It was late afternoon on Christmas Eve and an intense cold snap had pervaded the Swiss Alps. A blanket of new snow had fallen, and the smell of fresh wood smoke was in the air. The village was quiet, except for occasional drafts of cheery voices coming from brightly lit homes.
Out on the street, the hand that held the deflated shopping bag was blistered and discolored from the bitter cold. Inside the hoodie of the disheveled parka, her gaunt, wrinkled cheeks caught the gleam of the yellow streetlamps. It was obvious that whatever visage used to be had seriously dwindled on the woman’s old bones. Past the point of immediate hunger, she was treading water beyond the threshold of normal human suffering, in a netherworld of automatic existence. Inside the anticipation of an inevitable conclusion, the organs were at odds and vital questions about essential needs were forming. The hierarchy of a major shutdown was initiating.
The young girl knew this without being told. It may have been that she recognized a kindred spirit in the poor woman, or simply that her empathy and instinctual kindness just opened doors. In any event, there was an obvious and immediate bond between the two of them. The girl appeared, looked up into the spectral eyes and touched the bony left hand. She uttered a few soft, almost unintelligible words, and the woman was in her grasp. It would not have occurred to the girl that she was being anything other than sympathetic, but somehow the woman knew instinctively that she was in the presence of an angel.
The girl took the woman’s hand, who, too weakened to resist, went with her without comment or complaint. The walk to the young girl’s door took 20 minutes, accomplished only with great effort.
The family was used to the perpetual inclination of the girl to rescue strays. The girl’s mother answered the door, immediately recognizing the woman’s dire need. Together, they took her in, removed the filthy coat, and gingerly led her to a bedroom down the hall. They helped the woman recline. Her head hit the pillow exhausted, and she fell into an immediate sleep. The young girl, not wanting to leave her, sat with her in the room.
Just before the stroke of midnight, the woman, without opening her eyes, gesticulated towards the ceiling, as if embracing her guardian angels, arrived to summon her away. There was a faint color on her cheeks and the hint of a smile on her lips. As her soul began its liquid ascent, she mouthed the words. “I go with you.”
The girl, who had been by her side for the duration, following the delicate convolution to the twilight of death, took her hand and held it tenderly. The tears in her eyes betrayed the emotion she felt as she smiled sweetly and said “and I with you.”
The little angel had somehow appeared only hours before and delivered the poor woman to her place at the heavenly table.
Alan David Gould is a composer, writer and poet residing in Sarasota, FL. Gould is putting the finishing touches on a first anthology of collected poems, soon to be published. He is also writing a book of educational essays for musicians, a journal and dream journal, composing orchestra and chamber work for film and performance and tackling the remix of 40 years worth of original singer-songwriter material.