Susanne (Part 6 of Death is my Friend)

by Anna Hulterstroem and Grit Kaerst

Susanne walked through the city. Tomorrow it would be 12 years since her daughter Hannah had died. Susanne tried to find some cute flowers that she could put on her grave. It still hurt her that they had only 1 day after they found each other again, before Hannah had to go. Susanne lost her daughter when Hannah was five and found her twenty years later again, just to loose her again. It was as if it was just yesterday when the black woman, Tess, came to her and told her to come with her, if she wants to meet her daughter. It was the most beautiful and the most terrible day in her life at once, since the same woman told her a few minutes later that her daughter had only 24 hours left before she would die. It was also then that she found new friends. There were at first Mary, a nurse at the hospice where her daughter had died. Susanne and Mary became more than good friends during that hard time. But later Susanne moved away to a new job, she and Mary couldn't see each other each day anymore, but Mary visited her every year at the same day, the day when Hannah had died. And so, Susanne had to smile when she hurried through the streets, because tomorrow wouldn't only be the day of Hannah's death but it would also be the day when she would meet Mary again.

But there were also other good friends that she had found 12 years ago. The two angels. At first Tess who brought her to Hannah and helped her a lot through that difficult time. But there was also still that gentle Angel of Death Andrew, who was there for Hannah to bring her Home. Susanne had to chuckle when she remembered her first reaction as Tess told her about that angel. At first, she was afraid and terrified but she met him later in the garden and he talked with her before he told her who he was and yes, Tess was right, he WAS very gentle and compassionate. In that moment, Susanne recognized how much she missed her friends. At least she saw Mary once every year, what wasn't really much, but it was now 12 years ago that she met these two angels and suddenly she felt that she wished that all three of her friends would be with her this year.

Susanne sighed, a sharp pain in her side made her dizzy and she took support against a wall. That pain again. If it just would go away. Deep inside her Susanne knew that it would be wise to see a doctor about it, but she had met some of the medical profession who had been rather snobby about her drug abusive past. She also knew now that it was a statement from such a person that had permanently separated Hannah from her. All this added up to a deep mistrust of people in authority, doctors included. Besides abusing drugs had made her come in contact with more needles than she ever wanted to come in contact with.

Susanne found the flowers she was looking for and was glad that she finally could go home.

'Not again' she thought when she found out that the elevator was out of order for the umpteen time that month. She walked the four stairs to her apartment and let her self in. She had to stop three times to catch her breath on the way up, and when she finally got inside her apartment door she gratefully sank down in the sofa.

That night, like every night since she had met the angels, she thanked God for the day that had been and lay her self in his hands. Then she dreamed. She dreamed that she was together with Hannah. They were walking along a mountain stream that happily gurgled as it ran over smooth water polished stones. The pain in her side was totally gone and she felt so free and happy. Andrew came sauntering over a flower-clad meadow and Hannah and Susanne greeted him happily.

The next morning Susanne woke up feeling more rested and fresh than she had for months, well ever since that pain had started to bug her.

She hummed as she prepared her breakfast and she was still humming as she walked down the stairs, flowers in hand. The bus that took her to the cemetery was full, so she had to stand, but somehow that didn't matter today. She got off and started to walk towards the gates of the cemetery. She was stopped by a familiar voice hailing her from behind. She turned around and there was Mary. Mary too had flowers in her hand, two posies to be exact. Mary always put one on her daughter Tracy's grave and one on Neil's grave. Neil had been a young man that Mary had met when she first started her work at the hospice. He had no family and he and Mary had tied strong bands. They had become like mother and son to each other.

Arm in arm the two friends walked down the path towards their children's graves. They put the flowers in front of the headstones and stood back. This was always the tough part. Mary began talking about the year that had been and Susanne filled in her part. She had some difficulty talking about her pain though.

Deep in their own thoughts the two friends lingered by the graves when they heard their names being called. They turned around and the surprise and joy was clearly visible on their faces as they greeted their two friends Tess and Andrew.

"Tess! Andrew!" both women called at the same time. They couldn't believe their own eyes. It didn't take them long to jump to their feet and run over to their two friends who stood only two meters behind them.

Mary was the first one who reached Tess and hugged her. "Oh Tess, I'm so glad to see you two!"

Susanne needed a little bit longer. She hugged Andrew and tried to say something, but she had problems catching her breath. Andrew's face changed from a happy look to one of concern. "Is everything okay," he asked worried.

"Sure," Susanne answered quickly "I'm fine. Don't worry about me. Oh I'm so happy to see you two again!" She wrapped her arms around her friend.

Andrew smiled again, he was still concerned for his friend, but he was just as happy as these two women were that they had got the chance to see each other again. It had been such a long time since the last time. But Andrew couldn't shake off the feeling that something was wrong with Susanne. He decided to talk to her later, maybe she didn't want Mary to know about it.

After the four friends had greeted each other, Susanne asked them to come over to her apartment. There was so much they had to talk about. Mary, Tess and Andrew agreed with a big smile.

When Tess pulled her car into the parking lot in front of Susanne's home and turned the motor off, Andrew helped the two women out of the car.

The elevator was still broken and since Susanne knew the she had problems with getting up the stairs, she decided to go first to the cellar, to get some things from there and then walk up the stairs. This way, she hadn't to go up twice. She gave Mary her keys and told her friends to go into her apartment without her, because she wanted to pick up some things from the cellar. Tess and Mary agreed and took her keys, but Andrew decided to help Susanne. Susanne wasn't sure if she should be glad about this or not, because it meant that he would see, that something was wrong with her and this was the last thing she wanted. It was awkward somehow for her. Susanne couldn't explain why, after all Andrew was a good friend, but maybe it was because of his job as an Angel of Death. Just imagining having to admit him that she maybe was sick caused her stomachaches. But she didn't find a reason that he would accept and let her alone. Susanne decided to give her best trying to hide it.

Andrew insisted to carry most of the things that Susanne needed. Both went up the stairs. They were almost on Susanne's floor, when she couldn't go on anymore. She needed a little break so that she could catch her breath. The pain came back and it was more intense than ever before. Susanne put her hand on her side and groaned.

Andrew suddenly put down the things he carried and hurried over to Susanne's side and tried to give her a support. With a more than worried face, he asked, "What's wrong Susanne?"

Susanne needed a moment, but when the pain was gone, she answered shortly, "Nothing. It's .. it's over. I'm fine Andrew. I'm just starting to get old." Susanne tried to joke, but Andrew looked still concerned at her.

The angel looked long and deep into Susanne's eyes, before he replied, "Susanne, you should know me better than that. You know that you can't hide something like that from the Angel of Death. I have seen too many sick people for you to cheat me with telling me you are fine. Susanne, you are sick. You know it and I know it. You need to see a doctor!" Andrew told her firmly.

But Susanne shook her head, "Andrew, you know I like you, but when I say 'I'm fine', than I AM FINE! Okay? I don't need a doctor!" With that she took the last stair and went into the apartment.

Andrew sighed heavily and shook his head. Why were these humans often so stubborn!

***************************** It was wonderful to finally be together again. The four friends had so much to talk about, but all through the day, Susanne could feel Andrew's eyes following her every move. She also felt a little bit guilty for having treated Andrew like that, on the stairs. She really needed to talk about it, but help was not something she wanted.

Mary prattled on happily unaware of her friend's problems, just like Susanne wanted it. All too soon it was time for Mary to leave. Tess and Andrew stayed on to help Susanne clear up the mess. When Susanne left the two angels alone in the kitchen for a moment, Andrew took the opportunity to tell Tess about Susanne's problem.

"I know she is ill Tess, but she doesn't want to talk to me about it. Maybe she can talk to you. I have a feeling that it is serious and that she is in dire need of help."

