Christmas was only a few short days away. His mind should be filled with jingling bells and winter wonderlands, cradles of straw and worshipping shepherds; but those kinds of Christmas joys were for other people, in other places. Instead of working his way through holiday crowds as he listened to piped-in carol music; he stood alone and all he could hear was the lonely beating of his own heart. The cemetery was empty now; the sympathetic embraces had worn off long ago. Actually, they had worn off before the last of his friends cars were out of view. Now he just shivered alone in the fading light, staring into her grave.
How many Christmas’ had they shared? How many memories? How many gifts, both sacred and silly, had been exchanged? They all blurred together in his mind; the lopsided tree she never let him forget, the homemade scrapbook that made her cry, the lover’s coupons that made her laugh; he saw them all floating by in his memory. What joys could Christmas offer him now? Their home was always decked-out; candles in every window, pine roping and bows along the post and rail fence, the homemade PVC candy canes by the front door. And inside was liking stepping into Santa’s brain. But the shining centerpiece was a ceramic Nativity set he inherited from his mother. Every year he took them from their summer home and lovingly placed each piece in the perfect spot. This year he hadn’t even hung a wreath. As he stood there alone, the tears freezing against he cheeks, he wondered if he ever would again.
With all the effort he could muster, he slowly bent down, grabbed a handful of the freshly dug earth and tossed it on her coffin. Then he forced himself to turn away and begin the long walk back to his car. He thought about his empty house and his empty life. He had no idea how he was going to make it through the night; never mind the rest of the week; or for that matter, the rest of his life. Dark thoughts and a numbing emptiness accompanied him to the cemetery’s entrance. He turned to look back one more time; that’s when he saw it. It was perfectly formed in front of the entrance sign; a snow angel. It seemed so out of place; this whimsical symbol of childhood winters in this place of death. He stared at it for a few minutes; marveling at the carefulness of its artist. The outline was perfectly defined; its wings perfectly proportioned to the body. He felt his spirit rise just a little as he thought about the child that must have left it there; the innocence that could be so playful in the shadow of so many gravestones. Suddenly, the words of a familiar and favorite carol invaded his darkness. He saw himself as a child on Christmas Eve, singing at the top of his lungs, “Angels We Have Heard On High.” He smiled slightly and turned to walk back to his car. All at once a startling realization froze him in his tracks. Did he see what he thought he saw? He slowly turned around and his once darkened heart now leapt for joy as he slowly took in the truth of it.
There was the perfect snow angel…with not a single footprint leading to or from it!