(I created a lot of this, but not Bennu, as stated in COPYRIGHTS listed in chapter 1)


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CHAPTER 7

Epilogue

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Bennu watched as the snowstorm threw it's delicate crystals against the bus terminal's glass front, then turned to sit as he waited for his bus. On the seat next to him a previous patron had left a magazine. He had not planned to read, but the illustration of an inhumanely beautiful landscape on the cover caught his eye. It was a picture that no one on this earth could have ever seen, but there it was none-the-less; an image of his homeland as he fondly remembered it.

He picked up the magazine and quickly thumbed to the cover story. It was a story about a young Christian artist named Mira Stanfield, whose works were now touring the states in a "visual presentation of the compassion and promise of Christ." She had donated her final works -- works completed before she was claimed by the same cancer that had taken her mother -- to the SonLight Ministries, an organization she had been involved in. Her gift had become the cornerstones for a nationwide art show the ministry had been planning to share its message. The pieces were so powerful that despite their religious subjects several had even received secular recognition.

The four pieces featured in the article had provided the theme for the "Seeking the Light" tour. The first two pieces, "Touched by the Spirit" and "The Golden Light of Christ," were works that called to Bennu's heart with a familiar longing, but the last two brought back a flood of memories that left him weak. The cover piece, entitled simply "Home," brought tears to his eyes, but it was the last that let those tears fall. In a masterpiece called "Angel of the Light" he recognized himself clothed in a radiant robe. He knelt with arms upraised in praise to the Light of the World. Behind him wings of glorious flame echoed the exultation, but as he stared something more revealed itself... a realization that this was not simply an image of him, but it was Truth!

An understanding as deep as his soul dawned on him and he suddenly saw the whole of the piece. In the swirling background were subtle images... kittens... grapes... horses and more... so subtle that they would not likely have been noticed by others, but they sang to him. Each represented an experience he had had on Earth... they anchored the image of him to Earth. The angel reached for the Lord of Light in homage, in awe, and in yearning. But his personal insight let him see beyond the surface... he felt the angel's ache not as the aching love for the Lord of Life others would see, but as the aching brokenness he had often felt so far from home and from the center of faith that gave him strength. For all the angel's radiance and power, it felt lost.

Who was this person? How had the artist seen this in him... truths known and so deeply unknown?. This one image captured a moment of his heart... everything he had felt, everything sacred. Somehow, the artist had seen to the heart of his soul, and as he looked at the painting, he saw the Truth beyond his soul as well. It resonated in him... confirmation of hope. The image was not of an angel! There were two beings portrayed! The angel's wings were, in truth, the blazing Phoenix -- here! -- embracing him, supporting him, empowering him, uplifting him! He was Bennu -- prince, protector, and servant -- and the Phoenix -- Hand of the Creator, Peace Bringer, Path of Salvation -- was here!... with him! The Lord of Life was here on Earth just as Mira had said those long months ago. That thought touched a chord in his memories, and, at that moment, he knew who the artist was.

From his pocket he fished out a special penny feeling again the love that always seemed to flow from the heart shaped opening. It brought back memories of a bright talented artist who had helped him when he could go no further and had been a source of encouragement on many a dark night. He still didn't remember much of their initial meeting, the fever blurred those memories, but he knew she had saved his life. Then Mira had come to renew his soul. It was then she told him he wasn't as alone as he felt... suggested he should seek the Most High's presence here on this mixed-up world. He hadn't been sure where to begin... hadn't really been given the opportunity... but the mere thought of it offered hope. Had it not been for the artist, Mira might not have had the opportunity to share that with him. Mira? He glanced over the body of text again. Somehow he had never learned the artist's name. She had known his, and their brief friendship had been so comfortable the need to ask hers never arose, but she did have a name... Mira Stanfield. Her name was Mira too.

It was then that he knew who had actually renewed his soul. It had not been his Mira. It had been Mira Stanfield! No wonder she had been able to speak of death so poignantly, she had been speaking from her heart. The cancer had been killing her even as she had saved his life. Bennu shook his head in regret. He had never known. He had not fully recovered in those two short days he was with her, and she had given him no reason to go searching, to risk staying. If only he had known...

He refocused on the article with difficulty and scanned the pages until he reached the last few passages, then found himself reading slowly word by word. It said...

"Dying is suppose to be a private thing, but Mira wasn't one to keep secrets", her physician told us. He went on to say, "as her doctor and her friend I think she would want me to share this. Despite her family history, she didn't have much use for doctors, but when she began to have a persistent discomfort similar to her mother's she finally submitted to tests. I had to tell her that the tests were positive for cancer. Further tests showed that it had already advanced past the stages of effective treatment. She had, perhaps, a year to live. She had always tried to obey the will of God, and while I can't say she accepted this without question, but I do not fault her for her doubts. I think her faith was stronger than mine would have been. There was, however, something that drove her; something that I could not understand. She kept saying, "I can't die. I'm not finished yet," but when I would ask "with what?" she could only shake her head. I'm not sure she knew completely herself. I only knew I could feel her despair.

"She choose to avoid those arduous procedures that might extend her time at the cost of her active lifestyle. She wanted to live her remaining life to its fullest for as long as God allowed so we focused on that. I think she was praying for a miracle, and she finally received it. I have to be honest. It was not the miracle I would have asked for.

"It was perhaps eight months after she was diagnosed that she began these powerful pieces that are on tour. I could not understand where this inspiration or this incredible talent suddenly came from. She had always been a good artist, but the works she began producing were like nothing she had ever done before. It was like a gift from God that had been dormant all her life had suddenly burst into bloom. She was the happiest I had ever seen her, I mean ever, in her life! She was dying and she didn't care; even the cancer could not stop her. I have seen others die of this cancer. It is a cruel heartless monster that grants little mercy to its victims in its final stages. The pain and suffering others have experienced toward the end is beyond describing, but once Mira focused this new talent on God she suffered little of that. She was beyond it. She was doing God's will.

"I never knew until the day she died how this was accomplished. She met someone and for Mira he was evidently a Godsend. Who he was, however, is a secret she took Home with her. She only wrote this of him on the final page of her journal... "I have always known God wanted me to do something... all my life I have known and here I was dying and I hadn't even begun. I didn't know how. Then I met him. To have a purpose in life is a powerful thing. It can be a reason to live, or seem a reason to die. Mine was a reason to live and yet I was dying. Under the weight of his he wanted die, and yet he had to live.

It was strange. We encountered each other walking in our own separate valleys, but he was able to rise out of his despair and lift me up to the highest mountain top. He taught me to hear God's voice in a way I had never known before, and how to put it in my work. He gave me the means to answer my call. I wish I knew where he is now, but our paths parted just days after we met. He had his own mission to pursue. I don't know what it is, but I do know he is a blessing to the life of every person he meets. I'm not sure he realizes that. His mere presence enriches and his actions speak God's Love. I pray for him daily, and can only hope I was able to help him through his valley, even just a little. Meeting him was a lesson each of us should learn - evidence of the impact we can have on each other's lives. Even as total strangers, God can use us to change a life, this man is proof of that. He is my Angel of the Light."

Bennu wept softly, his quiet tears raising sodden sunbursts on the glossy paper. He had no question now how the artist had seen so deeply into his heart. He touched the pocket on his shirt. He had carried the fragment of crystal so long. There were times he missed its presence, although he never regretted its gifting.

When the call for his bus came, the magazine again lay discarded upon the seat, but its pages were fewer, and his pocket was no longer empty. The presence of the crystal resided there once again, albeit in a different shape and form. His image, as the Angel of Light, painted by his own.

And perhaps, when all this was done, he would see her again.