"God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well."

Hi all,

September 20th is when we celebrate Andrew's birthday.  So in honor of the occasion... I intended to do a game or something.  But then it occurred to me that this would be the last of a certain sort of birthday for Andrew.  Therefore, I ended up writing this lil story.  Okay and it was also because I wanted to watch TBAA and this took less time.  ;-)

God bless,
Once More

September 19th faded away and the 20th arrived with a cool, soft breeze rustling through the Fields of Gold.  The only other sounds were the steady hum of cicadas and chirping of crickets punctuated by the occasional hoot of an owl.  Beneath the starry sky and silvery moon, the clearing was littered with brightly colored tents circled around the remnants of a bonfire.  Inside one tent, Andrew smiled.  His birthday... or at least the date that had been selected to commemorate his birth... had arrived.

With September mild, comfortable weather had come to Dyeland.  Not wanting to waste the opportunity to enjoy it, Andrew had decided that he wanted to celebrate his birthday outside.  After input from his friends, the occasion had morphed into a full day of outdoor celebration.  It had started with a potluck barbeque the previous night then s'mores around the campfire before everyone had settled into their tents.  Daylight would bring breakfast around the fire: fish if the catch was good, doughnuts if not... likely both.  Then a nature walk and swimming and, finally, a picnic lunch on the lake shore followed, naturally, by cake and ice cream.  Andrew couldn't have asked for a better celebration.  It was especially meaningful to him because of the stark contrast it made with his previous birthday.  Contemplating this, the angel reached up to where the makeshift "A" charm Max had made him hung around his neck. 

Sitting up, Andrew took in his surroundings.  The olive colored tent, plush sleeping bag, and Lulu curled beside him created a cozy scene that bore little resemblance to the cellar in Afghanistan where he and Max had modestly celebrated the year before.  Still, he felt lonely.  He needed to see his friends.  He wouldn't wake them, of course.  But he needed to see that they were near.  Careful not to disturb Lulu who required sound sleep at her advanced age, the angel of death left his tent.  He zigzagged through the others and began to climb a nearby hill.  He wanted a view of the expanse of tents that housed the Dyelanders and their many guests.  It didn't take Andrew long to realize he wasn't alone in his plan.  Several yards up the hill, JenniAnn sat leaning against the trunk of a tree.

"Laja, it's after 1:00.  Couldn't you sleep?" Andrew asked when he drew near.

"No.  But I'm fine.  Just...  It's such a beautiful night and I wanted to see..."


JenniAnn smiled.  "Yes.  I expected just to watch over the tents but I can't say I was unhappy when I saw you leave yours.  But are you okay?"

Andrew settled beside her.  "Yes.  I didn't feel like sleeping.  And I wanted to see everyone, too."

JenniAnn noted the wistful look on the angel's face as he looked down upon the tents and the solar-powered lawn torches which made the valley look like a fairy village.  "We... were separated last year."

Settling an arm around her shoulders, Andrew nodded.

"It... it's not that those of us here had a bad time.  But we couldn't help wondering what you were dealing with... feeling.  And I just felt so... halved being here with... without you.  So much of what's here and, more importantly, who's here... is because of you and for so long... things and people changed but you and I..."

"I understand, Laja."
  Andrew held JenniAnn close when she snuggled against his shoulder.  "Completely."

The angel of death thought of the thirteen and a half years since he had come to Dyeland.  JenniAnn, along with some of her friends, had settled there some months before his arrival.  Now the others were gone... moved onto lives elsewhere.  But starting in March 2000, he had been there with her to welcome new arrivals and bid farewell to those who left.  They had helped make houses and castles into homes.  They had organized Christmas parties and birthday celebrations.  They had gone to funerals to comfort bereaved friends.  They had attended graduations and weddings, christenings and naming ceremonies.  They'd paced hospital waiting rooms together.  Then there were the mundanities: working together to figure out the monthly group cell phone bill, cleaning up after storms, and sending off notes to let the diaspora know they were still thought of with love.  Theirs were the homes friends crashed at when their own places were being remodeled or prepared or they just plain needed someone nearby during a rough patch.  Max had been astute when he'd referred to them as the "de facto mom and dad" of the motley group.  Andrew smiled.  The Lord indeed moved in mysterious ways.

Andrew's thoughts once again returned to his previous birthday.  He remembered praying that night and telling himself and God that if he was allowed to return to his friends, he would do whatever it took to stay near them in the years ahead... no matter where those years brought them.  And as Andrew had watched over a sleeping Max, he'd made a decision.  If they were both safely home by the next year, it would be the last birthday... at least for the foreseeable future... that Andrew would spend in his eternally youthful form.  He hadn't done anything yet.  He'd wanted to give his friends one more year to celebrate as they always had with the requisite check of his driver's license to determine what age he happened to be on that day.  And so they would in the morning.  But then the following year, he would be like them.  Each succeeding year, the numerical candles that JenniAnn used would increase by one.  And he had to tell her.


JenniAnn sat up straight, hearing the gravelly tone that often snuck into Andrew's voice when he was going to say something important.  "Hmmm?"

