β€œIt's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out.
Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Hi all,

I've been working on a story since shortly after the Christchurch mosque attacks in March.  Due to various personal events, it's been slow going.  Thankfully, I've been in the right mood today and writing for much of the afternoon.  Because of that, I didn't want to interrupt the flow by writing a newsletter so, instead, I'm sending another excerpt from that still in progress story.  Sadly, since I began this story, there have been several more mass shootings including at least two over the weekend.  It makes me even more committed to finishing this one.  However, I do want to warn anyone considering reading this that while this excerpt doesn't contain an account of a mass shooting, there is violence and it does feature characters grappling with feeling safe in public.  If that's not something you feel prepared to read, please skip this newsletter.

Thank you.  As always, prayers for those who have been impacted... and prayers for our leaders who need to figure this out and put an end to it... and prayers for all of us who can change our corner of the world for the better.

God bless,

Another excerpt from "The Messiah" (working title), previous installment can be found here (http://www.newsletters.onthisside.net/jabb546story.html):

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

The following morning, Andrew and JenniAnn made their way to the Fields of Gold.  After JenniAnn let out a troubled-sounding sigh, Andrew clasped her hand and brought it to his lips.

"Laja, what is it?"

JenniAnn shook her head, bringing herself out of her thoughts.

"Nothing.  Sorry.  Just... I hope this goes well.  I've enjoyed having Takoda with us.  And I look forward to him remaining with us for a while longer but... I'm not sure I'll be able to control my emotions if he gives Joshua a hard time.  And that's not really fair.  I've been angry at God before.  Just... not when he's been right here.  Where... where I can see his eyes well and... and the way he clenches his hand when... when you know he wants to reach out and touch someone but he knows that would be unwanted and..."

Andrew ceased walking and pulled JenniAnn into his arms.

"Even if that happens... and I'm not saying it will because Takoda's made a lot of progress... you'll be around.  I'll be around.  The kids will be around.  And now Joshua has a whole other set of friends at the mosque.  And he'll be surrounded by our Friends at every opportunity.  He won't be starved for affection, Laja."

"I know...  But it's not as if you'd feel okay if, say, Max shunned you... even if Belle was especially cuddly at the same time."

"No...  I wouldn't be okay.  But I'd also know that you... Rose... likely others would be working on Max... trying to encourage a reconciliation.  And that would help me."

JenniAnn nodded.

"Yes...  And I spose that's part of it.  I... I don't know what I can really say to Takoda.  'I'm sorry your assignments were ruthlessly killed for no good reason.  But look... here's Joshua.  Isn't he awesome?  You can't really be mad at him, can you?'  I don't understand why bad things happen to good people.  I don't know why God sometimes seems to orchestrate miraculous rescues and at other times... doesn't.  I don't know why He sometimes lets you intervene... and sometimes you just have to standby and await the inevitable and... and pick up the pieces afterwards.  But... I... I still don't want to see Him hurt."

Andrew rested his cheek against her hair and closed his eyes.  He had known Takoda's anger... felt it in every fiber of his human form as he'd looked down upon his lady, not knowing if she would wake up from the coma that Rex Remus had put her in.  But she had.  Takoda's assignments had not.

"And he just..."

Andrew peered into JenniAnn's eyes.

"Just what, Laja?"

"I dunno...  Maybe it's just me.  But... Joshua just seems... I dunno...  More... vulnerable than usual.  I mean... I know he's not but..."

Andrew frowned.

"He can be vulnerable, Laja.  Just like any of us.  I think the recent spate of religiously-targeted violence has been especially hard on him."

"Yeah..."  JenniAnn sniffled. 

"And you weren't there that time Emma ran away.  To see him then..."  Andrew, his eyes welling, shook his head.

JenniAnn gripped Andrew's hand tightly.

"I'm sure...  And I can think of other instances, too.  But this just seems like an over-arching sort of... something.  But you're probably right.  I mean... violence in his own houses... where people go to worship him and his Dad..."

"Are you... worried about being at the health fair?" Andrew asked as casually as possible, not wanting to further worry JenniAnn.

"Not really.  I mean Matthew and Tyron promised to have security there.  Are you... worried about my being there?"

Andrew bowed his head.

"Maybe a little."

"Do you... not want me to go?"

Andrew looked JenniAnn in the eyes and adamantly shook his head.

"Laja, it's important to you... to Joshua...  I wouldn't ask you to stay behind when our friends all plan to be there... when I plan to be there.  And besides..."  The color briefly drained from Andrew's face.

"I wasn't safe outside a building... a safe place... owned by my own cousin," JenniAnn expressed on her beloved's behalf.

Andrew only nodded.

"You just never know..." JenniAnn murmured.

"No... you don't."  Andrew let out a deep breath.  "But we do know that God is always with us so..."