Tess nodded. "I'll see what I can do Angel Boy."

Shortly afterwards Andrew excused himself leaving Tess alone with Susanne.

Tess made Susanne sit down in the sofa beside her. She looked Susanne in the eyes. "What wrong Susanne? You can tell old Tess you know."

The compassion in Tess' voice and eyes broke Susanne's self defense. Tears welled up in her eyes and she gratefully accepted Tess' embrace.

When she had calmed down, Susanne began telling Tess of how she a few months ago suddenly had realized that she was out of breath and that the stitch she occasionally got was perhaps more serious than she originally had thought.

"Oh, baby, you need help, you need to see a doctor." Tess told Susanne, while she continued to rock Susanne in her arms.

The change was startling. Susanne was out of Tess' embrace before Tess had finished the sentence. "NO, NO DOCTOR!" she exclaimed.

Tess once more caught Susanne in her embrace. "Why sweetie, what have doctors done to you to make you say such a thing?"

Susanne calmed down as she told Tess about her first doctor's betrayal regarding Hannah. "Besides" she continued, "I have had enough needles in me for one life time."

Tess gently rubbed Susanne's back. "You can't go on pretending it is nothing you know. Sooner or later you will have to face what ever it is."

"I know, I just can't make myself do it." Susanne lifted her eyes and looked into Tess' face.

"Not even if I'm there to see to that everything is done properly?" Tess just had to ask, but deep in her heart she knew that Susanne wasn't ready for that yet.

"Thanks Tess, maybe later, but not today. When you see Andrew will you tell him I'm sorry for the way I behaved. It's just that I'm so afraid that it might be cancer, and him being the Angel of Death and all. I just can't bear to hear the verdict." Susanne stared down on her lap when she said that.

Tess sighed, but patted Susanne's back. "I know baby, just lets hope that it won't be too late when you finally make up your mind."

It was late when Tess left Susanne. Susanne escorted Tess to the door. It was almost midnight and Andrew hadn't come back after he left the two in the evening.

"Do you think he is mad at me, because of the way I reacted?" Susanne asked worried when Tess stood in front of the door.

Tess smiled cheerfully, "Don't worry about our Angel Boy, baby. He isn't mad at you. He just has to work a lot at the moment. But nevertheless, he knows that you don't feel comfortable in his presence at the moment and he understands it. Andrew knows that you need some time to deal with it and he wants to give you that time."

"But I still feel terrible about my reaction and also about my feelings that I have about him at the moment. I mean, he is my friend, Tess. I know I shouldn't feel uncomfortable in his presence, but it just happens. I ... I ... can't explain it ..." Susanne wasn't sure if she could explain how she felt, she even wasn't sure if she herself understood, how could she then explain it.

But Tess took her in a comforting hug and told her, "Don't worry, baby! I understand what you mean. I know that you like Andrew just as much as he likes you. You don't feel comfortable with him around at the moment, because you know that you are sick. You are afraid that it's cancer and if you admit it or not, you are more afraid of that since Andrew showed up. Right?"

Susanne nodded, "I guess I'm afraid that he isn't only here to visit me as my friend." Susanne started to cry softly, "Oh Tess, what if Andrew is here because I'm dying? I don't want to die. I don't want to have cancer."

"Shhh... Listen to Tess!" Tess commanded softly and waited until Susanne looked at her, "I will come tomorrow morning and we will go to see a doctor. Okay? As so long as you don't know what's wrong with you, you won't find peace."

After Susanne stopped crying, she nodded slowly. She still didn't want to go to a doctor, the thought about that caused her stomach to ache again, but the look on Tess' face told her that she wouldn't accept a no.

Tess smiled, "Fine! And now ... you must go to bed now and try to find some sleep."

Susanne nodded again and before Tess finally left, she asked hesitantly, "Tess? Can you ask Andrew to come with us too?"

A big smile appeared on the angel's face, "Sure!"

*** It was almost 8 am, when Susanne woke up. She had slept better than she had expected. The doorbell rang short after Susanne had finished her breakfast.

********************************** Outside stood Tess and Andrew. "I'm not sure that I can go through with this." Susanne began. Her stomach had cramped up the moment she heard the doorbell.

"I know it's hard for you, but sure you can. We'll help you." Tess' voice was as encouraging as ever.

Andrew put his hand on her shoulder. "Believe me Susanne, it's better to know what you are facing, than to fight something blindfolded."

Susanne's legs felt like jelly and she wished she had only had coffee and toast for breakfast, but she recognized this feeling. This was how she had felt that terrible day so long ago when she had taken Hanni, her beautiful daughter, to the social services before she checked herself in to the drug rehab.

She allowed Andrew who escort her down the stairs. Halfway down she had to stop and rest. She searched Andrew's face for some clues about her condition, but found none. "Andrew, I'm so sorry I yelled at you yesterday. Can you forgive me."

Andrew smiled and put his hand on her shoulder. "I understand, Susanne. I have experienced worse, believe me. Fear is like a poison, too long exposure to it and you can't think straight anymore. After today we will at least know what there is to face. Fear of the unknown is always the hardest to tackle."

Susanne smiled back at him. "Thank you Andrew, for being so understanding. I don't know what I would do without you and Tess."

When they reached the doctor's office, Tess took a firm grip of Susanne to support her when they got in. Susanne turned to Tess. "How on earth did you manage to get me an appointment at today? I mean it's only one day!"

Tess smiled and started to speak when Susanne interrupted. "Yeah, Yeah, I know. Special connections. Right?"

Tess' smile grew wider. "Yes, you could put it like that."

It was a different doctor, what else could she have expected. He was considerate and meticulous. He asked her a lot of questions, like how it felt and how long had she been troubled. He listened to her heart and lungs; took the blood pressure and had a lot of tests been made. One of them was a lung x-ray. He then gave Susanne a time for a new appointment three days from that day.

Susanne didn't know what to feel. She was relieved to have been there, but now she had three more days to worry in. She asked Tess and Andrew if they would please, please be there for her the next time too. She didn't dare to ask them to hold her hand in the meanwhile. Both Tess and Andrew assured her that they would be there the next time too. Then Tess and Andrew took her home again. Tess cooked her dinner and the two angels sat down and had the meal together with her.

The next two days were agonizing, but either Tess or Andrew would be there in the evening keeping her company when she came home from work. Then the third day dawned.

Susanne had not slept well that night, but she woke up to the smell of coffee and she could hear Tess' magnificent alto humming a happy tune in the kitchen. A friendly 'good morning' made her also feel a whole lot better. Tess smiled at her. "Don't worry Andrew will be here, he just had a few things to do first."

Susanne could well imagine what 'things' Andrew were doing, and in spite of everything she shivered.

Andrew stood by the car when Tess and Susanne came out of the apartment building. He helped Susanne get in the car, just as he a few minutes later helped her get out of it. When they got into the doctor's office he had all of her papers spread out in front of him.

"Sit down please Ms Wycliffe."

Susanne turned to Tess and Andrew. "Oh, oh. This doesn't look good."

"No, Ms Wycliffe, I'm sorry to say that, it doesn't. You told me that you used to smoke a lot when you were younger, and I'm afraid it has caught up with you. I am so sorry to have to say this, believe me, but you have lung cancer." The doctor hurried to say the last words.

Tess put her arm around Susanne's shoulders. "There is a chance to cure it, isn't it?" She asked the doctor.

The doctor glanced gravely at the three people in front of him. "Yes there is always a chance, however slim, but I must be honest with you. This has been going on for some time. The odds aren't exactly on your side Ms Wycliffe. We are going, of course, to set up times at the hospital for treatment."

Susanne interrupted him. "No, don't bother. It will only cost time and money. I don't really have that much money. I'd rather spend it on something else."

Andrew looked searchingly at her. "Susanne, are you sure about this?"