"I can't guarantee that nothing like that will ever happen again.  If someone else needed my help like Max did..."

The woman smiled sadly.  "I know.  I wouldn't expect anything else from you."

Andrew pat her hand.  "But when I can, I want to be as present and as supportive as I can be for all of you.  I know we've talked about how... how I don't want to stand on the outskirts of your life or the lives of any of our friends.  And Shelby's growing up and... and I'd really like to remain a part of Ivy's life... high school graduation, college graduation, maybe a wedding...  And speaking of weddings... I..."  He grinned.  "Well, I liked being your 'plus one' at Veronica's wedding.  Free food, dancing...  You know, someone told me once that I should spend more time frolicking with frauleins."

JenniAnn laughed.  "I guess I can't argue with Albert Einstein."

"No, at least not about that.  Although he probably had a slightly different take on frolicking." 

"I'm thinking so."

Andrew smiled again then grew serious.  "I don't want to reach a point where I can't do that any more because of how I look.  And I don't want..."

JenniAnn studied him, realizing what he was getting at.  "Have... have you done whatever it is you need to do to... to age?"

Andrew shook his head.  "Not yet.  But, Laja..."  He moved to sit in front of her and took her hands in his.  "Tomorrow... when you ask for my driver's license... it's going to be the last time you'll need to do it."

Tears welled in JenniAnn's eyes.  She supported Andrew's decision.  She recognized it as the only way but it still pained her to think of what he was taking on, discomfort and aches and limitations that he would never know if not for them.  "So... so tomorrow is... is it?  It's when you're going to..."

"No.  I want us all to have Thanksgiving and Christmas... with me as I always was since last year was a little... difficult.  And I won't do it in January because I know..."  He squeezed her hands.  "Tough month.  But..."


Andrew nodded. 

JenniAnn released one of his hands so she could caress his cheek.  She looked into his eyes with a wavering smile.  "Then February it is.  Appropriate.  It was in a February that you first told me."

"Four years ago.  I was thinking that Valentine's Day would be appropriate."


"But what?" the angel questioned.

JenniAnn laughed.  "But what what?"

Andrew grinned.  "You're mulling over something.  I can tell." 

"It's just... March 16, 2000... you probably... if you thought about yourself at all which you tend to do fairly infrequently... you probably figured your life would go on as it always had."

Andrew nodded.  "Yes.  And that wouldn't have been a bad life at all.  In fact, it would have been a great life.  But do you think it was a better life?  I thought I was a loner.  I hated Halloween."  He chuckled.  "Passionately.  And... well, things were sometimes a little... complicated with... you know... communication issues."

JenniAnn brushed some hair behind his ear and nodded as she filled in the blanks.  Things hadn't always been perfect with Monica and Tess but Andrew's loyalty to and love for them usually kept him from saying so.  And she had grown enough to realize the trouble hadn't always rested with them but, often enough, with Andrew and his own reticence.  She met his gaze.  "True."

"Now I know I'm not a loner, only someone who sometimes needs alone time.  And sometimes a few pumpkins and costumes can be fine."  Andrew smiled fondly.  "Especially when the pumpkins get turned into pie at the end of a long buffet line at a really great party with friends.  And Halloween's a pretty good excuse to have a good cry over Edward Scissorhands."

"Aww... yeah."  JenniAnn sighed over what was becoming one of her favorite Halloween traditions.

"And... things are better than they ever have been in feeling comfortable talking with my friends... all of them."  The angel of death gazed down into the fields, his eyes lighting up as he focused on a musically themed tent next to a lavender one decked with coffee cup decals.  Things were infinitely better.  And they were only going to get better.  Andrew looked back to JenniAnn, imagining what it would be like when she met Joshua.  For thirteen and a half years... ever since he'd happened upon her sobbing over Jesus Christ Superstar... Andrew had wished she could meet the man they both loved so much.  Soon.  Already the angel was envisioning evenings around a fire, sipping tea, and just talking: Joshua there amongst so many of Andrew's friends.  His smile grew as he playfully bumped his shoulder against the woman's once he'd returned to his spot beside her.  "So... if simply being around you all has brought me that, I can only imagine how much better everything will be this way," he finished.

JenniAnn sighed.  "Well, I spose becoming mortalish can't be all bad.  I mean I believe God went all-out with it.  It probably shouldn't have been surprising to me that you'd take something of that route, too.  You always did kinda remind me of..."  Her voice drifted off as she blushed.  Their time with Ivy had given her a great gift.  Now JenniAnn knew she could talk to Andrew freely about Jesus without him thinking she was going to start expecting answers or verification.  Still... Andrew was already far too concerned about being there for them without her drawing a connection between him and Jesus.  She didn't realize she had reached up to clasp the Celtic cross around her neck and that, because of this, Andrew already knew what she had meant to say.

Andrew hugged her, finding it both strange and beautiful that their thoughts had dovetailed so perfectly.

"Well, you're just... amazing," JenniAnn covered. 

Andrew beamed.  "Thanks.  Helps to have a lot of amazing people around me."

