Azrael came for the last child, Victoria, the three year old who had come through first to her parents. She was laughing as Jannie pushed her on the swing. Azrael watched Jannie and the child for some time, he almost regretted having to take the child from her, the children had become a common bond between them. Without them Azrael wasn’t sure how often he would even see Jannie.
She sensed his presence and called out to him, “Azrael, you’ve come at last! Victoria is ready and so anxious to go with you!” The little girl flew off the swing and ran into his arms. He scooped her up and placed her on his shoulders between his massive wings, the girl laughed with delight. Azrael had changed, his heart had grown, he felt things he had never felt before, he wondered if this too had been God’s plan. Surely he must have known that Azrael would change in her love.
“Jannie, will you wait here for me? I need to speak with you,” Azrael nervously asked.
Jannie looked curiously at him, “Is everything all right? I mean, you aren’t bringing me more children are you?” her tone was concerned.
“No, no, it’s not that, I just want to talk to you after I bring this little ball of light to her destination.” Victoria giggled and pulled at his wings, “Hey, little one, if those fall off we’re both in trouble,” Azrael joked. He looked back at Jannie for her answer.
“Sure, I’ll wait for you, I have an eternity,” she half laughed. She waved goodbye to Victoria and Azrael. She watched as they became a speck in the muted sky.
Azrael was at the gate of the Garden of Remembering, he instructed the little girl as he had instructed those before her, “Good bye, my angel! I hope you and Jannie get married some day!” Victoria said in her child- like innocence. Azrael felt odd as he watched the girl scamper down the path to the jade fountain where her guide had waited ever so patiently for her arrival.
He turned his thoughts back to the Great Meadow but sensed he was being summoned. He followed the summons to the Council of Elders. These were twelve wise and highly developed spirits who over saw the levels of heaven. Their hall was Grecian in architecture, with cool walls of quartz in all its hues. He bowed before their crescent shaped table addressing the highest one.
“You have summoned me?” Azrael said formally.
“Azrael, God’s servant, you were well to come. It has brought to our attention that you have, shall we say, developed some interesting qualities,” the wise one began. Azrael stood with head bowed, although he was an angel he came under the jurisdictions of these beings, he worked in their land, in their levels of God’s country.
“Have I faltered in my work?” Azrael asked.
“No, no. Azrael you remain steadfast in your mission, that is not the issue.”
“Then what is the issue?” Azrael was becoming increasingly nervous.
“Your perspective is changing. We fear you may not be able to fulfill your duties in the future if this is a trend.”
“I can assure you, I am fully capable of fulfilling my duties. I have done such from the beginning of man,” Azrael defended himself.
“Perhaps, perhaps not. It remains to be seen,” the Wise One said.
“Then what have I done that makes you question my devotion?” Azrael asked.
“It is quite obvious you have fallen in love with a human soul.” The Wise One spoke quietly as he pronounced his apparent misdeed. “Do you deny this?”
Azrael looked lost or worse, found out. There was no hiding his emotions in this realm, all thoughts were transparent, all thoughts were for anyone to see if they wished to. It had never occurred to him that anyone would question his capabilities or his devotion. He flustered, “I don’t see how this impacts my work. I have been faithful to my undertakings. I have always done God’s will.”
“Yes, you have been God’s faithful servant, always. Perhaps it is time you passed the torch to another and found a different way to serve God.”
Azrael was stunned, “What? I don’t understand. Because I love, which is what God wants all of his creation to do, you wish to take away my purpose?”
“Azrael, you have evolved. It happens to all of us. I was not always who I appear to be now. We all continue to grow and become closer to God. There is no shame in love, but you must be willing to move up with it.”
“What would you have me do?”Azrael felt defeated.
“That is for only you to decide. We are merely bringing to light that which you have been trying to hide. The Master wishes counsel with you as well. He waits for you in his city. Please go to him now, before you return to the Great Meadow,” he said pointedly.
Azrael bowed his head and left the audience hall. He felt he was being punished for something he had no control over. God had made him an angel and given him an angel heart, God must have known it would someday come to this. His thoughts bounced about him and other spirit beings gave him a wide berth as he was obviously struggling. Without effort he was in the Master’s city. Its golden gates were open as was his practice, spiritual beings hummed going from place to place, Azrael was so engrossed in his own dilemma he barely noticed them.
He found the Master waiting in his garden. It was beautiful, filled with olive and fig trees and a rock path that led to a small river. It resembled a very special place on earth the Master had spent time in.
“Good! Azrael you are here! How are you my friend?” The Master spoke to him as a colleague.
“I do not know. I am confused, Master. Please,” but then Azrael stopped for he didn’t know what it was he wanted.
The Master gesture him to walk with him, “Azrael, you have changed, for the better I may add. There is no shame in this; it is the way of this world. We are all evolving and changing.”
“Are you Master? Are you changing?” Azrael asked.
He laughed warmly, “In small ways one would not notice. I am needed though, in a certain form so my evolution is very slow. As long as humans need me to be the Master, my form will continue as such.”
“But, the humans need me; I have always been there for them. Who will guide them to the other side if not the Angel of Death?”
“It is true, you have brought the souls of the departed here from time out of mind. But you have changed, you have evolved. It is time for you to pass the torch to another, another Angel of Death. There is no shame in this,” he repeated.
“Have I displeased you or God?”
“No, no, certainly not. You have become something else beyond the Angel of Death. You have become an Angel of Love. It is not a hard transition. You have found love in a form that was not known to you and it has transformed you into someone new. You will have new duties God still needs you very much.”
“What will I do then?” Azrael couldn’t believe this, he had always been who he had always been. He hadn’t noticed the transformation, only the feelings for Jannie had alluded to this growth.
