October 4th, 2018

"Tomorrow would have been Chava's 94th birthday."

Andrew looked up from his cereal and placed his newspaper on the kitchen table, giving JenniAnn his full attention.

"Who Chava?" Belle asked in between mouthfuls of her own cereal.

Andrew looked away from JenniAnn and turned to his daughter.

"Chava was a friend of Mama's and Daddy's who went to live with God," the angel of death explained.

"Oh.  She come back like Joshua?"

"No, baby girl.  Chava stays in Heaven."

"Like Lulu?"

JenniAnn snuggled a sleeping Avi closer and nodded.

"Yes, Chava stays in Heaven like Lulu."

"Like Father?"

"Yes, like Father."

"I miss Lulu and Father," Belle whimpered.  "You miss Chava?"

"Very much."  JenniAnn brushed some milk from Belle's chin then swept some hair behind her ear.  "But one day I'll see her again.  Just like we'll see Lulu and Father.  And I'm gonna tell Chava all about you and Avi... my babies."

Belle beamed then, demonstrating her now usual short attention span, began prattling on about the birds out the window.

Andrew and JenniAnn listened, answering the occasional question, until Violeta and Ivy arrived to cart Belle off to a play date with Manny, Omar, Aiyla, and Daisy.

Left alone with their sleeping infant, the couple could resume their aborted conversation.

"Would you like to visit Chava's grave tomorrow?" Andrew asked, lightly rubbing JenniAnn's arm as they sat together on the couch in Avi's nursery.

"Yes.  Well, at least at some point this weekend.  But I was actually hoping to, maybe... if you're okay with it... take a train to DC and go to the Holocaust Museum.  You don't have to go.  I know museums can be difficult for you and probably this one especially but I'd be fine by myself and that's all I'd do and..."
The words came out of JenniAnn in such a rush that Andrew could tell she'd been rehearsing them, possibly for days. 


"I don't know why.  I just feel like I have to.  Like... I owe it to her and to David."

Avi made a soft mewing sound in his sleep and JenniAnn peered down at him, bending to kiss his sweet, smooshed nose.

"But maybe I shouldn't.  Avi will need to be fed and..."

Andrew clasped his anam cara's right hand and brought it to his lips.

"He'll be fine, Laja.  You can pump before you leave.  I just... I don't like the idea of you going alone."

JenniAnn opened her mouth to protest.

"It's not about safety.  It's about... experiencing it.  Alone.  Maybe we can ask a set of grandparents and I'll go with you?"

"Do you want to go?" JenniAnn checked, hesitant.

"I... just really don't want you going alone."

"Would you go if I didn't want to go?"

Andrew sighed.

"Laja, no.  I wouldn't.  I was there.  I don't need a museum but... I can understand why you want to go and I would go to be there with you.  You were with me when Chava and I relived it.  I owe it..."

JenniAnn shook her head.  She laid Avi down in his crib then led Andrew into their own room.

"You don't owe me anything, Andrew.  You... went through that because of us... humans.  The least I could do was..."

"And that's exactly why you going worries me!" Andrew interrupted.

JenniAnn stared at him for a few moments, confused.

Andrew pulled her into his embrace and kissed her hair before stepping back to look into her eyes.

"Laja, this is going to be hard enough without that added layer of guilt... thinking about what other AODs and I experienced."

"I agree," a voice responded from behind the two.

Startled, Andrew and JenniAnn turned to face the source of the third voice.  They immediately relaxed when they saw Joshua leaning against the jamb of their hallway door.

"Joshua!" JenniAnn shouted, forgetting that Avi was sleeping a room away.  Blessedly, the baby continued his slumber as his mother lunged at their visitor.

Joshua smiled and warmly hugged the woman before waving Andrew into their embrace.

"Joshua...  So good to have you here, as always," Andrew greeted.  He chuckled upon noticing that JenniAnn still had her face buried in Joshua's shoulder and was stroking his hair.  "Really glad it's you because, if it was any other guy, I might be very upset right now.  Leave room for the Holy Ghost, Laja," he teased.

Joshua burst out laughing.

"The Spirit will be just fine," he assured.  "But I would like to see that face I spent so much time perfecting." 

When Joshua kissed her hair and patted her back, JenniAnn at last took a step away.

"Hi," she murmured.

"Hi," Joshua replied, stroking her cheek.  "There you are."