JenniAnn stretched up to kiss him then smiled.

"Fear not!"

Andrew returned her smile and nodded.

The couple walked in companionable, peaceful silence as they finished their trek to Takoda's cabin.


Takoda sat on a hill staring out at the horizon and the two figures slowly and haltingly making their way towards him.  He already knew the news they were bringing him.  Wahkan had tipped him off the night before.

He was no longer the lone house guest at Willowveil.

Joshua was back.

The young angel closed his eyes, revisiting the past months.  He had been irritated when his supervisor had insisted he stay at Willowveil with Andrew and his anam cara.  Takoda had never heard of such a thing and, in truth, resented Andrew.  JenniAnn was there... brought back from the brink of death... to dote on him... to dance with him... to hold him close.  Andrew had a piece of heaven even when he was in the mortal realms...

But, in the end, the family had simply been too charming, too lovable for Takoda to sustain his bad attitude.  It was impossible to hold a grudge against Andrew when, on a near daily basis, Takoda heard Avi's and Belle's glee when their father returned home.  Andrew would scoop each child up and pepper their faces with kisses as he spun them around, more vigorously for sturdy Belle and more gently for little Avi.  In those moments, even as he smiled over his new friends' happiness, Takoda felt a stirring in his heart and a rock in the pit of his belly... longing for his own Father and Brother.

Most of the time, his work with Adam kept Takoda's mind off the pain of his self-imposed exile.  There were flowers to plant at the Chrysalis, animals to tend in Dyeland and Albany, food to be delivered to True Light, sets to paint at St. Genesius'.  But Adam was by no means a slave driver.  Takoda always had hours of his day to fill and sometimes he spent the time wandering Willowveil.  Numerous times he had caught JenniAnn, sitting quietly in the chapel, gazing at Joshua's portrait... or in the kitchen, cradling his golden mug... or tidying up his room, her fingers lightly brushing the handle of Joshua's hair brush or the sleeve of a sweater left hung over the back of a chair.

For the first ten of his twenty nine years, Takoda had resided solely in Heaven.  He'd had stints in the Choir, in Records, and, his favorite, the Reliquary.  In all places, Joshua was a constant presence.  It had never occurred to the angel that he was someone to be missed, to be longed for. 

A tear trickled down the angel's face.  Now he knew the feeling all too well.  And, unlike for JenniAnn, it was not a "clean" longing.  She kept Joshua's room at the ready, always eager to welcome him back.  Takoda had pushed him away.

In nineteen years of casework on Native American reservations with Wahkan, Takoda had never truly felt distanced from Joshua or from the Father.  Even when he couldn't see them, he felt them.

Until that night...

Takoda screwed his eyes shut as the sound of shrieking tires reverberated through his memory.  Daniel was shouting expletives as he tried to steer the car away from their pursuers.  In the backseat, Robin was weeping, begging her brother to hurry.  And Takoda had been praying fervently for his assignments, his friends. 

The car had side-swiped them, sending them veering off the road.  Daniel had tried to regain control of the Jeep but he'd hit an ice patch and hadn't been able to keep from plowing into a guardrail. 

Everything had gone black then.  The next thing Takoda had known, he was in a field of wildflowers.  Wahkan sat next to him, eyes closed as he sang a prayer in Sioux... a prayer meant to help guide the dead into the Hereafter and offer hope and healing to those left behind.

And the two angels had not been alone in the field...


Friday, January 4th, 2019

"Where am I?" Takoda murmured groggily as he sat up.

Wahkan's singing stopped.

"On Joshua's island," he answered.

"Why...  Where are..."

Takoda noticed an approaching figure...  Joshua Himself.  His face lit up.

"Joshua!"  He rose to his feet and embraced his Creator.

Joshua held him tightly.

"Takoda... my own..." he murmured as he cupped the angel's face.

Takoda began to feel wobbily when he saw the tears in Joshua's eyes.

"Daniel... Robin...  Where..." 

Wahkan approached and set a hand on his protege's back.

"Home.  They're Home, Takoda," Joshua answered, his voice tender and gravelly with emotion.

"The... the car crash?" Takoda implored.  "They... they were following us.  They thought Daniel was hitting on one of their girls but..."  He shook his head.  "He... he was just being friendly.  You know Daniel..."

"I do," Joshua affirmed.  "When people are filled with hate... they don't need a reason to lash out."

Takoda plopped down on the ground and wept.

"But... but... they were wearing seat belts!  I always made sure of that!"

Joshua knelt beside the angel.  He nodded and smiled sadly.

"I know.  And they were.  Takoda... Daniel and Robin weren't killed by the initial impact."

Shocked, Takoda stared at Joshua.