Susanne met his gaze. "Not really, but it's the best I can think of at the moment."

The doctor heard the last words and held on to them. "You can always inform me and get an appointment for treatment if you should change your mind, Ms Wycliffe."

"Thank you," said Susanne, "But I don't think that this is going to happen. Somehow I expected this result and I have had a lot of time to think about it the last three days."

With that she stood up and said good-bye to the doctor and left the room. Tess and Andrew followed her.

Andrew was the first who spoke to her when they got outside, "Susanne, you should think about this again. I ..."

But Susanne cut him short, "I know what you are going to tell me, but I've made my choice. Andrew, you should know better than anyone else what lung cancer means. I made some research on the Internet and all sites that I found said the same: 80% of the patients are dying sooner or later. And I don't want to spent my last months on earth in hospitals with doctors around me who give me medication that makes me only sicker only to get some more weeks. Andrew, please don't try to convince me abut something else. I want to spend the rest of time on earth with doing things I wanted to do or see my whole life. "

Andrew sighed and than he looked deep and long into Susanne's eyes when he replied, "Yes, I know what lung cancer means, but I also have seen people who won that fight! Please Susanne, don't give up your hope," Andrew pleaded with her compassionatly.

But Susanne shook her head, "But the chances are too small that I'm one of the lucky ones. My whole life I've been on the side of the loosers and I don't think it will be different this time."

Andrew wanted to respond something but Tess was quicker, "Susanne, HOW on earth did you get the idea, that you are a looser? You are NOT a looser. Do you hear me?! You are one of His beloved children!"

"But I am, Tess. I lost my future and opportunities when I was young, because I was so stupid to take drugs. I lost my child, because I was so stupid to trust in the social service and now ... now I loose my life because I was so stupid to smoke and to ignore my health problems when I noticed them the first time! WHAT on earth should I call such a person?" Susanne's voice grew louder and angrier. The tears started to flow down her face. "Tess, Andrew ... I don't want to die. Really! But I know it's going to happen to me and I only want to get it behind me! I mean I lost everything that means something to me with Hannah. I lost her twice and now ... I'm loosing the last thing that means something to me. I know it." With that, Susanne walked away.

It broke the angels' hearts to see their friend like that. Andrew wanted to go after her and take her in a comforting hug, but Tess held him back, "No Angel Boy, she isn't ready to talk with us. Give her some time."

"But Tess ... she shouldn't be alone right now! She just got THE news that she was afraid of the whole time."

Tess shook her head, "I know baby, but she isn't alone. Remember, that God is always with her if she wants it or not. Let her take that walk home." Andrew started to say something, but Tess cut him short, "I know what you are going to say. But be patient Angel Boy, she will accept our help when she is ready for it. All we can do is to wait for that moment."

*********************** Susanne started to walk back. Right now she was filled to the brim with frustration and anger. The tears were stinging in her eyes and the lump in her throat was growing bigger and bigger. Finally she had to stop. Not because her anger had subsided, but because she could not get any breath. She leaned against a wall trying to calm down so that she could get her breath back. The pain returned sharper than ever. She cried out in pain. Never had she felt so alone, so betrayed and so afraid as right now. She cried out " God why?"

She felt strong arms supporting her and when she turned around she saw Andrew. "I respect your wish Susanne, just don't lock me out."

The thought of being able to lock the Angel of Death out made Susanne smile. All of a sudden things didn't look so black as it had just a moment ago. "Can you help me with something, Andrew?"

"Sure, what do you need help with?"

"I always dreamt of flying. Do you think you could help me get lessons?"

Andrew smiled. "Sure thing Susanne. Tess and I will help you."

Susanne relaxed in Andrew's arms. She felt her anger and fear melt away, well most of it. Tess was pulling to the curb and Andrew helped Susanne get in.

"Hello baby." Tess put a hand on Susanne's arm. "Do you feel any better? What you really need to do right now is to talk to Mary. We could take you there so that you two could talk."

Susanne thought about it. 'Did she really want Mary to know? Of course she did, but right now? Well she would have to know sooner or later and now was as good a time as any. But Mary was working right now. Did she want to see the hospice again? Well, everything pointed to that she would see it soon anyway.' "Okay" she said. "I guess I had better get it over with. Take me to Mary at the hospice."

Mary was pleasantly surprised when she saw Susanne coming towards her in the hall, and happier still when she saw Tess and Andrew, but something kept nagging her that something was wrong.

Mary embraced her friends and offered them some coffee. The more she observed Susanne, the more was she convinced that something was wrong. 'Why had she not seen anything the other day?'

Finally when the coffee was almost finished had Susanne gathered enough courage to tell Mary what was wrong with her.

"You are getting treatment!?" Mary's question was more of a statement than a question.

"No, I'm not. I have had enough to do with doctors and needles for one lifetime. I'm not going to spend my time taking drugs that will make me feel so sick that I can't do anything. I want to spend my last time trying to do things I never had a chance to do before."

To Susanne's surprise Mary seemed to accept this. "I'll help you as much as I can, you know that" Was all Mary said. ***

"Yes, I know. You ... you are not trying to convince me to try something else?" she asked with disbelief. Mary shook her head, "No. Susanne, I have known you 12 years now and I know how stubborn you can be," Mary replied with a smile. And with a look at Andrew and Tess, "Besides, I'm sure that Tess and Andrew already have tried this and you wouldn't tell me that you refuse treatments if they had been successful. Well, if even the Angel of Death doesn't get you to go into a hospital for treatments ... I don't think I would have more success."

Susanne smiled, "No, I don't think so either." Mary got concerned as she took Susanne's hand, "Is there anything I can do you for you?"

"I'm not sure. I think I will need some time to find out which the things are, that I want to do before ..." Susanne cast a short glance at Andrew, who replied with a compassionate and sorrowful look. She couldn't speak out the word. But she also hadn't to do this, since Mary knew what she wanted to say. Mary nodded, "Sure, I can understand that. I know that the first time after someone gets such bad news, is that hardest time. If you need someone to talk to, please call me. No matter if it's in the middle of the night or anything else." "Thank you! But right now, I just want to go home. I hope you won't be mad at me ..." Susanne said tired when she stood up. Mary hugged her and whispered in her ear, "Don't worry, I'm not mad at you." Tess helped Susanne back to the car, but Andrew stayed a moment longer with Mary. He saw her unspoken question in her eyes, when Susanne told her and he knew Mary well enough to know that she wanted to talk with him. When Susanne and Tess left the room she asked, "How much time?" Andrew sighed and shook his head, "I don't know, yet." "I know, but if you look back at your experience you get in your job ... What do you think how much time she has?" "Well, lung cancer is one of the fastest and worst kinds of cancer. If she doesn't get treatments ... " Andrew paused he never felt comfortable in such situations"... most people die during the first 6 months." Mary closed her eyes, as she felt that tears appeared in her eyes, "We've had a lot of patients here dying from lung cancer in the last years. It's a cruel and painful death. It's not fair Andrew that Susanne has to go through this. She has already had enough trials in her life, enough pain and sorrow ..." Andrew took Mary in a comforting hug, and whispered in her ear, "I know, Mary. Believe me, I know. I wish there were anything I could do for her to make it easier or less painful for her. Nobody should go Home like this!"

**************************** Susanne was alone with her thoughts for two long days, but on the third day there was a knock on the door. Outside stood Tess and Andrew. Both of them wore huge smiles.

"Good morning Susanne. Want to fly?" Tess greeted her.

"Fly? Yes, but so soon. How have you managed to arrange that?" Susanne knew the answer before she had even uttered the question.

She grabbed her jacket and happily left with the angels. Luckily the elevator was back in order again, or her friends would have noticed that her troubles with breathing had become worse.

