The pen rolled silently across the table before falling to the floor. It could have made all the noise in the world, for there was no one there to hear it drop.
They would find her in the morning or the next day. Those were her last thoughts. Funny how it wasn’t her life flashing, or regrets, that flew across the remaining embers of her thoughts. No, it was wondering how long it would be until they discovered her dead body collapsed over her writing desk. She felt sorry for the inconvenience of it all, but she was ready to go.
There was a slight tug and shift as she left her body and began the ascent. Looking back, she felt the pull to return. It was as if death was lifting her, and life was trying to pull her back. She rose slightly and felt the tug again. It would tear her in two if it continued, and she wouldn’t even feel it. The only thing she felt was weightless…and anchored simultaneously.
Her gaze dropped to the note she had written. She thought she would feel sad, but she didn’t feel anything. A gentle peace had settled on her.
There had never been any time for relationships or children when she was younger. The corporate odds had been stacked against her, making her more determined to succeed. At 27, she was the youngest director the company had ever seen. By 35, she was CEO and on the board. By the time she had risen the proverbial ladder, it was too late.
Funny that she never missed having what she didn’t have back then. It was only as her hair began to grey and early retirement came about that she realized she was alone. The doctors told her she would know when the end was near. It would be difficult to breathe or do anything. Her heart was failing, and there was nothing they could do. ‘Put your affairs in order.’ It was said without emotion. She supposed they must say it a hundred times a day.
She glanced back down at the letter. To whom it may concern…there was nobody. Again, she started the ascent, and once more, she felt the tug pulling her back. What was she missing?
She didn’t have to look around. He appeared out of thin air. Even without his majestic wings, laced with white and silver shimmering as he floated in front of her, she would have known him for what he was. He was the most beautiful being she had ever seen.
“Just wait. It gets better,” he smiled.
He must have been fifteen feet or taller, yet she didn’t feel small in his presence. The features of his face were indescribable, blurred out by the light that shone from, through and around him. It didn’t blind her, though it should have, for it radiated like the sun and wrapped her in warmth just the same.
“It’s nice of you to come and escort me.” She thought it but knew the words were spoken, even if not aloud.
“I’m here to help you. I will return for the escorting later. There is still work to be done. You have unfinished business.” He pointed at the golden thread that shimmered between her ankle and the wrist of her now lifeless body. Funny, she hadn’t seen it before.
“I can’t imagine what is left. I’ve put all my affairs in order, and everything is tidy. I expect it will be the cleaning lady who finds me. I’ve even left a small amount for the inconvenience of having to deal with that.”
“Watch.” He turned his gaze to where she sat slumped over her papers.
It was a twinkling. That is the only way she could describe being pulled back into her body. Her appendages felt like dead weight as she struggled to lift her head.
The Angel was still there. She could tell by the soft glow of light that surrounded her. She wasn’t in pain but could not move and struggled to speak.
“Fear not, for help is here.”
As she struggled to reach out and say, ‘don’t go,’ he vanished. Her hand hit the mug beside her, and it crashed to the floor. Continuing to struggle, she realized now that she was in the middle of a stroke.
There was a knock on the door and then a loud crash.
“Helena, it’s me. Good Lord, what has happened?”
The man ran to the phone and dialed 911. He told them to hurry, his friend was having a stroke, and then rushed over to her.
“They’re on their way, Helena.” His voice was gentle, almost soft. It definitely was not the usual gruffness she had heard every single morning for the past thirty years. He held her head and began to pray.
“Dear Lord, please don’t take my Helena yet. She doesn’t know it, but I love her dearly, and I’d be lost without the sight of her each day. Please, Lord, we still need her. I need her.”
She must be delusional, for he clearly could not love her. They barely spoke. She had always tried to be friendly, taking dinners down to him when she made big dishes. He had been widowed many years ago, not long after he had married. He had no children and never remarried. She thought of him as a lonely old Scrooge.
A few days passed after the surgery, and she was deemed well enough to return home as long as she had assistance. She was lucky, they said. The stroke was repairable, and they found a minuscule issue with her heart valve, which was repaired. They hadn’t been able to see it before. Recovery would take time, so she needed to ensure someone was always with her for the next few months. A full recovery was expected.
She was at a loss. “I was prepared to die, expecting it, actually.”
Again, they asked if she had someone who could assist her at home. They could not release her without help which meant they would need to find a temporary nursing home for her unless there was someone she could call.
Sadly, she shook her head. “I’ve no one.”
“Not true. You have me.” He leaned against the door frame. Even now, in his sixties, he was dashing. His was a solid build, not quite stocky, definitely not heavy. His hair had whitened only at the sides, giving him that distinguish looked men of his age seemed to have. Why was it that women always looked older and men distinguished? Those blue eyes looked at her as if waiting for a response.
“I couldn’t, you couldn’t,” was all she managed to mutter.
“I can, and I will.” As if to prove that fact, he pushed the wheelchair over to her bedside and began to help her get out of bed.
Slapping his hands away, she muttered, “I can do it myself.”
“I’m sure you can, but I’m helping regardless. Doctors orders.” There seemed to be a twinkle in his eyes though he tried hard not to smile and maintain his gruff exterior.
She sat up and began to rise. As if to prove him right, she slumped as soon as she tried to stand. She sagged right into his waiting arms.
“I’ve got you,” he whispered.