"The... the men in the car... they got out.  They shot and killed Daniel and... and then..."  A new wave of tears cascaded down Joshua's face.  He tightly gripped one of Takoda's hands in both of his. 

"No..." the angel muttered.  "No...  Not... not Robin..."

Joshua stared up at the sky, briefly closing his eyes as he spoke with his Father.  After a shuddering sigh, he refocused his attention on his angel.

"They raped her.  Then they... they shot her, too.  They brought her back to... to the car.  And they started a fire..."

"Takoda, I am so very sorry," Wahkan whispered.  "You did everything..."

Eyes blazing, Takoda nodded.

"I did everything I could," he finished as he pulled his hand away from Joshua.  "But he didn't."

Joshua reached out to caress Takoda's face but he crawled backwards.

"Takoda..." Wahkan intoned in a warning tone.

Takoda jumped to his feet and pointed to where Joshua knelt.

"You could have stopped them!" he shouted as he bawled.  "You could have saved them!  You could have let me save them!  Instead you... you what?  Knocked me out?"

"You hit your head during the crash, Takoda," Wahkan explained.  "Your human form..."

"He could have shielded my human form!  So I could have shielded them!  How... how many of us is he going to let them murder?" Takoda shrieked.

"Takoda!  Stop it!" Wahkan rebuked, grabbing for the younger angel.

Joshua rose to his feet. 

"It wasn't my will... nor Dad's will... that a single life be lost in violence.  But we gave them... you... humans and angels both... free will.  Because we didn't want blind obedience.  We... we wanted you to know freedom... to know love.  Takoda..."

The angel jerked away when Joshua again reached out for him.

"No...  I...  No..."  With a final shake of his head, Takoda turned away and fled.  He ran and ran until he found himself on a familiar road... the road leading into the reservation where he had spent many happy years before his time with Daniel, Robin, and their tribe.

And there he had remained until Wahkan had found him and brought him to Willowveil.


Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

After brushing away some tears, Takoda closed the distance between himself and his approaching hosts.

"Good morning," he greeted.

"G'morning, Takoda."  JenniAnn smiled and embraced the angel.  "How was your night?"

"Good.  Relaxing.  Thoughtful...  Wahkan told me about your... house guest."

Andrew nodded.

"I was hoping he might."

"Is he still at the castle?"

"Yeah.  He's leaving a little before 9:00.  For the day, anyway.  I think he's planning to come back after his work is done," Andrew explained, trying to gauge Takoda's reaction.


"Joshua is helping a mosque in Manhattan get their grounds in order for Symphonia's health fair," JenniAnn chirped.  "We didn't even know til some of us had a meeting there yesterday.  He's already made quite an impression!"

"Of course he has."  Takoda sighed.  "Well, no sense avoiding the inevitable."

"You don't have to see him," JenniAnn insisted.  "Not if you're not ready."

Takoda was humbled by the uneasy tone in her voice.  It was obvious she couldn't imagine not wanting to spend time with Joshua.  But she'd never done what he had...

"No.  I'm ready."

"Can I help you carry anything?" Andrew offered.

Takoda slung a backpack over his shoulder and shook his head.

"No.  I'm fine.  Thanks."  He offered the couple an encouraging smile and then began the near-silent, pensive trek back to Willowveil.


"Did you talk like this when you were alive the first time?"

Joshua wiped some milk away from around Avi's mouth before giving Belle his attention.

"No.  I didn't even speak English.  I spoke a language called Aramaic."

"Can you still speak Airmaic?"


"Okay... how do you say... airplane in Aramaic?"

Joshua laughed.

"Airplanes didn't exist then.  So... we didn't have a word for them."

"Oh.  Do you think I'll ever go on an airplane?"

"I do."

Belle's face lit up and she sighed happily before gulping down a spoonful of Froot Loops.

Joshua smiled and readjusted Avi, who was finished with his bottle, so he'd have a better view of his big sister.



"Did you remember me when you lived then?"

Joshua looked tenderly at the little girl.  She was too young to fully understand what he had and hadn't known then... what he'd given up and what he'd retained.  No, Yeshua ben Yosef had not known of a little girl named Annabelle Luna Chandler-Darcy.  But he had loved her.  He had carried her in his heart... to and beyond his last breath.

"I did.  Yes.  I loved you and your mama and daddy and Avi and Shelby and Violeta and Max and all the people who came before and all the people who would come after and all the people alive then."


Joshua chuckled.

"You gonna come back here after your job?"

"I was hoping to.  You think your Mama and Daddy would let me?" he asked, his eyes gleaming.

"Yeah!  And even if they wouldn't, you could still stay with me."

Joshua tousled Belle's girls.

"Well, thank you.  I appreciate that.  So how do you like having Takoda around?"