It was a happy day out at the small airfield. For a few hours her angelic friends made her forget how sick she was. She learned how to pack a parachute. She was allowed into the cockpit and she even held the stick for a brief moment, then she made a tandem jump with Andrew. That was the greatest part of it all.

Over the next two weeks Tess and Andrew took her out to the airfield so that she could get to the point of, if not flying the plane by her self at least she could, fly with some assistance.

The day she had been up in the plane and actually flown it, her teacher had done the take off and landing, Tess drove her home. Susanne had been so exhilarated by the flying business that she had not given herself time to notice her health, or rather lack thereof. Now as she was walking up the stairs, the elevator being once more out of order, she noticed her worsening condition. She had to stop several times and the last time she heard wheezing with every laboriously drawn breath. Susanne glanced at Tess. "It's getting worse isn't it?"

Tess nodded. "Yes, it is. It's time to start to thin about what to do when you can't live here any more." Tess answered with compassion.

Tess helped Susanne into the apartment and started to prepare dinner. When Susanne had rested a bit and felt stronger, she went out in the kitchen to help Tess. Susanne looked at the amount of food that Tess was preparing. "We could never eat that much Tess. I don't know if you have noticed, but my appetite is not what it used to be."

Tess smiled. "I have noticed, but it is so much easier to eat when you do it together with good friends. Don't you think?"

At that moment there was a knock on the door and Andrew and Mary came in.

Susanne was so happy to see her friend Mary. She hadn't seen her in the last two weeks.

The evening started to be great. Susanne told Mary everything that had happened since they saw each other the last time. She told her about her flying lessons and how great it was to jump out of the plane with Andrew.

Mary couldn't resist a joke by that with a amusemed glance at Andrew, "You mean it was great to jump out of a plane with the Angel of Death at your side?"

Everybody's eyes went over to Andrew who didn't feel so comfortable anymore. He had tried his best to pretend to be hurt. "Hey, I'm not such a bad omen!" the angel replied with a look that wanted to say 'You should know me better'

Susanne put her arm around his neck and told him with a big smile "Don't worry, Andrew. I could never feel saver with anybody else than the Angel of Death when I jump out of a plane." The next minute everybody was laughing. But they stopped immediately when Susanne started to cough badly. Mary, Tess and Andrew hurried at her side to try to help her.

When Susanne released the paper tissue from her mouth, she could see that there was blood in it. Everybody was shocked by that. Susanne glanced sadly at her friends. "Maybe Tess is right, that it's going to be time to think about my near future," she said with a worried look at Andrew.

Andrew didn't need to be an angel, to see what her unspoken question was. He knelt down in front of her and touched her cheek with his hand, "Yes, it's going to be time to think about that. But don't worry, we are all here to help. I promise you!"

Susanne nodded sadly, "I know." But a new cough attack prevent her to say something else.

Mary saw that these attacks took a lot from her friend's strength. She looked so tired and pale now. "Maybe you should take a little nap. You look like you could need some rest."

Usually Susanne would have refused it, but she had to admit that her friend was right. She was really tired.

"That's a good idea, Baby," Tess said cheerfully when she helped Susanne to stand up, "And don't worry, we will clean up everything here."

************************* Susanne felt refreshed when she woke up, and happy. She remembered feeling the same way as a child when she awoke after a happy dream, knowing that her mother and father was there embracing her with their love. It was more than happiness, it was also a feeling of total love and security. She heard the muffled voices of her friends from the living room. It was late but Mary was still there talking to Tess and Andrew

When Susanne joined her friends in the living room she found that Tess had prepared tea, there were even some biscuits and cheeses that she was certain had not been in the house when she went to bed.

The special feeling she had when she woke up still lingered and she felt that it now was so much easier for her to talk about her last days on earth. She turned to Mary. "Is there a place at the hospice for me Mary? I think I soon will need help."

Mary nodded. "Yes, my friend there is. You can move in tomorrow if you like, or any time. We will keep a place for you."

Susanne sighed. "Thank you guys, I don't know what I would do without you. After all that I have done I my life I could never dream of deserving friends like you."

Andrew took Susanne's hand. "You are a child of God Susanne He loves you unconditionally, and He wants nothing but the best for you. We're not here to judge you. We're just here to be your friends and that is something we all want to be. You are a good friend too you know and we all want to be here with you."

Susanne sighed again, this time of relief. "Andrew, how muchŠ.? Is it best for me to move in tomorrow?"

Andrew looked her straight in the eyes. "You don't have to move in tomorrow, but it might be wise to do so within the next two weeks."

Susanne braced herself. "Mary is it okay if I move in Monday next week?"

Mary nodded, "yes of course Susanne. No problem."

Susanne nodded with a thin smile, "Thank you! There are still something that I want to do before I have to go."

"What?" Mary curious asked. And Andrew and Tess faces showed clearly that they had the same question.

"I want to see a sunrise and a sunset at the ocean. I also want to sit at the beach in the night, watching the sky and listen to the waves."

Her three friends got big smiles on their faces. "That's a wonderful idea," Tess replied and her voice was full of joy. "Do you know what you are going to do? I mean REALLY knowing what you are going to do there?" Tess asked.

Mary and Susanne both looked full of confusion at Tess. What did she mean?

Tess put her arm around Susanne and said with a big smile, "You are going to experience God Himself and his beautiful creations. If you will listen close enough, you will hear His voice at that beach. I promise you Baby. And I will be more than glad to give you the ride to that encounter."

Susanne smiled back at Tess. She couldn't help starting to cry softly, when she saw that Tess REALLY meant every word she just had said to her. "Do you really think?"

Tess only nodded, "Yes Baby. What do you think if we start right away tomorrow morning?"

"Oh Tess, that would be wonderful!" Susanne was happier than ever before since she had got the news about her disease. "I can't thank you enough for everything you guys are doing for me!"

It was late, when the angels and Mary left and Susanne went to bed. She was tired but she couldn't sleep. It was too exciting to think that she would soon see the ocean. It was HER dream, since she was a child, but she had never had enough money to pay for such a trip.

It was almost 3 a.m. when Susanne woke up from a nightmare. She dreamt that she had a terrible cough attack, that she started to cough only blood, that she couldn't breath anymore, that she was dying and there was only darkness. Her pajamas were wet because of her sweat of fear. She was still frightened and couldn't catch her breath. The memories were still fresh and so also was the panic that she had felt in that dream. But there was something else that caught her attention. She had a feeling that there was someone in the room. "Andrew? Are you here? I can feel you!"

Susanne was relieved when she saw that it really was Andrew. He stood in the corner of the room and walked slowly over to her bed. Susanne smiled thinly at him when she sat up, "You don't have to hide from me, you know?"

Andrew chuckled and joked, "I know, but I also know that some people don't sleep too well, when they know that the Angel of Death is watching over them."

Susanne laughed, "Oh, well ... thanks then." Then she got concerned, "You knew that I would have such a nightmare. Right?"

The angel nodded, "Yes. Somehow I expected that it would happen sooner or later, especially after your experience today." Andrew looked Susanne compassionately into her eyes, "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Yeah, maybe it helps. I can't get back to sleep ... I know I would be back in that dream." Andrew smiled gently at her and stroked soothingly her hair, when she continued, "It was terrible! I ... I dreamed that I was alone at home and I had a new cough attack, that didn't stop. I ... I couldn't breath anymore and soon there was blood everywhere. Andrew, I was so afraid and alone. It didn't take long until there was only darkness all around me. I was so frightened since there was no one, not even you were there." Susanne started to cry softly. "Andrew, I don't want to die that way."

Andrew's heart broke when he saw the terror in his friend's eyes. He took her in a comforting hug, stroking softly her hair and said gently, "I know that this dream was frightened, but I promise you ... it won't happen that way! You WILL NOT be alone, God will be at your side and so will I. There won't be darkness. All there will be is light and love. I promise you!"

