"God gave us the gift of life; it
is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living
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. ;-)
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
JenniAnn sat up straight, hearing the gravelly tone that often
snuck into Andrew's voice when he was going to say something
"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
"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
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.
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
"But what?" the angel questioned.
JenniAnn laughed. "But what what?"
Andrew grinned. "You're mulling over something. I
"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
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...
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
"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
"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
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
"Then it's the 20th!"
"Happy birthday, Andrew!" JenniAnn kissed his cheek.
"May the year ahead bring you many blessings and much, much
"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
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
"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
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.
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
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.)