Azrael was not happy Jannie had disappeared. He could not sense her anywhere. He knew that she must be in a very high vibration area and for some reason he was not welcome. He asked many of the other angels who had taught her and they feigned ignorance of her whereabouts. He knew that she was doing what she was called to do and ultimately they would be working together by the sheer nature of his work, but he did not like be excluded from her afterlife.
Finally his frustration brought him to the Master’s city; surely he would know where she was. He entered the city from above, landing within feet of the Master who was deeply involved in a discussion with one of the Elders. Azrael impatiently paced back and forth between the pillars of the great hall, his energy echoing with each footstep. Finally the Elder made a small bow and left the side of the Master, glaring at Azrael as he passed by.
“Azrael, you seemed distressed my friend. What counsel may I offer you?” The Master spoke quite formally.
Azrael almost growled, “Seriously? You know why I am here. Where is she? Where have you taken her?” His desperation had mounted a defensive attitude not often seen in this city.
“Calm yourself, my brother,” the Master purred, “It is unangelic of you to speak in such a tone.”
Azrael remembered himself and fell to his knees, “Please forgive me, Master, but I cannot find her. No one will tell me where she is. Please, I need to know,” he beseeched.
“Azrael, she is quite safe, no harm will come to her, you know this. She is doing God’s work with my Mother in one of the healing villages,” he looked at him pointedly, “Now stand up and let us walk and discuss this,” he commanded.
Azrael sheepishly got up and listened to the words the Master had to say, knowing full well what they would be, “Azrael, you are not to go to these places, you know the souls there are often so damaged, well let us just say, that seeing you again might cause them undo distress.” They walked down the corridors of his temple to a small inner space where a single rose bush grew amidst the crystal walls. “She is learning what she needs to know to help those you will soon bring over; you must be patient, my friend. I know she is special to you,” he looked directly at the angel with no judgment but pure love. “It will not be an eternity, my friend,” he half teased.
Azrael blushed, “I’m sorry,” he stammered, “I just somehow feel connected, somehow responsible for her,” he stammered.
“She is in good hands!” The Master picked a fully bloomed white rose and handed it to the Angel of Death. Its meaning was not lost on Azrael, it symbolized honor and true love from time out of mind. The Master then spoke, “She will reappear in the Great Meadow when the last petal falls and not until. Then you two will have work to do.”
Azrael gingerly took the rose, the petals did not shirk in his presence, he must be patient he knew. “Thank you for letting me know, no one else would tell me,” he confessed.
“Because Azrael, had they told you we both know what you would have done. Be patient my friend. I must go now,” As the Master turned to leave he touched the rose and one delicate petal fluttered down to the floor and he laughed heartily, “Soon, my friend, soon,” and then he vanished.
Time was passing and the Great Sorrow had receded into the background of Becca’s life. She could still feel it, it was always there, the thought that life was unfair, that little girls could die and that the Angel of Death, Azrael had visited her not long after her cousin’s death. The Great Sorrow had a way of burrowing into her soul, never leaving once it found her, always reminding her that life was a temporary state.
Becca couldn’t dwell on this, but sometimes it would reemerge and take hold of her so strongly that she became paralyzed in her sadness. She would be speechless for days, wandering around her aunt’s house looking for someone who wasn’t there. She would inevitably end up in the same place, Jannie’s room.
She would plop down on her bed and gently finger the unused bed. Wishing and hoping for a sign that her cousin was somewhere, anywhere. At first the scent of her cousin was still in her room, the scent of sickness mixed with little girl, but that too disappeared as the days and months and even years went by. The room became a sterile reminder of her once friend.
Her Aunt Sarah would find her curled on like a cat on the end of the bed weeping. “Now, now Becca, come my darling girl,” she would coo. Her aunt would hug her like no one else in the world, an exchange of emotion waved between them. It was understood that there was nothing to be done. They clung to each other like two survivors lost on a roiling sea of sorrow, only having each other.
Becca’s mother would scold her, “Leave your poor aunt alone, you make her cry! Stay out of her house, she has enough to worry about without you being up in that poor girls’ room!”
Becca’s sister would bring her no comfort either, “Stop being such a cry baby. You didn’t have cancer! You didn’t die! You’d think it was all about you! Grow up brat!” she would insist. But Becca could see it in both their eyes, they felt it too, they didn’t know what to do with it, the Great Sorrow, so they were both mean.
Becca’s Dad was another story. He would hold her in his lap and stroke her hair and call her his lass, after he had his fill of drink. He became more sentimental the darker the night got. By the time Becca was ready for bed, her Mom would be screaming at her Dad and she would be pushed off to bed, alone and lost in her world.
Alone in her room Becca would pray for her cousin. She prayed and prayed but never again saw the golden orbs that Azrael had shown her that day in the cedar. So she imagined the golden orbs, slowly floating up to heaven, finding their way to Jannie, who would smile knowing Becca had sent them. Becca also prayed that Azrael would leave her alone; she didn’t want anything to do with him. He had said some frightful things to her and she was only five then, she was well past eight now.
She didn’t realize she had fallen asleep, or perhaps she was awake, she couldn’t tell, but suddenly she saw Jannie sitting on her bed looking older and wiser than her earth years.
“Hey,coz, how are you?” she smiled. Her skin was luminescent and her eyes still radiated their mirth.
“Jannie, is that you? Oh my God! You are alive!” Becca exclaimed sitting up in her bed.
“No, not in the earthly sense, but I am alive in my world. Listen we need to talk…”
“What? What? Oh God, whose next?” Becca began to panic.
Jannie laughed, “No, silly it’s not that! I just wanted to talk to you about, well your life, your choices, you know, that stuff.”
“Oh? What do you mean, I’m only eight. You look so much older, how did you do that?” Becca asked.
“Well, we do grow older in the spirit world, somewhere to around thirty I think. Anyway, that’s not important. I want you to stop being afraid of Azrael, he really is a wonderful Angel.”
“Jannie, he’s the Angel of Death! Death, you know, like dead, dead, dead!” Becca was astounded by her cousins’ demeanor, so calm and loving and talking about death.
“Yes, I know who he is, but you don’t. Death is just a change; it’s like walking from one room to another, or going away on a long vacation. It doesn’t hurt to die, it hurts to live! Anyway, Azrael is going to work with us, you and me. See everybody over on my side has jobs too and I want you and me to work together!”
“What? How?” Becca was confused.
“I am learning how to help other children who pass over become comfortable with the idea of being in Heaven without their families. I want to help, so they aren’t scared. I want you to learn how to help them from your side.”
“What? I don’t understand. And how does Azrael help? He steals you from your body and takes you away!” Becca said.
“No, he guides souls to the spirit world and brings them to a place where they will feel safe and loved. He was so nice to me! He really wants us to help him, we have had long talks.”
“This is creepy! I don’t like this, not one bit! Stop talking like this!” Becca’s fear was screaming out.
Jannie looked at her and began to fade, shaking her head sadly from side to side. “No, no please come back, please!” Becca called out in her dream. Then there was just emptiness in her dream. She shot up in her bed and rubbed her eyes looking at the end of the bed where she thought her cousin had been. There was only darkness. She was scared and she began to cry, she cried herself back to sleep.
The morning sun nudged her awake, she groaned and rolled over hoping sleep would take her back, but then a fragment of the previous night’s dream seeped back into her mind. She opened her eyes and looked over at the end of her bed, she couldn’t believe her eyes. There on the edge of her bed was a piece of a cedar branch; shivers ran up and down her body.