Susanne trembled in his arms, "I know, but I also know that it won't be a painless death."

************************* Andrew stayed with Susanne, holding her in his arms until she fell asleep once again. She slept uninterrupted till morning, but she could still fell a remnant of last night's fear. She was still in her bathrobe when Tess turned up. Unperturbed, as if she already knew what had happened, Tess fixed her some breakfast and helped her pack a few small items that she might need on their journey to the ocean.

Susanne hated herself for being so helpless, but she was grateful to her friends for helping her and right now she was looking forward to see the ocean.

Tess helped her into the big red convertible. When they had cleared the city traffic Tess told her to relax, lay back and get some rest. Susanne closed her eyes and before she knew it she was sound asleep. No nightmare this time. Instead she felt herself lulled as if cradled in someone's arms.

When Susanne woke up it took a few moments before she had oriented herself. Yes, she really was in Tess' car heading for the ocean. When Tess saw that her passenger was stirring she smiled happily and glanced at Susanne. "Hungry? I think it's supposed to be a diner not far from here."

"What time is it? It feels like I've been sleeping for ages." Susanne was still rubbing her eyes.

"Half past five baby. I figure that if we have dinner here we will just make it to the beach in time."

"The beach? How fast have you been driving? This trip would take several days!" Susanne was aghast.

Tess chuckled. "You forget there's an angel behind the steering wheel, baby. By the way, I have made reservations at a hotel right by the beach. We have a couple of days that we can spend here before we have to go back."

Susanne sighed, 'yes go back and die' she thought. Aloud she said, "that sounds just wonderful Tess."

The diner appeared round the corner, just like Tess had said. The meal was okay and Susanne found that she still had an appetite.

About an hour later Tess swung the big car into a parking lot in front of a cozy looking motel. A sign said 'Ocean View' and to Susanne's delight she could actually hear the waves lapping and smell the ocean air. She breathed deeply and was awarded by a deep cough. Tess was however by her side helping her.

"Take it easy baby. It will be okay." Tess held Susanne in her arms trying to calm Susanne's coughing,

The attack passed as quickly as it had come on and the two women could go into the reception and check in.

A few moments after they had checked in Tess picked up a basket that was just lying there. Susanne could have sworn that the basket had not been there a second earlier. Tess then led Susanne to the beach.

They found a quiet cove not far away from town, but close enough so that Susanne wouldn't be too tired from the walk. Susanne imbibed everything around her. The texture of the salt laden air; the smell of the sea; the seagulls cries; the feel of the sand between her toes. Tess spread out a blanket, she also produced a couple of those handy little chairs that allowed you to sit on the ground and still have a back support.

Susanne allowed herself to be sat down on the blanket in one of those little chairs. Tess immediately spread another blanket over her knees. "We don't want you to catch your death of cold here during the night." She joked.

Susanne had to chuckle and joked back, "Well, I can't see Andrew around here, so I don't think I will catch my death here."

"You should be careful about what you are saying," sounded a familiar male voice behind them, "you never know where the Angel of Death is waiting for you."

When Tess and Susanne turned around, they looked straight at Andrew, who had an impish smile on his face. "Andrew! What are you doing here?" Tess asked curiously and Susanne had the same question in her eyes.

Andrew walked over to his friends, "Well, I have an assignment not far from here and I thought I would check up on how you two are doing while I still have some time left." And with a look at Susanne, he asked, "And? How are you doing? Do you like the Ocean?"

Susanne smiled from one ear to the next. "If I like it?! It's beautiful here! And I'm so thankful that you two helped me to get here."

Andrew exchanged amused looks with Tess, before he pulled out and took a look at his pocket watch. "I'm sorry, but I have to go now. I wish I could spend that time with you two, but unfortunately ... I have to work." Then he gave Susanne a long concerned look and knelt down, before he continued, "Will you promise me something?"

"What?"

"I don't think we two will see each other again, before you will drive back, so I want you to promise me, that you will enjoy your time here and relax! Okay? I want you to feel and experience the love of God and don't worry too much about the things that are coming," Andrew told her with so much love and compassion in his eyes that Susanne almost started to cry.

She nodded slowly with a thin smile, "I promise you. I wish you could stay with us."

"I wish so too," Andrew replied and patted Susanne's shoulder, before he stood up and walked away. He wore his white suit now, and the soft glow that Susanne had seen the day when Hannah died was all around him again.

Susanne looked along time after him, before she turned back to Tess, "He really like his job, doesn't he?!"

Tess nodded with a smile, "Yes, he does with his whole heart. And ... I'll tell you a secret, but don't tell him, ... he is the best," she added with a twinkle in her eyes.

Susanne started to chuckle when she saw Tess' look, she looked like a proud mother, "and I believe you without any doubt. I'm so glad that I could meet him, before ... " Susanne's voice got sad again "...before he has to take me."

Tess' heart went out for the woman, she took her in her arms and held her tightly, "Don't forget what you promised my Angel Boy. That you won't worry about what's coming, that you instead will enjoy the here and now."

Susanne nodded and looked toward the horizon where the sun had started to sink into the water. It was a beautiful sight. The sky around the sun changed from orange to a beautiful red. The two colors flowed into each other and the sun was like a big ball of fire that sank into the ocean. The water reflected the spectacle in the sky like a mirror so that it was hard to say where the water ended and the sky began.

"Tess, it's so beautiful!" Susanne couldn't take her eyes, from the horizon. It was the first time in her life, that she REALLY saw a sunset like that. She was always too busy or too upset about her life for her to take the time to just sit somewhere to watch something so beautiful as that, not to forget that you never could see THAT in a big city.

"Yes, it is, Baby," Tess nodded just as spell bound by the sight as Susanne was.

"You were right, when you told me that I was going to experience God's creation!" Susanne said with tears in her eyes.

Tess smiled at her and said softly, "This is just the beginning. When it's dark and all you can see are the stars and all that you can hear are the waves, then you should lay down, looking into the night sky and just listen to the Ocean and I promise you, you will hear his voice inside of you!"

Susanne smiled back.

After the sun had disappeared completely, it got colder on the beach. Susanne was glad that Tess had some blankets with her. The most of the time, the human and the angel sat in silence on the beach and watched how the seagulls played in the air.

When it got colder and darker, the first stars appeared in the sky. Susanne remembered what Tess had told her an hour ago and so she lay down and looked into the sky. It was beautiful, the longer she looked, the more stars appeared. There was a peace that started to fill her whole body it caused a warm, safe, loving feeling in her heart that she never before had felt in her life. Susanne got sleepy and closed her eyes. Her thoughts went out to the ocean. It was still all around her and all that she could hear was the sound of the waves. The longer she listened to it, the more she was filled with peace and love. It was as if she could hear a small, soft voice that told her "Don't be afraid My child. I love you and I will be with you no matter what's coming. Just trust Me."

************************ Oblivious of time Susanne lay on the beach wrapped in God's love. A faint silvery light was showing on the horizon when Susanne shivered in the suddenly very cold air. "What time is it Tess?" Susanne yawned.

"It's almost four o'clock in the morning. It's the pre dawn chill you are feeling. "Tess' unperturbed voice answered.

As Tess stood up to put another blanket around her friend, Susanne could see a faint golden shimmer outlining Tess' body.

Once again they waited in silence. Susanne imbibing every feeling, every sound, everything.

A while later the faint silvery line became pink, then golden as the sun traveled higher and higher above the horizon. Soon the sky was once more ablaze with pink and golden colors. Susanne watched it all with tears in her eyes. 'Why didn't I experience this before? Now it's too late,' she thought. No sooner had she had that thought when she heard Andrew's voice saying 'remember what you promised' and she also heard God's voice saying 'Don't be afraid My child.'

