The old oak mantle clock chimed 9 P. M. Erin drew her long blonde hair to one side as she took up the iron poker, stirring the fire till the logs popped and crackled. Then she looked up at the mantle.
How handsome Jimmy looked in his military picture. She lingered over every detail; his broad shoulders, that strong chiseled face and his firmly set lips. Her deep blue eyes stared into her husband’s eyes, longingly. Sighing, she wiped her tears as she sat down. Drawing the first Christmas card from the box she began writing:
My heart still believes you’re out there somewhere. Even though they tell me you are M.I.A., I’m not giving up hope.
The children are at your parent’s house tonight, so I have time to write out Christmas cards.
I miss you so much, especially when I look into Andrew’s eyes. He’s starring in the Christmas school play this year as a soldier, in honor of you. And Mrs. Harden selected Emily’s ballet class to perform in the Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairies.
I hope you like these cards. The clerk insisted I buy them because of the beautiful angel on them. I have prayed God would bring you to me again. Darling, till then, may God’s angels protect you.
With all my heart,
The mantle clock chimed midnight then ticked away the minutes as Erin grabbed her shawl, shut the front door behind her and walked to the mailbox. She sent all but Jimmy’s card. Somehow she wanted to mail his special. Gathering her shawl about her shoulders she walked back across the street. The snow shimmered around her like diamonds; she stared at the sparkles as her weary eyes filled with awe.
Suddenly Erin felt someone behind her. She turned.
His face glowed.
“Would you like to walk?” he asked.
Erin nodded. The snowy street changed to a gnarled brush-strewn path as the man led her into an arid desert night.
“We’re near Jimmy. I can feel it!”
“Yes” the man replied. Then he paused, “I have brought you here to say goodbye.”
Erin gasped and brushed her hair back out of her face. Instinctually walking toward a cave, she stooped down and entered. By the glow of a campfire she saw a canteen, some rations, a gun leaning against a military helmet, and over in the corner a heap of army blankets.
“Jimmy?” her voice echoed off the cave walls.
Erin followed the voice, “Where?”
“Here... in the blankets… Erin McBride? Is it really you?”
“Jimmy,” Erin whispered, reaching out with hungry arms.
As their eyes met, an awkward silence passed between them as they acknowledged the absence of his arm and legs.
“…mortar ambush” whispered Jimmy.
Erin clung to her husband and wept. “Oh Jimmy, I’m so sorry.”
“Hey,” he gasped. “I’d do it again to keep you safe.”
Erin drank in her husband’s courage as he wrapped his arm around her. Remembering she had his card she opened it and propped it on his chest. “This is for you.”
Jimmy looked at the front of the card and caught his breath “It’s him!”
“The angel who brought me here” said, Jimmy, now fighting for his breath. His eyes moved from the card, back to the face of the woman he loved. Soft tendrils of hair surrounded her face. Her eyes burned with holy love as he reached out to caress her face. Gathering strength he drew her lips to his and whispered, “Until we walk again with angels.”
Suddenly a bright light filled the cave and the man who led her there took her hand.
Erin woke to sunshine streaming through her lace curtains. "What a dream," she murmered as she rolled out of bed, still in yesterday’s clothes. She put some coffee on to brew, threw her shawl over her shoulders and stepped out for the mail. As she took the letters from the mailbox, an official envelope tumbled to the snow. Trembling, she opened it.
Months of searching have come to an end. We found Jimmy last night, deceased, in a cave. He was lying peacefully, holding your Christmas card near his heart. I don’t know why you thought to send it early, but it must have brought him comfort as he breathed his last.
May God bring you comfort,
Captain Gregory M. McClelland.
A look of wonder filled Erin’s eyes as she whispered, “He has.”
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