As told by Steven Rudolph
It was an encounter so brief, one could hardly call it an affair. But the impact it had on my life, on my being, was so startling, I can honestly say my life will never be the same again. I feel so blessed this remarkable, selfless creature came into my life apparently out of nowhere, befriending me with his wisdom and love when I needed it most. He was like no one I had ever met, nor am I likely to ever meet again.
It began with a knock on my cottage door. The summer season had ended weeks earlier, but I lingered in the country, reluctant to end the peace and tranquility that only country living can offer. My life had been shattered in the spring by the untimely death of Mark, my partner of twenty years. I knew the day would come but when the moment arrived, I was not prepared.
We were having dinner in the dining room which we tried to do at least once a week; candle light, linens, good china; the works. We even dressed for these occasions. It was a time to focus on each other, to be together, a subtle way of renewing our vows. I don’t remember what we were talking about except we had been laughing when he leaned back in his chair and looked as if he fell asleep. Suddenly I was sitting alone at the dining room table with candle light casting warm shadows on the remains of the love of my life.
The next ten days were a blur of all the things that had to be done. Friends were there to help in every way possible, but eventually, they returned to their own lives. As I sat on our bed and held Mark’s bathrobe to my face and breathed in his scent, the aloneness I was left with began to weigh on me. I had to get away. I placed the robe in the box with his other clothing, sealed it and placed it in the garage for pickup by the Salvation Army. I planned to go to our cottage in the country for the summer months.
The diversion of opening the cottage and cultivating the garden was helpful. I was busy and had little time to think about what lay ahead for me. Friends came to visit, and before I knew it the leaves were turning.
When the knock on the door came, I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting anyone as everyone I knew in the area had returned to the city. I opened the door. “Hi.”
“Hello,” came a soft reply with a pleasant smile on a very handsome face.
“Can I help you?”
He just smiled, and had such a lost look on his face, I asked him if he’d like to come in and rest — a risky thing for a city dweller to do. I had to remind myself time and again where I was; it was okay to lower one’s guard in this setting.
I took him into the garden behind the cottage and offered him refreshments. He thanked me and ask only for water to quench his thirst. We sat for a spell exchanging a few pleasantries. He told me his name was Thomas and he was on a journey but did not specify his destination. When I asked where he came from, he told me he was from a land far away but very similar to the beauty of our surroundings.
Then he asked if he might walk in the nearby woods, and would I join him. He was so calm and unassuming, I accepted without giving it a thought. We walked in silence for a while and then he asked me about my sadness. I was so surprised I tried to pass it off with, “I don’t know what you mean.”
He looked at me with kindness and smiled, “Yes, you do.”
I felt so comfortable with this stranger, I decided to be truthful, “Yes, there is sadness, so much of it I don’t know if I shall ever be rid of it.”
We stopped when we came upon four grazing deer. They stood at attention when they saw us and then continued to graze. I could not have been more surprised when they did not flee at the sight of us. The delight on Thomas’ face at the sight of these creatures warmed my heart.
“How very beautiful.” He began to move slowly toward them while I lingered behind for fear of spooking them. I could not believe how easily he moved among these magnificent beasts; they hardly stirred. He turned and beckoned for me to join him; reaching out for my hand as I approached. We stood at ease until they moved slowly away from us. I was almost giddy with the joy of the experience. It was then that I knew Thomas was unlike anyone I had ever met.
He released my hand as we continued to walk, “Tell me about your sadness, Steven.”
Reluctance was my initial reaction but I quickly changed my mind. What harm could it do? I told him about my life with Mark and his sudden and unexpected end. As I finished, I broke down into sobs with my one regret, “I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.” Thomas took me in his arms and held me until the sobbing subsided.
As he let me go, “And what would you have said if you had had the chance to say goodbye?”
That caught me off guard. “I hardly know where to begin. I suppose I’d ask him for his forgiveness for all the stupid things I did during our time together. He was much older than I and never wavered in his love when I went off the rails. He was always there, steady as a rock. I would thank him for encouraging me to be who I wanted to be which I was unable to do before I met him. And how much I would miss all of the little things about him, his warmth in the middle of the night, those glances that told me all was okay. His smell, his laughter. He was a merry soul and always saw the funny side of life. He made me laugh even when I did not want to. There is so much more, Thomas.”
“And you think he’s not aware of this?
“I’m not sure. I certainly hope he knows.”
“Well, my friend, there is no time or space between here and the other planes of existence. Would you believe me if I told you that he is very happy with his new life, but is very concerned about your sadness.”
“Yes, I would like to believe you.”
“Did it ever occur to you that he might have the same regret in leaving you without a chance to say farewell?”
I stopped and turned to Thomas, “No, it never occurred to me. I’m so ashamed for not having thought of that. Thank you.”
Then I realized we were approaching the cottage. It was time for him to leave. We walked to the front of the cottage where I thanked him for his visit. He took my hand and looked into my eyes in a way that bespoke of a love I had never experienced from anyone other than Mark. He said nothing, smiled, and moved toward the road as I walked up the stairs. When I reached the porch, I turned to catch a last glimpse of him, he was nowhere in sight. I grabbed the porch railing to steady myself as I looked in all directions. Then I knew who it was I had entertained, and the energy I experienced from his touch. He had somehow stepped through the veil to help me. Perhaps at the request of Mark in his concern for me.
I wondered, did I just have an affair with an angel? Perhaps I’ll never know, but I would like to believe I did. Something I shall never forget.
Until that moment, I don’t believe I had ever experienced genuine gratitude.
The sadness I brought to the cottage was gone, thanks to Thomas’ visit. I had let Mark go, to live his new life without the burden of my sadness. My love for him would never end but now there was the promise of being able to love again.
As I shuttered the cottage and prepared to leave, I paused and gazed down the country lane, “Farewell, Thomas, my heavenly friend, and thank you from the bottom of a grateful heart.”