Susanne turned around looking for Andrew and saw a smiling Tess. "It is God reminding you of what He and Andrew has told you."

Now the sun was up and the seagulls were once more swooping in the sky, making their shrill cries. The first surfers had appeared on the beach once more looking for the 'perfect' wave. They were no longer alone with God and His creation.

Tess hauled out a thermos from her basket and some sandwiches and they had a breakfast picnic right there on the beach. Tess looked at her friend. "Are you tired Susanne? Do you want to go back to your hotel?"

But Susanne just shook her head. She was tired, but not so tired that she couldn't sit on the beach enjoying the warm sun.

When the sun got more intense Tess put up a garden umbrella over their heads shielding them from the most intense sun rays. To Susanne's delight Tess' basket continued to provide them with food and drink throughout the day.

"Have you ever thought of touring the stages with that magical basket of yours?" Susanne impishly asked.

Tess cocked one eyebrow. "Humph. Who do you think it was who inspired David Copperfield?"

It was past dinnertime when Susanne finally felt too tired to stay awake anymore. She had spent twenty-four hours in the same spot on the beach. She had seen the sun go down, and she had seen it go up again. In between she had felt God's presence and heard His voice. The last hours in the sunshine she had been part of, and surrounded by life.

Susanne was completely happy and relaxed when Tess tucked her in, in her bed at the motel.

"Tess!" Susanne called sleepily after Tess, when the angel walked out of the room.

She turned around. "What is it, Baby? Do you need something else?"

Susanne shook her head with a thin smile, "No! No, I have everything I ever dreamed about. I just wanted to Thank you! I can't say it often enough."

Tess' smile grew, "You are welcome, Baby. But don't thank me ... Thank God, he is the one who gave you everything!"

Susanne nodded and drifted into a sound sleep short after she had said a big 'Thank you for everything' to God. She wanted to tell Him so much more, but she was already sleeping before she found the next thought that she wanted to tell Him.

When Susanne woke up, it was bright outside. She stood up and felt that she was completely relaxed. In the last weeks, this wasn't something that had happened often. Usually she woke up more tired than before. Tess was nowhere in sight and so, Susanne decided to take a shower and then go looking for her friend. But this wasn't necessary, since Tess' came back shortly before Susanne had finished her shower.

"Hi Tess!" Susanne greeted the angel when she came back from the bathroom.

"Hi Susanne! How are you doing today?" Tess asked with a big smile.

"Just wonderful!" Susanne replied exuberant. "How long have I slept?"

"Well, almost 24 hours."

"What?" this couldn't be true.

"But it is true! And it's well you did. You needed that rest. Are you hungry?" Tess asked.

Now that Tess mentioned it, Susanne had to admit that she really could need something to eat. "Yeah. I think I am."

"Good! Let's go! I know a small nice restaurant not far from here."

After the two had eaten, they went back to the beach. Susanne wanted to swim at least once in the ocean before they had to leave and Tess had no objections.

********************************* The water was buoyant and refreshing. Susanne swam along the shore, careful to stay in shallow water. She was not quite ready to meet Andrew in his official capacity yet. When she came up of the water she couldn't resist shaking off some her excess water over Tess. Tess on her part pretended to be offended, but then she too had to laugh, sharing the fun with Susanne.

Tess and Susanne walked to the car. When they left the beach Susanne turned around to take one last look at the ocean. "Do you think things would have turned out differently for me if I had grown up in an environment like this, Tess?"

Tess took Susanne's hands and looked her squarely in the eyes. "Don't ask yourself 'what if' questions, baby. They are impossible to answer. We can never change the past, but the good thing is that we can change the now and you have done that. You turned your life around. God is very proud of you, baby and you should be that too."

Susanne stared in disbelief at Tess. "God is proud of me?"

Tess smiled and put a hand under Susanne's chin lifting it up so that Susanne could look into Tess' eyes. "Yes, He is, He is very proud of you. You have faced your problems and dealt with them. You have always been searching for him and you have sought His help when it really mattered."

The trip home was just as uneventful for Susanne as the trip out. Just like the last time she slept most of the way. Everything looked the same when they came back. It was only Susanne that had changed - she had seen the ocean and she had met God.

The elevator was broken again. With a sigh Susanne started to climb the stairs. She had not climbed many steps before her body was raked with cough. Once again the pain was also there. She tried to breath, but the coughing just kept on. She swooned and would have fallen if not strong arms had caught her. A familiar male voice told her that he held her.

Susanne tried a few feeble protests, but Andrew was adamant. He was going to carry her up to her flat, and that was that.

Once up in the apartment Susanne was glad that Andrew had insisted. Just walking from the door and into the living room sent her coughing once more. Andrew and Tess exchanged glances. "I'll stay with you tonight, baby, and tomorrow Mary is coming to help you move to the hospice." Tess told her.

*********** Susanne was glad when she reached the couch and could sit down. She sighed and tried to catch her breath. The pain was still there but it slowed down. When it was over, she looked up and saw directly in the worried eyes of the two angels, especially Andrew looked so concerned for her. "It won't take long anymore. Right?" she asked meekly.

Andrew walked over to her and sat down next to Susanne. When he took her hand in his both hands, he could feel how cold Susanne's hand was and how much Susanne trembled. "No, it won't," the Angel of Death said softly.

Susanne closed her eyes. The last few days had been so great, that she never really worried about her sickness. She almost forgot it, at least most of the time. But now she was back and so was the pain and this reminded her as to well of what was waiting for her.

"Susanne, look at me," Andrew said gently when he lifted her chin so that she had to look into his eyes. "I know you are afraid, and I can really understand that well. I would lie if I would say it's an easy way to go Home, but I promise you that you will forget the pain when once you are on the other side. There will be only joy and love. And until this will happen, God and his angels are watching over you! You haven't to go through this alone."

Tears ran down Susanne's face, "I know, but nothing what you or God will do, will make a difference in the fact, that I AM the one who has the pain, who has the fear and who has to suffer with each cough attack! I have to go through THIS alone, you can't make it stop or change!"

"Yes, but you must admit that it is a lot easier if there is a friend who holds you when you are in pain," Andrew replied with a compassionate smile.

Susanne nodded through her tears, but she couldn't look at the angel, because she felt too ashamed about her last reaction. She knew that the angels just wanted to help and that it was as so hard for them as for her to watch her suffer, but sometimes she felt so frustrated about her situation that she said something before she thought that it could hurt her friends.

And as if Tess could read her mind, she said, "It's okay Baby. Don't worry, we understand your reaction. It's normal that you felt that way." Tess and Andrew both laid their hands on Susanne's back and rubbed it softly when Susanne cried

"Andrew?" Susanne asked finally after some minutes, "How ... how long will it take?"

Andrew shook his head, "I don't know how much time you have left, at least not exactly."

"No, that's not what I mean. I mean ... I mean more the process of dying itself," Susanne's voice died slowly. Somehow that topic was awkward to her, but it was a question she already had asked herself uncounted times. The last thing she wanted was to fight for air for hours until she died.

Andrew took her in his arms, "I don't know. This depends on a lot of things. Over some of theses things there is no chance to have an influence."

"And over which on can you have an influence?" Susanne asked with a low voice.

The angel shook his head, "I have no influence over any of these things! The only thing where *you* can have an influence is how much you will fight against me or rather against death. The more you are afraid of dying the longer it will take."

*********************** Tess stayed with Susanne all night. Susanne had trouble breathing so she was really glad to have Tess there. Every time that Susanne woke up in panic not getting enough air Tess was there holding her, soothing her and making her calm down enough so that she could take that deep breath of air that she needed.

It was a very tired Susanne that greeted Mary the next morning. Susanne was glad to move in to the hospice. She had never really thought that she would be glad to go to the same place where her daughter had died, but now she was.