After blushing as the angel peered back down at the others and then at her, JenniAnn jolted.  "Wait... What time did you say it was earlier?  I forgot my watch in my tent."

"1:27 to be precise," Andrew answered after referring to his pocket watch.

"Then it's the 20th!"


"Happy birthday, Andrew!"  JenniAnn kissed his cheek.  "May the year ahead bring you many blessings and much, much love."

"I... I think it's looking pretty good for that," Andrew replied, his voice husky with emotion as his friend enveloped him in a hug.

JenniAnn bestowed a loving smile on him.  "Me too."

Then they sat in companionable silence, enjoying the early moments of Andrew's big day.


The following afternoon...

Lunch had been duly enjoyed and now the Dyelanders and their friends from the Sibling Cities along with Raquel and Nico were gathered around a massive red velvet sheet cake.  All of them were beaming at the birthday boy. 

JenniAnn stepped out of her tent, carrying a small box emblazoned with Andrew's name.  Inside the six candles slid and thumped against each other as she walked towards the group.  Briefly, she paused and closed her eyes.  "Once more..." she murmured.

Adam watched as JenniAnn approached.  He knew this would be the last time their little game played out.  Andrew had told him during the journey from Landstuhl to the States.  Adam knew there was no going back for his old friend.  Andrew's mind and heart were set.  He suspected JenniAnn knew, too.  As she passed, Adam squeezed her shoulder to reassure her.  A knowing, sad smile briefly flitted across her features as she glanced at him.

"Billfold, please," JenniAnn requested after she'd set the box down and approached Andrew.

Adam saw how, for just a moment, Andrew held the girl's hand when he gave her his wallet.  He smiled tenderly upon them.

"So what's it say?" Rose questioned eagerly. 

Beside her, Max smiled.  However, he felt something beyond happiness.  Like Andrew, he couldn't help drawing comparisons to the year before when the angel had sacrificed so much for him.  Max knew another, far more lasting, sacrifice was coming.  Andrew had explained as much to him.  Watching the angel, Max suspected it would happen very soon.  In the presence of such devotion, the young man came to believe all the more that sometimes love did last forever.  Sighing contently, he squeezed his girlfriend's hand.

Mick, having been indoctrinated into the scheme two years previously, noticed a change in demeanor between the ritual's two main participants.  Andrew had clearly made his decision.  Far from being envious, the vampire smiled and rested his arm around his wife's shoulders.  Miracles still happened.  He believed, one day, they would find theirs, too.

Chava watched the exchange with great interest and deep fondness.  Vincent had explained the candle ritual to her.  He had described a humorous, lighthearted tradition and so she was struck by the intensity in JenniAnn's eyes when they locked briefly with Andrew's.  The elderly woman knew what it meant and marveled anew at the angel of death... her dear friend.  She suspected she would not be there for his next birthday but, in part thanks to Andrew, Chava did not fear death.  She couldn't fear it when it was Home to such a beautiful, giving soul.

"Thirty six," JenniAnn announced with a smile.  "Same as last time."  She reached into the box and grabbed the candles shaped like a 3 and a 6 and placed them on the cake.  As she looked at them, she remembered Adam's words from two years before.  She was going to need a full set of candles... candles for 40 and 41 and 42...  She vowed to buy the missing numbers the next time she and Andrew went shopping... so he would know she supported his decision.  After a quiet sigh, JenniAnn nodded to Tess.

Then, in a move that was a surprise only to Andrew, his old friend began to sing once he was standing over his cake and the candles were lit.  Everyone gathered looked proudly at Andrew, knowing that he and the love he had shown them had changed their lives for the better.

"Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower and you it's only seed."

A few miles away, Andrew's rose sat in its customary spot on a table in the entryway at Serendipity.  Gentle fingers reached out to touch one of the few petals that remained white.  As Joshua made contact with the petal, it turned red.

"Happy birthday, Andrew," he murmured, his voice reaching the angel in the Fields of Gold.

"Thank you.  It is," his angel replied, equally quiet.

Then, once Tess had finished, everyone joined in to sing "Happy Birthday."

Touched, Andrew brushed at a tear as he bent to blow out his candles.  Then he smiled at his friends and made the rounds hugging each of them.  Once again the angel of death thanked God for the life he had been given.

The End

So probably not the most necessary of stories.  But I was struck by the realization that this was my last chance to do anything with the license/candle tradition.  Sigh...  Anyhow, "The Rose" was composed by Amanda McBroom.  And now I want to watch Edward Scissorhands.  That ice dance...  Sigh...  ~Jenni

This newsletter is dedicated to John's knack for making Andrew seem both "other" and "same."  I think that's a lot of what attracted me to Andrew which then made JABB something worth pursuing.  I realize now that, without that aspect of the character, I don't think the Dyeland stories would be possible.  John made Andrew ethereal enough to be different and intriguing but comfortable and "normal" enough to make it possible to imagine this guy eating pumpkin pie and enjoying a Tim Burton film.  Whatever that quality is... I'm really glad John had it.


JABB 394/CABB 19

(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.)