"There you are," JenniAnn echoed, not taking her eyes off her visitor.

"So what brings you here, Joshua?" Andrew inquired.  "Not that you ever need a reason."

"I know.  But I do have a reason.  I was thinking maybe I could take you to the museum, JenniAnn," Joshua suggested.

JenniAnn gaped at the carpenter.

"It's about a four hour drive.  I thought we could leave tomorrow around 7:00, grab lunch, and then spend the afternoon there?"

Andrew studied JenniAnn, trying to guess at what she was thinking.  For his own part, it seemed like an ideal solution.  He trusted Joshua with JenniAnn more even than with himself.  And it would mean his not having to go... not having to relive it... not having to keep from lashing out at visitors taking selfies... and not having to keep a tight rein on his own emotions in favor of guarding JenniAnn's.

"I...  Are you sure?" JenniAnn checked.

Joshua nodded and took both her hands in his.

"There's nothing there I don't know about.  I... I saw it all.  And I remember it all.  And I'd like to be with you... like this... when you go."

As a tear slid down each of JenniAnn's cheeks, she nodded.

"Okay.  Yes... please.  If..."  She turned to Andrew.  "Are you okay with..."

"Of course, Laja.  You need to go.  And..."  Andrew clamped a hand on Joshua's shoulder.  "I couldn't ask for a better person to go with you."

JenniAnn wrapped her arms around the angel's neck and kissed him.

"Thank you.  I'll miss you but..."

Andrew gave her a melancholy smile.

"It's better this way.  And... sounds like I'll be able to stay home with the kids?"

Joshua nodded.

"Absolutely.  You'll have a long weekend."

"And... until tomorrow?" Andrew prodded.

Joshua smiled.

"Well, I was hoping you could put me up."

"Of course!" JenniAnn cried.  "I was hoping but... I didn't want to push.  Having tomorrow is wonderful enough."

"I'd love to stay.  Could you send word to the others?"

"On it!" Andrew called, withdrawing his cell phone. 

Within minutes and throughout the day, the Friends drifted in and out of Willowveil, catching up with Joshua and showering him with affection.  When they heard the reason for his visit, there was some surprise.  But they knew Joshua knew exactly what he was doing.


October 5th, 2018

In spite of the somber task ahead of them, Joshua and JenniAnn enjoyed a spirited conversation during the drive from NYC to DC.  While taking the train had been briefly considered, Joshua had opted to drive.  He knew JenniAnn would be emotional by the day's end and the close quarters of a train would make it difficult for them to talk freely. 

As always, Joshua enjoyed having JenniAnn catch him up on the goings-on with her and Andrew's kids and her students.  That he already knew everything made it no less enjoyable.  However, as the distance diminished, JenniAnn grew more and more quiet.  By the time they entered DC, she'd gone silent.  While waiting in traffic, Joshua reached over and patted her shoulder.

"It will be very difficult but you'll be fine," he assured.

 "I know.  It's just..."


"You.  I mean... they're your children.  Not mine.  Those whose lives were lost and... those who did the killing."

Joshua nodded.

"Yes.  And I live every day remembering every moment of their lives... and their deaths.  Nothing at the museum can shock me or catch me off-guard.  And unlike you and every other person who will be there today, I saw the other side.  I saw the death camps... I walked among the barracks and crematoriums and gas chambers.  I knelt beside mass graves.  But I also saw the reunions.  I saw emaciated, broken bodies become whole.  I saw crushed, starving spirits come back to life when they came into the beauty and love of their true Home.  I'll be fine, JenniAnn.  Don't spend even a moment worrying about me."


Before the traffic began to move again, Joshua squeezed JenniAnn's hand.  He knew what was really weighing on her.  But now wasn't the time to discuss it.

As JenniAnn looked in awe at the architecture of the buildings around them, Joshua maneuvered through traffic to the museum.  When they parked, he turned to his passenger.

"Are you ready to go in?"

"Uh huh," JenniAnn replied with a nervous nod.

As soon as they were out of the car, Joshua gripped JenniAnn's hand and led her to the museum's entrance.  There was a short line of people out front but it moved quickly.  Joshua kept hold of JenniAnn up until they went through security.  The screening took only a minute and soon they were inside the museum proper. 

"Do we need tickets?" JenniAnn whispered though many around them were talking at a normal volume.

Joshua shook his head.