Tess had hugged Susanne and told her that she would soon come and visit her at the hospice.

The room at the hospice was sunny and homey. This was the room Neil had had when Mary first started to work at the hospice. Since then she had seen many people die in that room. 'You could think that the atmosphere would be chilly and fearful,' Mary thought. 'Instead it is warm and friendly.' Hardly had she thought that, before she remembered all the times she had seen Andrew or one of his colleagues in that room and the peace that they brought with them. Mary smiled 'no wonder the room feels friendly with all this heavenly peace that the Angels of Death have brought to it.'

Mary helped Susanne settle in. She also stayed with her friend when the resident physician took a look at Susanne, trying to decide how to best help her. Mary knew that Susanne was not too keen about needles and drugs, she also knew all to well that the latter stages of cancer could be very painful indeed if the patient was not given morphine. So Mary was not all together surprised when Susanne refused being given any drugs.

Mary followed the physician out of the room so that she could explain to him why Susanne had refused the drugs. She was more than halfway through the story when Susanne called them back in again.

"I have changed my mind. I won't refuse the painkillers." Susanne told them.

The doctor was pleased with himself having succeeded to convince a patient of what would be the best for her.

Mary saw what it was that had made Susanne change her mind. Andrew was in the room. He was sitting on Susanne's bed, holding her hand.

When the doctor left, Mary closed the door after him. "I'm glad that you listened to Andrew, when you wouldn't listen to me or the doctor."

"Well, Andrew convinced me that I really will need pain relief and that there is no chance that I will take any drug habit with me to Heaven." Susanne replied with a smile.

Mary smiled back and laughed together with Andrew and Susanne, but they had to stop as Susanne started to cough again. Mary and Andrew exchanged some worried glances and then tried to comfort Susanne.

When the cough attack stopped, Susanne laid down again. She was completely tired after that attack.

Mary smiled compassionately at her friend and patted her shoulder, "You should try to sleep a little bit. I will come back later. Okay?"

Susanne nodded with a thin smile, "Thank you!"

As Mary closed the door behind her, Susanne looked back at Andrew. "Do you have to leave too?" she asked a little bit afraid.

Andrew shook his head with a smile. He still held her hand in his, when he answered, "No, not if you don't want it! You could say ... I'm YOUR angel for the next few days."

"You ... you mean, you are *official* here?" Susanne asked carefully.

The angel nodded slowly when he saw her unspoken fear, "Yes. But don't be afraid, Susanne. Please! There is no reason to be." He placed his hand on her head and stroke softly over her forehead with his thumb until she fell asleep.

"Did you do that?" sounded a familiar voice behind Andrew. When he turned around, he saw Tess standing behind him. Her face showed him clear that she knrw already the answer.

Andrew nodded, "She needs the rest, Tess."

Tess sighed, "You shouldn't do this. She needs to face her fear also."

"I know, but she can't face it if she is so tired," Andrew replied and looked sorrowful back at his friend.

Tess laid a comforting hand on her angel boy's back, "I know you just want to make it easier for her. And you are doing a great job!"

Andrew nodded with a sad smile. He only wished he could do more for her, like he always wished when he had an assignment.

Susanne slept until short after dinner time, when she woke up. Andrew was still sitting at her side and smiled at her, "How are you feeling?"

His friend smiled back at him, "Great! I feel as if I had slept for days!"

As Susanne tried to sit up, the pain came suddently back. It was more intensive than ever before. Susanne put her hand on her side and groaned. The pain was so intense that tears appeared in her eyes. She looked fearful at Andrew, when she asked, "It's going to be worse until you can take me. Right?"

Andrew looked worried at his friend and nodded. He released Susanne's hand and said, "I will call Mary, that she gives you some painkillers." With that he hurried out of the room. Usually Susanne would have refused it, but not this time.

Few seconds later, Mary and Andrew came back. Andrew sat down back at the edge of the bed when Mary got the injection ready. Susanne looked in horror at the needle. Somehow she felt stupid for her behaviour, but she couldn't change it. She hated injections!

"It's okay, Susanne. I promise it won't hurt much," Mary tried to calm down her friend, but she could still see the fear in Susanne's eyes.

"Susanne? Look at me!" said Andrew with a smile and took Susanne's hand in one of his again and started to stroke gently her forearm with his other hand. "Just look at me and listen to my voice. Don't look what Mary is doing. I promise you, it's not so bad than you remember it."

While Andrew spoke to Susanne, Mary gave her the shot. Susanne didn't even recognize it until Mary said, "It should work in a few seconds."

Susanne looked surprised at Mary, "That was it? I ... I didn't feel anything!"

Mary laughed with a short glance at Andrew, "Well, I told you I'm good in this. Besides, with an angel who helds your hand ..."

Andrew and Susanne laughed too and Mary could see that the meds started to work. "Are you hungry?" she asked when she saw that her friend started to relax.

"No, I'm not hungry. I ... I just want to sleep a little bit more."

"Okay. No problem, but if you get hungry, just call me and I will bring you somthing."

Susanne nodded and Mary left the room.

"The last thing I remember is that you told me that you are *official* here and then I fell asleep. Why do I get the feeling that it was you who send me to the dreamland?" Susanne asked and pretended to be angry, but Andrew saw that she wasn't too angry at him at all.

He chuckled a little bit, "Yes, it was me. You wasn't ready to talk about that topic. But you are ready now. Right?" He asked and Susanne saw in his eyes that he knew what happened when she slept.

"I guess you are right, I wasn't ready. But now ... . I have a strange dream. I was in a beautiful field. You was there with me and Hanni was there too. She run toward me and we were so happy, it was just soooo beautiful. The next thing I remember is that I stood before God. You was still at my side and I begged Him to let me stay, but He said I had to go back," Susanne told Andrew from her dream. The angel smiled softly at her. "It wasn't a dream, was it?!"

Andrew shook his head, "Yes and no. Yes, it was a dream, no it didn't come from your mind. God wanted to show you what is waiting for you."

"You mean, this is how heaven looks like?" Susanne starred in disbelief at her friend.

Andrew laughed, "A part of it. Yes. But it was just a small part. Heaven is so much more! VERY MUCH more!"

Susanne sit up, this time without new pain. She sighed, "Andrew, I'm not afraid of the place where I have to go. Not since we got such a good friends and not since that dream. But I'm soo afraid of the HOW. I'm not good in taking pain! I don't want to suffocate!"

The angel sighed, what could he tell her to take away her fear. He could understand how she felt and he had to admit that he wouldn't be happy either if it was him who had to face something like this. He prayed silent for the right words and smiled when he got them, "Susanne, do you remember when you gave birth to Hannah?" he waited until Susanne nodded, "It was painful for you. The labours took many hours and you never thought you would get through one more of them." Susanne nodded again and Andrew smiled compasionately at her, "But you did and when they put you your little daughter in your arms, all the pain was forgotten and there was only joy and happiness. Do you remember?"

Susanne laughed when she remembered that moment, "Yes, it was the most beautiful feeling I ever had. All the pain of the hours ago disappeared in just one moment."

"Yes! Yes, it did. You see, death and birth are somehow similar. Death is like the birth into a new life, into a new world and I promise you, once you are there, you will have forgotten the pain you went through, like you forgot the pain when you held the first time your little child in your arms. And you will also feel joy like then, only that it will be so much more than it was then."

Susanne nodded. Somehow Andrew could make it all seem so easy. But the old fear was still there. She searched Andrew's eyes. "Can't you make it happen soonerŠŠ..?"

Andrew sadly shook his head. "You know I can't, Susanne. But I can and will be with you all the way, and you really don't have to feel too much pain - you know that. Pain-relief will help you, don't hesitate to ask for it though."