"He's nice.  He plays with me and my dolls.  He's not very good at doing their hair, though."

Joshua laughed.

"Well, it takes some skill.  I'm not very good at doing hair, either.  Thank you for being so kind to Takoda, Belle."

She shrugged.

"Easy to be nice to."

"Yeah..."  Joshua rested his cheek against Avi's hair.

Belle slurped up her tinted milk then slid off her chair. 

"I'm gonna go check on Harvey."  She puckered her lips.

"Okay."  Joshua leaned so she could kiss his cheek before running off to see to her bunny.

Avi let out a happy gurgle.

"Anything you'd like to ask me?" Joshua checked, grinning at the little fellow. 

Avi grinned back.

Laughing, Joshua snuggled the baby close as he cleared the table.


JenniAnn rushed into the kitchen and took a cereal bowl from him.

"You don't need to..."

"It's nothing.  Part of being a good baby-sitter," he insisted.

"I suppose..."

"Is he..."

JenniAnn nodded.

"In the ballroom."


"Avi, sweet pea, why don't you come to Mama for a bit..."

The boy let out a squeaky growl in protest which only made his mother and Joshua giggle. 

"Poor love..." JenniAnn cooed as she cradled him.  "Maybe one day you'll have a bit more of a commanding presence like your Appa."

Never angry for long, Avi smiled at his mother.

Joshua kissed the infant's hands then peered at JenniAnn.

"So... I guess I'll head to the ballroom."

With her free arm, JenniAnn hugged the carpenter.

"It'll be good.  He's nervous but I think he really wants to see you.  I'll be praying it goes well."

Joshua smiled and squeezed her hand.

"Thank you.  I appreciate the prayers and you and Andrew arranging this."

"Our pleasure."  JenniAnn gave Joshua an encouraging smile then redirected her attention to Avi.  "Now... how about we get some breakfast started for Mr. Takoda, huh, love?"

Joshua smiled as he left the kitchen to the sound of Avi squealing happily. 

Once he'd reached the ballroom, he paused in the doorway and studied Takoda.

The angel was pacing the room, running his fingers along the windowsills.  He paused in one particular spot... the spot where Joshua's handprint had remained for so many years.


He jolted and turned around to face Joshua before immediately bowing his head.


"I'm so glad to see you.  Would you like to sit down?"

Takoda nodded and sunk into one of the window seats.  Joshua joined him, careful not to crowd him.

"How have you been enjoying your time here and working with Adam?" he politely inquired.

"I have.  A lot.  Enjoyed it, I mean.  Andrew, JenniAnn, the kids, Adam... they're all great.  And the Friends... they're a fun bunch.  And with Wahkan and Marty checking up on me...  I've not been lonesome."

Joshua smiled.


"And... how have you been?  You're... working at a mosque?"

"Yep.  Carpentry, masonry, some landscaping.  Old habits die hard."

Takoda chuckled.

"Guess so."

"I've been pleased with you, Takoda," Joshua assured.  "I know this has been a difficult time but... you've done well.  I've particularly enjoyed watching you with our little Belle.  I also admired your stint as St. Patrick during Joccy's demonstration for the little Friends."

Takoda's laughter increased. 

"I think I might have been the first ever Native American St. Patrick."

Joshua smiled gently.

Takoda cleared his throat.

"Sorry...  I realize I'm not really..."

"You've bonded so closely with your assignments that you identify with them.  That's not a bad thing, Takoda.  And you are in the form of a Native American man.  You don't have to apologize for..."

"But I need to apologize for how I acted.  My... my heart still breaks for Daniel and Robin and their loved ones.  And... and for me.  I miss them.  But... I... I shouldn't have thrown that up at you.  If anyone knows what it is to feel persecuted..."

Takoda bowed his head and wept.

Joshua closed the distance between them and gently stroked the angel's back.

"Takoda, I weep whenever any of my children are harmed.  And when it comes about for no other reason than someone hates them on account of their race... or gender... or religion... or sexual orientation... I grieve even more as does Dad.  Yes, I know what it is to be despised because of my religion, the color of my skin.  And... I know my angels aren't immune from that.  I'm sorry, Takoda, that you had to face such hate.  But you weren't alone.  Daniel and Robin weren't alone.  Never, ever alone.  But... if I tore away the gun from every hand... lowered every hand raised in anger... muted every hateful word... there would be no freedom, no choice.  My beautiful, glorious creation would be nothing but automatons.  That isn't what I wanted... that isn't what our Father wanted, Takoda."

Nodding but unable to speak, the angel leaned over and rested his head on Joshua's shoulder.

Joshua embraced him tightly and kissed his hair, sighing happily.  His prodigal was back.


To be continued...

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye and the cast and crew of TBAA who offered us comfort during so many times of sadness.

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(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.)