Then, there came the ironic twist of events that ended with their car going off the road and into the water of the Antietam Creek.
Ed was working as usual when his phone rang. He picked it up. An old friend of his had decided several years ago to get out of the city life and move to a more rural location. He was now working for the sheriffs department of Washington County, Maryland. He had some very bad news for Ed.
The car Jack was driving went off the road at the place commonly known in the area as Death Curve and ended up in the Antietam Creek with Jack and Audrey in it.
“Are they alright?” Ed asked before his friend could go further. He listened carefully but there was a long silence on the other end. When it was finally broken his friend simply said,
“I’m sorry. They didn’t make it.” Ed sat staring out the window. He would have about halfway expected it if some fool shot Jack in the line of duty but to have him and Audrey meet their death on their honeymoon? This he could not comprehend.
“God, how could you let this happen?” he charged, “How could you take their lives today of all days?”
Ed felt the pain deeper than he ever felt he could. He was looking forward to the possibility of Jack and Audrey maybe one day having kids. He could be their Godfather.
He had just grown close to the couple and they were snuffed away from him.
As Ed grieved, someone else was receiving a call. Beatrice Edmonson picked up her phone and was told of the death of her twin sister and her new brother-in-law.
Bee, as everyone called her, didn’t make the wedding. Now she hated herself for letting business get in the way. She would have seen her sister one last time. What really made her feel bad is the fact that they were identical twins but had grown apart over the last eight or nine years. She had her life and Audrey had hers. That seemed to be the way they each wanted it. Now, however, she was wishing they had spent more time together.
After hanging up the phone she went into the bedroom and dragged out the old family album that she had not often bothered to look at in the past few years until now. Suddenly, it was all that was left of Audrey, and Bee felt the need to contemplate.
Ed and Bee did not even know each other but they did share something in common. For the next three days they would both mourn the loss of loved ones.
Three days later, Ed pulled into the parking lot of the Funeral home to attend the viewing. When he walked in he saw the two caskets sitting side by side in front. In front of one was a woman. Ed stared at her unbelievingly.
“Audrey?” he almost spurted out but stopped himself. It couldn’t be her. He wished it were but he knew it couldn’t be.
“My name is Beatrice Edmonson,” she announced. “I was Audrey’s twin sister––am Audrey’s twin sister,” she amended as an afterthought.
“I didn’t know she had one,” Ed wondered. “Oh,” he said after a brief moment of thought. “I’m sorry. I’m Ed Wingert. I didn’t realize Audrey had any living relatives. She didn’t speak about her personal life much.”
“We hadn’t been real close over the past couple of years,” said Bee. “I regret that now. If only I could go back and relive those last couple of years I would change that. It’s too late now.”
She returned her gaze to the lifeless body of her sister. They didn’t say much more after that.
The funeral was painful but Ed tried to control his sorrow. One thing that lightened the load some for him was the beautiful lady sitting in the front. Ed couldn’t keep himself from glancing over at Bee. It was as if Audrey had come back from the dead. At one point, she saw him looking and managed a weak smile and then turned her attention back to the coffin where her dead sister lay.
When it was all over, Ed took the rest of the day off. He went home to his apartment. Jack and Audrey had become his best friends. Ed had not allowed himself anything in the way of friendship until now. He contemplated this. How ironic it was. The first time he allowed himself to care about someone on a personal level, they were both stripped away from him. This pain he didn’t want. Maybe that was why he never allowed himself to be made vulnerable until now. He decided he would not let this happen again. He was not going to open himself up to pain again.
“You’re taking on a rather cynical attitude, there, my friend.” This was a voice he knew well. Ed turned and there sat Jack.
Ed wasn’t sure what was happening to himself, now. He swore he was losing his mind.
“No, you are not crazy,” Jack answered his unspoken question. “I am real. Well, as real as I can be to you. There is something about my death that you don’t completely understand. That is why the Master has instructed me to make you the first person on my ‘to do’ list.