"Not this time of year."

"Oh okay."

JenniAnn stared at the words displayed on a black wall in the atrium: "You are my witnesses.  Isaiah 43:10"

Joshua knew she was thinking of Chava and of Andrew and, again, took one of her hands in his. 

"I'm ready," she murmured.


Joshua led her towards a cluster of elevators, stopping by a shelf piled with ID cards.  He selected one designated as "male" for himself and handed JenniAnn another from the "female" stack.

"Oh...  The cards," JenniAnn reverently took hers from Joshua.  She studied the picture of an elegant woman with a short black bob, committing her name to memory.  She read that she'd been a beautician, married with a grown son, and a caregiver for her elderly mother.  JenniAnn read no further than the front page of the booklet.

An attendant waved the two into an elevator along with several others.

Crammed into the industrial looking compartment, Joshua could feel JenniAnn begin to grow panicky.  He pulled her back towards him, resting his chin on her hair as the elevator moved.

Once they entered the first exhibit, Joshua let JenniAnn set the pace.  He followed her from spot to spot, standing beside her when she paused to read something and skipping past the spots she avoided.  He noticed, unsurprised, that she tended to focus more on personal stories of the Jewish people who had been targeted first by pograms and, later, much worse.  She paid little attention to anything involving Hitler or the machinations of his Nazis. 

When JenniAnn stepped inside a small theater to watch a video about anti-Semitism, Joshua followed and sat beside her.  Preemptively, he took her left hand in both of his as the narrator spoke of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion, and the blame that was unfairly placed on the Jewish people.  He felt her gaze on him as the narrator stressed the Jewish faith of Jesus and his earliest followers.  Joshua kept his eyes on the screen, knowing that if he returned JenniAnn's gaze, she would fall apart. 

As the video went onto describe the hateful writings of Martin Luther and other Christian leaders, JenniAnn shook her head and placed her free hand on Joshua's.  He knew this was news to her.  Her Catholic education had treated Martin Luther as something of a hero who, though he'd left the Church, had nonetheless inspired some of what it was today.  This was a side of him of which she was unaware.  He knew she wanted to talk to him about this but that would have to wait. 

When the film ended, the two stepped back out into the main exhibit.  JenniAnn's eyes darted to a large panel entitled "The 'Science' of Race."  She studied the faces of the "undesirables" and shuddered.  There was a Middle Eastern man whose skin tone matched her baby girl's.  Another man with wild hair called John to mind.  Beside him was a snapshot of a man of African descent.  Belle, the Al-Mitras, John, Maryam, Yosef, Zeke, Diana, the Wilson children, Portia, Persephone...  Probably Peter, too.  Maybe especially Peter... the result of "race mixing."  And little Sawyer...  The Levines... and, yes, Joshua.  All of them would have been taken away...  JenniAnn pushed the thought back, unable to bear it.

As they moved on, Joshua spotted JenniAnn giving her hair a dismissive flick off her shoulders.  He knew the reason.  Her long, blonde hair... the one physical trait she took pride in... felt conspicuous and awful.  It was something they would have liked.  And, for a moment, JenniAnn hated it.  She was wishing she'd covered it somehow. 

Fresh horror came when the two moved onto a display about the groups besides the Jews who were targeted by the Nazis.  JenniAnn had read about the traumas visited upon the Roma people, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others.  She knew, of course, that homosexuals had been among the victims.  But reading about it there, in the museum, made the pain more raw.  She wanted to pull Owen and Graham and Shane to her and never let go. 

Joshua took JenniAnn's hand as she soldiered on, turning a corner and eying the next exhibit.  He moved closer and looped an arm around her, anchoring her to him.

JenniAnn's attention had first gone to a photograph of a distressed, naked little girl.  At a quick glance, she looked a bit like Belle: same stature, same shoulder-length dark hair.  But the moment she realized what the display was about... Aktion T4... JenniAnn's thoughts turned to her baby boy.  Surely the Nazis would have taken one look at Avi and euthanized him.  Or worse...  And she wouldn't have been able to do anything.  They would have taken Vincent, too...  And Lily and Joy...  JenniAnn could hear Avi crying for her, just as the little girl in the photo must have cried for her parents before the merciless end came.  A sharp pain seared through her breasts.

"JenniAnn, let's go sit down for a moment."