“First you must go to her and confess your heart. Then you will know what to do next.” The Master smiled deeply, his eyes filled with joy this was a happy occasion to see a friend move upward in God’s country, even if it caused confusion.
“That is all? I must confess my love?” Azrael seemed unsure.
“Yes, my brother, it is time. Then all things will be right in your world.” The Master blessed Azrael and the two parted.
Azrael returned to the Great Meadow, it was empty except for her, the object of his desire, the light of his heart, the meaning of his confusion. He landed quite near her and said nothing.
“Azrael, what is it? You look so, so overwhelmed! What has happened? Please, tell me, you know you can tell me anything.” She moved closer to him until she was a breath away and he lost himself in the muse of her eyes. Time stood still as they navigated the depths of each other’s souls. When they resurfaced he took a breath and said the words, “I love you, Jannie.”
“Azrael, I have always loved you,” she replied simply. “From the moment I died I knew I wanted to be here with you.”
“No, you don’t understand, I love you. If I were a man I would…” he faltered standing helplessly before her.
“Azrael, I know how you love me, it is written in every action, every word, everywhere that you are you leave a trail of love for me. This world is transparent; did you not think I knew? Did you not think that I love you, like that?”
“But we are different; we are not the same species. I thought you would not understand,” Azrael confessed.
“I do understand, you are my angel, you are my love, I will never love another the way I love you, Azrael,” Jannie returned.
She came closer and closer until their bodies enmeshed, the vibration of their two beings became one and their love mixed and mingled into a bliss of pure pleasure. They made love as only spirits can. When they separated their energies lingered.
“Azrael, goodness, you changed!” Jannie said shocked. She looked at him and where there was once iridescent deep purples and blues were now replaced with lighter shade of lavender and cerulean blue. His wings felt lighter as he fluttered their hues of amethyst and lavender. He had become the color of love.
Father Ian sent his resignation, the Bishop would not accept it, instead he advised the young priest to take a ten day vacation and sent a covering priest to replace him. Ian walked the replacement through his routine, shook his hand, thanked him and placed his suitcase in his car. He drove to Becca’s hoping to find her home.
He stood at the door and called her from his cell phone. He heard her phone ring inside and then he heard her move to answer it, he hung up. ‘Well, at least I know she’s home,’ he thought. He found his courage and knocked on the door. He listened to her footsteps, his heart pounded, he held his breath and then her door opened.
“Hello, Becca. May I come in?” he sounded humble.
She eyed him, he was in street clothes, he was shaking and anxious. She wanted to be angry with him, she wanted to say something to push him away, instead she said nothing and allowed him in. She stood there staring at him and waited, waited for whatever he had to say. He had already hurt her so much she wasn’t sure he could do anymore damage.
“How are you?” he asked fumbling for words. She gave him an evil look and said nothing. “I mean, Becca, I am so sorry.”
“I doubt that,” she mumbled. She knew he could hide behind his collar for the rest of his life, it was a luxury she didn’t have. “Why are you here? To inquire into my health? To apologize? What do you want Ian?” she rapid fired her questions, she really didn’t want all those answers, just one answer to one question was all she needed, but she was afraid to ask it.
“I’m going on vacation,” he began.
“How nice for you,” she hissed.
“Becca, please, don’t. I want you to come with me. I want to spend some time together so we can come to some understanding,” he struggled with each and every word.
“I don’t need to go anywhere with you, I already know what you’ve decided. You made that very clear.” She responded, her heart began to hurt.
“No, Becca, you don’t. You don’t know my heart. What you saw was my reaction, not my heart.”
“Really? What I saw was a man who would rather hide behind his collar than face the consequences of his actions,” she shot back.
“And for that, I apologize. Becca, I have had time to think. And I want us to have time to think together.” He repeated his request.
“Ian, you seriously expect me to drop my life and just drive off with you so you can break my heart again?”
“No, I promise I will never break your heart again,” Ian caressed her shoulders.
“Don’t, don’t touch me and don’t say those words. You don’t mean them.”
“Yes, I do. Becca, I do love you, I don’t want to be without you.” He took the leap of faith and spoke his heart. He could only hope she believed him and still wanted him in her life. She looked dazed. She broke away from him and her face flushed.
“What do you want Ian? You can’t be a priest and love me too, it just isn’t fair. I won’t be a part of it, anymore,” she stood her ground.
“Becca, I have already sent in my resignation. The bishop asked me to take a vacation to clear my head when he received it, they don’t want me to leave. Becca, please, I know we have a lot to figure out, but please give me a chance to be the man I know I can be for you. Please give me the chance to be the father that I want to be to our child. Don’t shut me out, I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but please find it in your heart.”
Becca didn’t realize she was crying, the tears had found their own way. Her emotions were a mixture of relief and rage. She was so angry at Ian, still, yet so relieved he had changed his mind. And then a thought occurred to her, “What if you change your mind again? What if you decide this isn’t what you truly want? Then what? Will you run back to your precious collar?”
Ian knew he would never go back even if she had rejected him. He could not face God in that light anymore, Mrs. Costa had been right, he could serve God in other ways. He had allowed himself forgiveness, now he needed Becca’s forgiveness.
“I am not going back; I would be a hypocrite if I did. I cannot serve God in this manner anymore. It took me sometime to realize this Becca, and at your expense, but I have made up my mind.”
His conviction was strong, there was no doubting that. “So you want me and the baby then?” Becca asked.
“Yes, I was praying I wasn’t too late for both of you,” he admonished himself.
“Prove it,” she demanded.
Ian stood for a moment looking at this defiant young woman, one of the character flaws he found so endearing, she was and always had been defiant when someone hurt her. He leaned in and kissed her, and leaned in some more pushing her up against the wall, kissing her more deeply. She melted under his pressure and surrendered to their passion. The conversation stopped, the language of love began.