“Master,” Ed questioned? “To do list?” he added. “I think you’re just a hallucination. I would love for you to be alive but they just buried you. I think I need counseling of some kind.”
“Okay,” Jack answered. “I’ll be your counselor. Let me tell you what our honeymoon was like.” Ed just sat and listened. He wasn’t sure what was happening to him, but he was beginning to doubt his sanity.
“I took Audrey back to my hometown and we had a wonderful time. We visited all the old places where I played as a kid and Audrey loved hearing me go on and on about the great times I had,” he continued.
“We Drove down to Boonsboro, Maryland. It’s just a little south of the town I grew up in. When we were coming home, Audrey was talking some about her childhood and a voice from the back of the car interrupted her.” Jack went on to explain that as Audrey was telling about some of the games that she and her sister, who she called Honeybee or Bee for short, had played, Arty piped up and exclaimed.
“Man, I never really had a childhood. I hope you two know how lucky you are.”
Jack explained how he almost ran the car off the road right there but managed to keep his composure.
“Who are you?” he inquired. “And how did you get into the car? We were doing fifty miles an hour.”
“Oh, I can do better than that,” Arty Answered. “I am here because the Master wants to save the two of you. Come with me and you will have an adventure you have never dreamed was possible. Believe me, it will be worth it. It sure has been for me.”
Jack went on to tell Ed how Arty explained his childhood, his relationship with Andora and his untimely death. Only, it was more like walking into a wonderful life and Arty had explained that he knew he did not deserve it.
“I guess it was a gift,” he praised the Master.
“Who is this Master?” Jack enquired.
“God!” Arty stated emphatically. God is my Master. He is the source of all life and anyone who knows him through his son Jesus has a doorway to eternal life. Funny thing is I didn’t even know I knew him till after we went over that cliff in the buggy. In fact, I didn’t know him until about a hundred years or so afterward.
“I don’t get it,” said Jack emphatically. “Why are you here?” Arty turned and gazed out the car window. He was enjoying the beauty of the spring flowers and newly budding trees. Then he stopped his contemplation long enough to answer Jack.
“I’m a reaper, he said.” Jack looked off the road long enough to study Arty through the rear view mirror.
“A what?” he asked.
“I am what you might call a gatherer. I am an Angel of God. I am sent to reap souls for the Kingdom.”
“Are you here for us?” asked Audrey, who had been extremely quiet until now. “I don’t think we are ready to go now. We both want to have kids. We haven’t lived our lives together yet.”
“It’s your time,” Arty quipped. “The Master said today is your day.” Audrey turned and stared into the eyes of the Angel in the back seat.
“That hardly seems fair,” she cried out. “Ask the Master if he couldn’t give us some time together before he takes us. This is our honeymoon.”
“Sweetheart, you are going to have eternity together,” Arty consoled. “Isn’t that what you want?”
Audrey fell silent for a spell. Then she turned to Arty again. Her eyes implored him. She couldn’t understand why God felt that shortening their lives was the right thing.
“We had plans,” she began. Then, as if she needed something specific she told him that Jack had promised to show her Skyline Drive.
“Oh, we can do that Arty said. Then he placed a hand on each of their shoulders and they suddenly were not in the car anymore. They were floating far above it. Jack and Audrey watched as the car came upon “Death Curve.” It did not turn but ran off the road into the water below.
Now, they were both silent. Arty was still holding them.
“All of a sudden,” Jack began. “I didn’t feel worry or trouble or anything negative. I felt more at home than I had ever felt in my life. I should have been scared. After all, we were about sixty feet off the ground.
“What happened next,” Ed asked. Suddenly, he felt the presence of the Master, though he didn’t know why. He was never a religious person but this was a wonderful joy.
“What happened next was Arty took us on our first trip through time,” laughed Jack. “True to his word, he said he wanted to show Audrey Skyline Drive. Audrey said it was useless. She wanted to see it in the fall when the leaves turn the beautiful array of colors but Arty told her we were going to the fall. She didn’t understand what he was talking about until the area on Alternate Forty faded and we were standing at an overlook on Skyline Drive. The colors were more gorgeous than I had remembered. I asked him how this was possible. Arty said, “With Angels of the Master all things are possible.”