JenniAnn nodded mutely and let Joshua lead her to a quiet area.

"It... seems more real... more all-encompassing here..." she related after a few moments.

"I know."

"It... it's hard not to think of who among those I love... who they would have... have taken."

Joshua nodded.

"You included."

Joshua brushed a tear from JenniAnn's face and nodded again. 

"I... I just don't understand why.  You... you're Jewish," JenniAnn bleated.  "So why... they... they could have... have killed you."

"I'm here now, JenniAnn.  And there's no point in trying to make sense of it," Joshua counseled.  "The Jews were targeted, again and again, long before I was born," he relayed in a hushed tone.  "When I was a boy, I... I saw anti-Semitism.  I saw crucifixions.  My mother grew up having to hide whenever Romans came into Nazareth lest she be taken... you know why.  Pilate may have acted overly precious about my blood... but he showed no such remorse when he slaughtered other Galileans.  And he was merely one of many."

"A-and that's awful.  And it breaks my heart for you... for Maryam... for everyone.  But... the Romans bore no attachment... no love... for you."  JenniAnn waved towards the exhibition.  "This... it seems so much worse because...  Cause some of those people... they... they claimed to love you, to worship you."

Joshua sighed.

"And they did... in their own very imperfect way.  They loved a version of me that suited their tastes.  They loved Jesus... not Yeshua."

JenniAnn thought of the beautiful, blonde Jesus she so often saw... still... in paintings.  He was as unlike the man sitting beside her as could be.  And yet... assumedly... the Christian adherents to the Reich had envisioned that man saying the same things Joshua had.  They had loved him for his words and his deeds, not his looks.  They may have been drawn to that lithe, delicate, gilded image of him... just as she was drawn to the swarthy, solid Joshua.  But that couldn't have been at the heart of their devotion.  And yet... the devotion had gone horribly, disgustingly wrong.

"It... it's just so hard to think of... of love being the source of hate."

Joshua kissed JenniAnn's brow.

"I know.  That's one of the most difficult aspects of life."

"How... how do I know that... that in their place... I might not have thought and felt the same?"

"You don't," Joshua answered honestly.  "But you do know who you are now.  You know that you're the woman who took a near-stranger into your home after he'd been subjected to hateful graffiti and anti-Semitic threats."

JenniAnn recalled those early days with Joshua. 

"But it was Violeta who..."

Joshua smiled and bumped his shoulder against hers.

"Violeta didn't have to do much convincing.  And it wasn't just because... let's be honest... you can be a bit of a pushover with Violeta."

JenniAnn's face flushed but she smiled.  There was no denying it... nor that she'd been eager to move Joshua into Cora's house.

"Easily one of the best decisions of my life," she murmured.

Joshua squeezed her hand.

"Glad you think so."

They sat quietly for a few moments before JenniAnn stood.

"I'm ready to go on."


They proceeded to the next floor and JenniAnn almost immediately tensed up.

In front of them was a train car.

"We don't have to go through it," Joshua whispered.  "We can go around."

JenniAnn clamped her eyes shut.  She thought of David and Chava crammed into just such a car, nervous and nauseated and exhausted.

"I... I need to use the restroom," JenniAnn blurted.

"Okay."  Joshua pointed her in the right direction and watched her until she entered.  He knew she was standing inside a stall, inhaling and exhaling, trying to calm herself.

As he waited, Joshua milled around the other visitors, silently comforting them.

She was here because her great-grandparents had been murdered in Auschwitz.

He had come, leaning heavily on his walker, because he'd been among the lucky few who had immigrated before Kristallnacht. 

His grandfather had been among the American forces who had first discovered a killing field.  He'd never spoken of it.

She was on a field trip and hadn't expected to find the experience so shattering. 

Joshua also felt a pull from each of the artifacts.  He knew to whom each had belonged, who had touched each jug, watch, firearm, medal, and patch.  He knew their births, their lives, and their deaths.  He could see them as they were now... enjoying a stroll through a heavenly forest... or wandering Sheol, still unable to relinquish their hate and lust for power and control. 

"I'm back."

Joshua turned and gave JenniAnn his most soothing smile.

"Better?" he checked.

"A little.  I want to go through the train car."

"Okay."  Joshua held his hand out to JenniAnn and she readily took it.