She could feel the warmth of his breath on her neck as strong arms supported her and began easing her into the waiting wheelchair. Something deep inside her stirred.
“Now, let’s get you to that unfinished business you kept muttering about.”
The look of surprise was plainly displayed on her face. How could he have known about the conversation? She stared at him while she tried to put the pieces together. The nurse leaned over and quietly, so only the two of them would hear, whispered, “He’s been here since they brought you in. He would only leave to go home to shower and get fresh clothes. You kept repeating the words unfinished business when they first brought you in.”
“William, why would you do this for me? We hardly know each other.”
“Consider it payback for all those wonderful meals you cooked me over the years, and let’s leave it at that.”
There was a tugging at her heart. Something about when he found her, but she couldn’t quite recollect. Maybe he was the unfinished business, although she couldn’t begin to imagine what business she would have with him.
Reluctantly, she agreed to allow him to help her. Together they decided her place would be best as she had a spare room he could stay in. This way, he would be right there if anything happened or she needed him.
She was surprised to see the door taped closed and looked up at him with the unspoken question.
“Yes, well, there was a crash, and when you didn’t answer the door, I,” he hesitated, “well, I kicked it in. Good bloody job, too, or you’d be deader than a doorknob. No pun intended.” He watched as she studied him. “Don’t worry. It’ll get repaired tomorrow. I’ve already called them.”
It came rushing back to her. She remembered him praying over her after he called for the ambulance. He had said he loved her. She must have blushed, for he said she looked flushed and raced to get her a drink of water.
For the next few weeks, he fussed over her. She gave up fighting it and sat quietly listening to his stories of the past. He had grown up in a church, a pastor’s son. Eventually, he left and joined the army, where he met his wife. He was a Chaplain but quit his job after she died. Hit by a drunk driver who should’ve known better.
“You need to forgive him, and yourself.”
“What do you know of forgiveness? You don’t even go to church.” It was a rather judgemental statement, and she told him so.
“One doesn’t have to attend church to be close to God. My work kept me busy, but I always made time every day to pray and read my bible. Don’t you lecture me, mister Chaplain, who is Chaplain no more. You abandoned your post, and for that, you need to ask God to forgive you, but more importantly, you have to forgive yourself for letting sorrow and anger overshadow your faith and then get back to your duties of assisting the living .”
He didn’t know what to say, so he muttered, “I’m doing that with you, aren’t I?”
What else could he say? She was right. It frustrated him that she was. His wife’s death wasn’t God’s fault. He had abandoned his chapel and those who depended on him. Worse, he had closed himself off from love. Well, no more. He quietly got up and walked out of the apartment without a word.
It was a few hours before he returned. He held roses and chocolates in his hand. Somehow he managed to look as awkward as a teenager on his first date standing in front of a girl’s parents. She just watched and waited, giving him room.
“First, I’m sorry for just walking out and not saying a word. That was wrong.” He handed her the box of chocolates. “Second, thank you. You were right. I went to church and had a long talk with God.” He handed her the flowers, then he smiled. It was a beautiful smile meant for her and her alone. She felt it from the top of her head to the tip of her toes.
“Well, thank you. you are forgiven.” She smiled back at him with a twinkle in her eyes. It wasn’t that she liked to be right, but she was happy that she was for some reason.
“I’m not finished,” he said it more gruffly than he had intended. Clearing his throat, he pulled out a small box from his pocket. “Third, I love you and want you to marry me. I’ve loved you for a very long time, and it angered me that I was invisible to you for most of it. I held out hope when you brought dinners down to me, even if I knew they were pity plates.”
Helena needed time to think. His statement shocked her. She said the first thing she could think of, “They were not pity plates. They were ‘there’s too much food here’ plates.” She supposed they were pity plates of a sort, but it always did her heart good to give them to him.
Bringing her attention back to the point at hand, which had momentarily stunned her, she looked back at him and said, “I didn’t hear a question. Did you mean to ask me a question?
He looked startled, which amused her for some reason. She already had decided that she would say yes. She had been waiting for him her whole life. She just didn’t know it until now.
“Will you marry me?”
He was as shocked as she, if not more so. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to marry her. He just figured he’d have to persuade her into it. Walking over, he placed the ring on her finger, hugged her and leaned his forehead against hers. “I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.” It was the first of many moments to come.
They lived happily for years. Since neither of them had any children, they began visiting the orphanage in town and playing with the children. They both agreed that when the time came, they would leave all their money to the kids, so there was always a place for them. Over the years, as the children grew, they stayed in touch. Theirs was a bigger family than anyone could have hoped for.
When the time finally came for her to return home, she held his hands in hers and thanked him. “You were my unfinished business. Thank you for rescuing me and loving me. We’ll be waiting for you, my love.”
His eyes glistened with tears as he bent to give her one last kiss. He knew what she meant by ‘we,’ and it warmed his heart. “I’ll be coming soon. Thank you for a wonderful life and for loving this grumpy old man.”
She saw the Angel and smiled. He had returned as promised to take her home. Silently she prayed as she looked around the room one last time, “Thank you, God, for these gifts of love and sending my Angel back to guide me home.”
So it was, with a smile on her face, a gentle kiss on her lips, surrounded by many of their grown orphaned children, that she passed on and returned home.
If you liked this faith story, you can find others on the Faith Stories link on Leslie’s website.