‘We can travel through time just like you used to walk from one room to another in the flesh,” he told me. “You will see more than you ever could see as a man.’
Then he took us to the Heavens. It was beautiful. I couldn’t find the words to describe it to you. One day, you will see it too. The Master has already saved a place for you in Heaven, Ed. First, though, you must work out some issues here on Earth.”
“What issues?” Ed asked incredulously. He was suddenly feeling very nervous. Jack picked up on that nervousness and tried to console him.
“Listen,” he began. “I didn’t get a chance to finish working with Joe Morton. I need you to do something for me.”
“Joe Morton is in jail,” Ed retorted. “You have nothing more to do.” Jack smiled and explained that he wanted Ed to visit the man in jail.
“He will try to kill himself,” he said. Ed answered that he probably deserved to die for what he did.
“Listen, man,” Jack replied. “The man did something in anger and now he feels a remorse that he will carry for the rest of his life. Actually, life in prison is a harsher penalty than death. As long as he lives, he will feel the remorse. You need to give him comfort.”
“You’re an Angel,” said Ed. “You certainly don’t need me. Go and sprinkle some fairy dust on him or something.”
Jack smiled again. He knew Ed would fight this. Ed had been working with people who committed these violent crimes for years. He had become very negative. Jack knew the feeling. He had been, too. It was when he met Audrey that he began to see that someone must have been looking after him. It was her love that had expanded his mind. The problem was that he could not explain to Ed why he wanted his help. It was not that Jack needed it. It was that Ed did. His eternal salvation would hinge on his ability to take on a more forgiving attitude. Jack would have liked to explain to Ed that Sarah, the woman Joe had killed, was alive and well in a place where pain had no place. This, he would have to let Ed figure out on his own. He simply moved on.
“You are going to go to sleep now,” he began. “When you awaken, it will be as if all this were a dream. But I will be working with you from the shadows. You must visit this man and get to know him.
“I still don’t understand,” Ed protested.
What Jack had learned while in the Heavenly city was that anything Ed did with the purpose of saving his own soul or claiming eternal life would not be enough. He needed to do his good deeds because of love. His eternal salvation was dependant upon his ability to simply place the love of his fellow man above his own life. The Son of God once said, “He who would save his life, must lose it. He that loses his life for my sake, the same shall be saved.”
This was why it was important for Jack to have his help. It was not for the sake of Joe so much as it was for Ed’s sake.
“I saw something about the man,” Jack explained. “He is carrying a heavy load. He did not mean to hurt that girl. He simply lost his temper and exploded. Now, he is considering taking his own life. He is in prison. The one person on the face of the earth that he loved is dead and he is the one who killed her. In his heart he is not even blaming her for her affair with another man. He is taking it all upon himself. Somebody must help him.”
“But, why me?” Ed complained. “I helped put him in jail and he confessed to killing her.”
“Maybe that’s why you,” Ed retorted. “Maybe he needs to hear someone who was involved with the whole thing say they understand. You are his earthly angel, Chief.”
“Ed,” his boss interrupted.
“Ed,” said Jack. “You are Joe’s earthly angel. How would you feel if you were responsible for the death of the person you love?”
Ed’s eyes began to mist. He sat for several moments contemplating what Jack had just said. Then he sighed.
“There but by the grace of God, go I,” he breathed softly. Jack smiled.
“Exactly!” he responded.
“O.K., I’ll stop by in the morning and visit this guy,” Ed agreed. “The least I can do is, see his frame of mind.”
With those words, his eyes grew heavy and he went to sleep right there on the chair. He awoke sometime later. Somehow, he wasn’t sure if Jack’s visit had been a dream or not. By morning he felt it was a dream, but he still felt compelled to visit Joe and see what was happening with him.