Once inside, JenniAnn's reconstruction of Chava's memories was, again, overwhelming.  She could imagine being inside such a car, not knowing whether or not the end of the ride meant saying good bye to one's family, lover, friend forever.  She could see Chava burying her tear-streaked face in David's coat, listening to his heartbeat... wondering if that strong, brave heart would soon be stilled. 

"C'mon, dear one."

JenniAnn took a breath as Joshua pulled her out of the car.

"Horrible..." she rasped.


No more was said between the two for several minutes as JenniAnn took in the assorted artifacts, both the horrifying and the heartbreaking.

Joshua became even more attuned to her emotions as she approached one inconspicuous glass-topped cabinet.

JenniAnn read, eyes brimming, the transcribed final note of one victim of the death camps to her husband.  She had perished with one of their children, her husband and a second child having escaped the same fate.  Between the "my loves" and admonishments not to blame himself, the note called to mind ones that JenniAnn had previously written to Andrew.  An icy cold shock ricocheted through JenniAnn's chest.  The idea of knowing one's time was so limited... knowing your child would soon die... knowing the grief you'd leave behind in the soul of the one you'd intended to grow old with...

JenniAnn thought of David, pushing Chava and his friends away, sacrificing himself.  He, too, had faced the fears and tortures the note's author had.  And Chava had spent over half a century trying to build a life while missing the person who should have been at the center of it.

How many million times over had the same tragic story been repeated?

Joshua stroked JenniAnn's back and, with his touch, came a vision of Chava and David as they were now: safe, healthy, and blissfully happy.  It gave JenniAnn hope that the writer and her husband had found the same peace.  Such hope didn't make the atrocity of their forced parting any less horrible... but it made it possible to breathe.

JenniAnn moved on from the note and read about the inhumane forced labor, the starvation, and the Nazis' attempts to completely strip away all identity and humanity.

Overwhelmed, she unthinkingly approached a group of people staring down past a half-wall barricade.


Joshua reached out, trying to pull her back or at least halt her but she was too quick.  He had to settle for standing behind her and seeing what she saw, as she saw it.

JenniAnn knew the Nazis' had embarked on several wildly unethical medical studies.  She knew who Mengele was and hated him chiefly for what he'd done but also for the title that had been attributed to him: angel of death.  How he had sullied and betrayed those three words...  She was quite sure there were demons in Hell who were more innocent than that man.  But she'd always avoided reading much about his evil work.  It was too much.

Now the evidence of it flicked before her eyes on a small TV screen.

Agonized faces... blackened, disfigured bodies... the blank stares of children in their final moments.

Feeling the woman begin to tremble with rage, horror, and grief; Joshua pulled her back.  Again, he sought out a quiet area and settled JenniAnn onto a bench.  He wrapped his arms around her as she wept.

Joshua understood why the video, more than anything else, had shaken JenniAnn.  It wasn't horrible because it reminded her of anyone she knew or loved.  It was simply horrible.  And it had truly hit her, as she watched it, how 6 million people and more had been lost.  It didn't matter how much or how little they were like her or her loved ones.  They were fellow human beings, people who had been born with inalienable rights... rights that had been cruelly and systematically stripped away.  And it had been other humans who had perpetrated the crimes.

His children... on both sides.

"And the Lord said, 'What have you done?  Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground!  And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.'"

Armed with an unwarranted sense of superiority, a thousand Cains had slew a million Abels.  Over and over.

Silently, JenniAnn stroked Joshua's bearded cheek then pulled away and returned to the exhibit's path.

Equally silent, Joshua followed.

The next display to truly shake JenniAnn was an expansive white sculpture showing the layout of an extermination camp.  Hundreds of human forms approached the building, its facade obscuring its deadly design.  They proceeded into a large hallway where the figures were shown in various stages of nudity, forced by their captors to strip.  Then they were led into another huge room... the gas chamber.  The tiny white figures swooned and crouched in horror.  And then they were removed... pushed into crematoriums like trash.

Looking at the recreated hellscape, JenniAnn clung to Joshua's arm.  She wanted to disappear into him, to go back to a time when only her soul had existed, a part of him and his all-creative mind.  No human body... no human mind... no part of this.  Only God.

Feeling JenniAnn begin to retreat into a dark, lonely place, Joshua inhaled and exhaled deeply and, as his breath played with her hair, JenniAnn came back to herself.

She was alive.  She was human.  She had a family and friends.  This horror was part of their history... by so was great beauty and immense love.

