some memory of it.  "You're safe now.  And Asher is safe now.  And your mommy and daddy are safe now, with God," he assured.

"Shel, Andrew and I were just watching Mick's and Beth's wedding.  You wanna watch with us?" JenniAnn offered, knowing her student wouldn't be able to get back to sleep any time soon.  "We're just about to see the cutest flower girl ever walk down the aisle."

Shelby smiled through her tears and nodded.  She took Andrew's hand and walked over to the coffee table, taking a spot on the cushions between the two adults. 

Once sure the child was comfortable, Andrew started the video.

"I was afraid I'd drop my basket," Shelby admitted.

"You did everything perfectly," Andrew assured, looking from her to her image on the screen.  "Mick and Beth both said so."

Shelby's smile grew and she rested her head against Andrew's arm as they watched the rest of the wedding unfold.

Because the traditional wedding vows were so unsuited to the couple, Mick and Beth had adapted their own. 

The camera panned in as a tearful Beth gazed at Mick and began her own.  "I pledge to you, Mick St. John, a love that is patient and kind.  A love that is forgiving and understanding.  A love that is true.  I will protect you and trust you.  I will start each day of our life together with hope.  I will be by your side always, whatever happens, whatever comes.  My love will not fail."

An equally emotional and enamored Mick echoed the words back to Beth.

As JenniAnn listened, she glanced over at Andrew and thought of how his entire life had been a fulfillment of the same vows.  Never spoken to any one person in particular, of course.  It was simply his way of being.  Looking at he and Shelby and noting how much the girl had grown, JenniAnn was reminded again of how quickly time was passing by.  However, unlike earlier in the day, she was no longer troubled or made anxious by this knowledge.  Andrew had been right.  He would always be the same angel.  Same feelings, same habits, same lame shoes but above all the same loving spirit that would never fail. 

"Will they live happily ever after?" Shelby asked as the video ended.

Her high-pitched voice roused JenniAnn from her musings.

Andrew considered his answer.  "I think something better will happen, Shel.  I think they'll live forever with love."

This answer pleased the girl.  Her smile stretched into a yawn.  "I think I wanna go back to sleep now."

"Do you want one of us to tuck you in?" JenniAnn offered.

"Naw.  I'm okay.  Night, night."  She kissed them each on their cheeks then walked back to the room she was sharing with a handful of other Tunnel girls.

"She's growing up so fast," Andrew reflected.

"You're going to do it soon, aren't you?" JenniAnn questioned, her words coming out in a rush.

Andrew didn't have to ask what she meant.  He knew from the way she was looking at him... the way she was twisting her Claddagh ring anxiously.  So often over the last months he'd thought she was so near to asking but each time she changed her mind.  If she was ready for the answer, he was ready to tell her.  "I'm going to wait three years at the most.  I want it to have started by the time Shelby reaches high school age.  But I don't want her to know that was something I factored in.  So in three years she'll be 10.  That makes sense, doesn't it?"

JenniAnn responded with a solemn nod.

Not sure what to say, Andrew reached for her hand then looked at his pocket watch.  "One minute until Valentine's Day," he announced.

JenniAnn smiled.  "So doesn't that mean it's actually 6 minutes til?  Since you keep your watch five minutes fast, I mean."

The angel shook his head.  "No, I figured that in."  He showed her the face reading 11:54 PM.

They watched the thin hand rotate.  When it reached the 12 they both wished each other "Happy Valentine's Day!" in unison.  Their quirky, momentous anniversary had passed and all was as it had been before.  Things would change.  But not just yet.

After refilling their mugs, they settled back down in front of the computer to finish their task.

Andrew cycled through a folder of photographs.  "I think we should end it with a slideshow of these photos from the reception with Mick's and Beth's first dance song playing.  What was it?  'Love Remains the Same'?"

JenniAnn nodded.  "Yeah, sure.  Great idea.  But first...  Can we watch your toast from the reception one more time?  I kinda zoned out earlier."

Andrew chuckled.  "I must not be a very thrilling orator."

"You know it wasn't that.  I just got to thinking is all."

"Sure," Andrew agreed.  He wasn't crazy about watching himself on screen again but he suspected JenniAnn needed to hear what he'd said so cued up the clip.

"You know, even though I've never been married, I think I've learned a thing or two about marriage in the many, many, mannny years I've walked this earth," Andrew began as the crowd laughed.  "But if everything I've learned could be summed up in a couple sentences, I think they'd be two that come from the same chapter of the Bible that Mick and Beth echoed in their vows to each other just a little while ago.  'And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.'  Mick and Beth have shown faith in embarking on this life God led them to, never backing down despite the obstacles that have come their way.  They've shown hope in getting married, in telling the world that they won't be torn asunder no matter what happens.  But mostly... mostly they've shown love.  They've accepted the love God placed in their hearts.  I hope each of us, married and unmarried, follow their lead and choose love.  Because it is God's greatest gift to each of us.  It is His most important blessing."

JenniAnn paused the recorded Andrew and turned to the real one.  "I just want you to know... I feel so blessed to have met you.  To have loved you.  And whatever happens, whatever else changes... those feelings won't."

Andrew hugged her.  "I know.  I believe you.  And I'm feeling pretty blessed myself."  He reached for his mug and raised it.  "To love... the greatest gift."

"To love," JenniAnn echoed, beaming.

They clinked their mugs together then watched the slide show as Mick's and Beth's song played, seeming to play for them and for all of their friends smiling from the photos.

Drink to all that we have lost
Mistakes we have made
Everything will change
But love remains the same
(from the song "Love Remains the Same" by Gavin Rossdale)

The End

This JABB is dedicated to all the love John showed in his work and in his life.  May his example always lead us to meet others with love and compassion in our hearts.  May he know that he is loved.  Forever and always.  And that's not gonna change.


JABB 349

(Photo Credits: Images on these pages are owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  They are not being used to seek profit.)