Susanne nodded her head again. She was so tired. The fear was still there, but so was also the knowledge that Andrew was going to be there - just like the midwife had been there when Hanni was born.

Andrew gently stroked her cheek. He prayed silently to the Father that Susanne would not have to suffer much longer.

Susanne slept a long time, but the doctor coming in to check her up awakened her. Mary was also there with the doctor. Susanne was at first disoriented and bewildered. There she had had a comforting conversation with Andrew and now the doctor was there. She searched the room and sighed contentedly as she saw Andrew standing there beside her.

The doctor looked concernedly at Susanne. Mary had informed him that Susanne had needed more morphine. He examined Susanne and his fears were confirmed. The disease was progressing very fast and she would need an IV with morphine if she was going to have a reasonably pain free last time. He carefully told her this and gave her also the option of being able to administer the morphine herself. To his great relief Susanne agreed to this.

Susanne heard what the doctor had said. She looked questioningly at Andrew who had smiled and told her that it was a good suggestion. This way she would not have to wait for someone to get her an injection when she was in pain, and it would drastically reduce the number of needles once the IV was in place.

Mary placed the IV and sat with her friend for a while. Susanne soon went to sleep again though. Mary exchanged a worried look with Andrew. "I can see that it won't be long now. I just pray that she won't have to suffer much."

Andrew nodded and placed a hand on Mary's shoulder. "So do I, Mary. So do I."

The night went over without any much trouble. Susanne woke up from time to time, because of some nightmares, but Andrew was at her side every time, to comfort her. He held her hand and talked soothing words into her ear until she slept again. In the meantime, he prayed that could take her soon with as little pain as possibly. It was towards morning when he got the answer from the Father that he could bring her Home that evening. Andrew was somehow relieved, because it meant that his friend would have be in peace soon, that her pain would be over soon, but at the same moment, he was worried too. He had to tell Susanne about this, but he wasn't sure how she would take it. In some way, he knew she would be glad, but on the other way ... he knew how much fear she still had inside of her. It was around 9 am, when Mary came into the room to wake her friend. A look at Andrew's face told her already the news. She had seen him coming for her patients often enough to see when he got a call. Without another word, she asked, "When?" Andrew smiled sadly at her, "This evening." Some tears appeared in Mary's eyes. Andrew went over to her and took her in a comforting hug. "You know that she will at peace with the Father and that you will see her one day again," he whispered into Mary's ear. Mary nodded slowly, "Yes, I do. But it still hurts to say 'good-bye'!" In that moment, Susanne woke up and looked into the worried faces of her two friends. "Hey, what's wrong?" she asked tired and somehow also fearful as she saw the looks of Andrew and Mary.

**************************** Andrew walked over to Susanne's bed and sat down beside her. He took her hand and looked into her eyes. "I got the message from the Father this morning, and"

Susanne interrupted. "You don't have to say more, I can feel that it won't be long." She coughed and had to press the button for more morphine as the pain made it self known once more.

Andrew gently stroked her arm soothingly. "You know that you won't be alone, Susanne. Mary and I will stay with you."

"But what if you need to go to the bathroom when it's happening?"

"You know that angels don't need to go to the bathroom, Susanne." Andrew said

Andrew was making such a perfect face showing incredulity and slight hurt that someone could have such a thought, that Mary had to laugh. Susanne laughed too until she started to cough again.

Mary and Andrew exchanged glances. Then Andrew was at Susanne's side holding her, helping her to breathe. Slowly Susanne calmed down and drifted into sleep once more.

Mary nodded. "You will inform me when she is waking up again?!" She was by now used to Andrew's sudden appearances as she went about her duties, informing her when a special patient needed her attention.

Andrew nodded. "Yes Mary, I will. You have several other patients that need your attention too. You go ahead and see to them and I'll sit here with Susanne."

When Andrew was alone with the sleeping Susanne he lifted up his eyes. "Father, will I ever be able to go through an assignment like this and find it easy?"

The warm reassuring answer came over him immediately. "It is you commitment and empathy for your assignments that makes all the difference for them, my angel. The day you lose that and finds this easy, you will be of less help to them. Rest assured that I will help to carry your burden."

Andrew smiled as he felt the overpowering grief over Susanne's condition being lifted from him, and God's love embracing him.

Susanne slept until lunchtime. When she woke up again Mary and Andrew were still at her side. Mary had only a few minutes earlier been alerted by Andrew that Susanne was waking up. It was the pain that had woken her up, the pain and the difficulty to breathe.

Susanne was struggling to get air, and once more Andrew was there, helping her and soothing her. Mary was also there helping her with more morphine. With her two friends holding her hands Susanne once more drifted into sleep.

It was a long hard day for Andrew as he sat beside his friend watching her struggle to stay alive. It was a hard day for Mary too, watching her friend slowly and painfully die. Susanne on the other hand was sleeping most of the time, and therefore not quite aware of the change that was occurring in her.

When Susanne woke up again it was dark outside. Tess had joined her friends, knowing that Mary might need her after Susanne had gone. Susanne struggled to breathe, then she saw Andrew. He was now wearing his white suite and she could clearly see the radiance around him. His eyes were so full of compassion as he looked at her that she forgot to breathe. She remembered what he once had said to her: "The only thing where *you* can have an influence is how much you will fight against me or rather against death. The more you are afraid of dying the longer it will take."

Susanne gazed into Andrew's eyes. She was aware of her pain disappearing. It was still difficult to breathe, but it didn't seem to matter anymore. All the time she felt Andrew's presence as he guided her through death. She heard Mary's sobs and she asked Andrew to tell Mary to be happy, because now Susanne was happy. She was now going through the one thing she had been so terrified about and now she knew that it WAS nothing to be afraid of.

Susanne and Andrew stayed some moments in the room, before they went into the light. Susanne looked at her dead body and somehow it felt strange to see herself lying there and at the same moment standing beside Andrew. He seemed to feel what she went through and placed his arm around her shoulder. And then her attention went over to her friend Mary, "Can she hear me, if I talk to her?" she asked Andrew carefully.

Andrew smiled and nodded, "Her spirit can hear you. Yes."

Susanne walked over to Mary and placed an hand on her shoulder, "Don't cry for me, Mary. I'm okay now. I'm feeling better than anytime in the last weeks or my whole life. Just be happy for me that I will see Hanni again. By the way, I promise I will search Tracy and greeting her from you. I thank you for everything, my friend!"

When Susanne talked to Mary, her sobbings died slowly and somehow she relaxed and smiled as if she could hear something that no one else could hear, except two angels.

After this, Susanne went back to Andrew, who put his arms around her once again. She smiled at him when she said, "Do you know something? You were right ... in everything. When you said that it isn't something to fear and especially when you said that I would have forgotten the pain, the suffering and the fear, once I'm there."

Andrew smiled back at his friend. This was the part he loved sooo much in his job as Angel of Death. Once the process of dying was over ... the joy and the happiness to their places. "I'm really proud of you, Susanne, and so is God." Then he turned her around, so that she had to look behind her. There was the most beautiful light that she had ever seen.

Susanne gasped. Andrew had to chuckle when he looked into his friend's eyes. Susanne looked like a little child who went to first time into the living room at the Christmas eve and sees a beautiful Christmas tree standing there. "Is this Heaven?"

Andrew sighed, "No, not completely. But it's the beginning of Heaven. Come on, it's time to go. There are some friends waiting for you."

With that, he and Susanne walked into the light.

Mary's sobbings stopped and she looked into Tess' face through her tears. "Tess? Was it real? Did Susanne talk to me?"

Tess' took Mary in her arms and nodded with a smile, "It was real Baby, it was real! Everything you heard came from her. She loves you and so does the Father. She is in peace now and one day ... you will see her again."

And a white dove passed the window and disappeared into the night.

The End