You look at me as though I’m supposed to explain why the second half of your life was basically crap. Well unfortunately that is something I am not willing to do. I glare back at you.
“Cancer,” you say, angrily, with a glare. “I was 31. I didn’t need that then.”
“No, of course not. Nobody needs cancer. Cancer is crap.”
“My career was just taking off. I had been promoted to Assistant Branch Manager, and had a genuine chance to make Manager within the next five years. I would have been a great manager. And then, boom.”
“I know. Couldn’t have come at a worse time really, could it?”
I’m agreeing with you for the sake of agreeing with you. I actually don’t think it’s true at all. You expect me, I think, to apologise for it, as though there was something I could have done to stop it. You don’t understand yet. This is perfectly normal.
“Exactly. So why did it come just as I was hitting my stride, improving my life? You know what happened – you know how by the time I came back, years later, the world had moved on and I was never able to get back in. It took me five years just to get back to the same pay grade, and after that I was passed over, for the younger, fitter employees. I was left in an excruciating rut. Why? Why did you let that happen to me?”
This is just what I have been anticipating, for you to accuse me. Hand me the blame. Of course, given that I introduced myself as the being who looked after your life, your guardian angel, you have a fair comment – you getting cancer at 31 was probably a bit of an oversight on my part. I start to gently explain that I had no control over that – well, nobody did. You respond as they always do:
“Well if you couldn’t stop me getting cancer, what use were you as a guardian angel?”
I look at you sadly. You, just recently dead, and only having just met me in these first, confusing minutes, and I sigh. I have known you all your life. I have loved you since before you were born. It is time to explain.
“You misunderstand. I am not the guardian angel that can protect you from a storm, who can save you from the accident. I am not the guardian angel that can cure you of all ills, or rescue you from trouble. I cannot even bring you to your soulmate, or find you your perfect job. I have no power until you give me power.”
This has not gone down all that well. “I have to give you power so you can protect me? What use is that? I have to activate you?!”
“Not at all, my dear. I’m not a registration code. And besides, if you give me power, I am still but a fluttering sail in the wind, a dim light in the darkness. I am still not strong enough to pull you from wrecks or fight off disease. But I can sustain you. I am always there for you, even if when you believe yourself to be most alone.”
“I don’t get it,” you say. “I’m sorry, but I don’t. Even if I gave you power (whatever that means), you would still be useless?”
“Far from useless! But I would not necessarily help you how you wanted it. Surely, however, it would be better to know that there is always someone there? A small and weak person, yes, but someone who loves you without fail. Whenever you didn’t think there was a way out, there I was. I was there for you at your first funeraI – your mother’s too. I was there for you the night he packed his bags and left you sobbing on the stairs. I was there for you when you thought you would have nowhere to stay. I was there for you the evening after you had heard the news from the doctor, and you felt you couldn’t face human contact again. I was there for you when the aching pain and the cold was so much your bed was wet with tears. I was there for you when the bandana wouldn’t cover the bald patch… I was there your whole life long… I was there for you at the bridge.”
You look up at me now, eyes glistening. I nod.
“But what are you then? God?”
“Some people call me that, and that is okay. But I am with humans even if there is no cross round their neck. I am with all of you. You might not see me and but you can always reach me.”
“I – I still don’t think I get it.”
“My dear, you are dead now. You have all this,” I gesture around me, “to explore. I have work to do too. I’m not sure what else there is to say. I am your guardian angel. It’s time to move on.”
You look around and, I think it is for the first time, notice where we are standing. It is obviously not what you were expecting, but your face lights up. You undoubtedly have many questions remaining, but just as a baby does in a brand new world, you will learn soon enough how it all works. Besides, I have my next arrival to greet, and I’m sure this old friend will know me when he sees me. Slowly, tentatively, you move off. A few steps away, however you turn back to me, and ask me the first question that people always get asked on Earth. I reply.
“My name? I don’t really have one. I suppose… I suppose, really, I am just your ability to hope.”