"Stay close to me?" Joshua requested.

JenniAnn nodded, taking his proffered hand and gripping it tightly.

The two remained hand-in-hand for the remainder of their time at the museum.  Pensive and raw, they walked through a hall filled with stolen shoes whose owners had been slaughtered.  JenniAnn blanched at a room-size photograph depicting piles and bundles of hair shorn from the Nazis' victims.  Her gut twisted as she found herself unable to avoid making comparisons to Joshua's shaggy locks... hair she had washed and brushed and loved because it belonged to someone she adored.  How many mothers had faithfully washed and brushed the hair which lay discarded?  How many lovers had kissed and caressed the stolen tresses that now bore silent testimony to the lives and identities that were ruthlessly stolen?

Joshua felt JenniAnn's spirit retreating again and squeezed her hand.

"C'mon, JenniAnn.  We're almost through, my own," he coaxed.

Coming out of her dark reverie, JenniAnn nodded and allowed the carpenter to lead her out.

Exiting the final exhibit, JenniAnn was struck by a sudden warmth and a scent that reminded her of church. 

Joshua continued to lead her until they entered the Hall of Remembrance.

JenniAnn's breath caught in her throat.  The hexagonal room was truly beautiful, filled with votives and granite.  Beyond the candles, the room was lit by a six-sided skylight and, most movingly, an eternal flame.  As Joshua led her closer to some votive candles, JenniAnn saw that there were words etched into what appeared to her to be black marble: Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmo, and so on.

Joshua stood in front of the first black panel, bowed his head, and began to pray.

"'Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba.  Amein'"

Tears welled in JenniAnn's eyes as she realized that Joshua was reciting Kaddish.  Silently, she translated.

"'May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified.  Amen.'"

He led her from panel to panel, reciting the sacred words.

"'...B'al'ma di v'ra khir'utei.'"

"'...In the world that He created as He willed.'"

"'V'yam'likh mal'khutei b'chayeikhon uv'yomeikhon...'"

"'May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days...'"

"'...uv'chayei d'khol beit yis'ra'eil...'"

"'...and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel...'"

"''agala uviz'man kariv v'im'ru.'"

"'...swiftly and soon.'"

"'Amein. Y'hei sh'mei raba m'varakh l'alam ul'al'mei al'maya.'"

"'Amen. May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.'"

After finishing their prayer, Joshua and JenniAnn moved to the center of the room and faced the eternal flame.  He, the ageless and infinite Parent, and she, his mortal and ephemeral child, Jew and Christian, stood with linked hands and read the inscription from Deuteronomy above it.

"Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully,
lest you forget the things your eyes saw,
and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life.
And you shall make them known to your children,
and to your children's children."


Once they were back in the car, JenniAnn sunk against the passenger seat and closed her eyes.

Joshua studied her and, when she looked over at him, he spoke.

"It's almost 5:30.  I was thinking maybe we could stay here in DC tonight?"

In spite of her exhaustion, JenniAnn perked up.  She had worried that Joshua might move on as soon as he dropped her off at Willowveil.  To have another night with him... especially after what she'd seen...

JenniAnn nodded.

"I'd like that a lot.  Thanks."

"Good.  Me too.  I'm not sure I have a four hour drive in me..."

"No...  I wouldn't want you to have to do that."

Joshua gave JenniAnn a weary smile before starting the car and driving to a nearby hotel.  After he'd parked, JenniAnn was amused but not surprised when Joshua opened the trunk and removed two suitcases.

"You knew we'd stay?" she queried.

"I suspected.  Strongly.  And I told Andrew as much so he won't be surprised."

"Good.  And... thanks."

"My pleasure."

Joshua led the way into the hotel lobby and waved for JenniAnn to take a seat on a couch while he checked in.

The line was only four people long but JenniAnn was soon hit by a wave of panic.  She realized this was the farthest she'd been away from Joshua since her escape into the ladies' room back at the museum.  But she could clearly see him... calmly standing in line.  So why was she crying?

"Miss... is everything all right?"

Startled, JenniAnn looked up to find a concerned seeming hotel attendant staring down at her.

"Yes...  I... I'm just waiting to check in."  She waved towards Joshua whose back was to her.

The other woman frowned and sat down beside her.

"And you're here... willingly?"

It took a moment for JenniAnn to recognize the implication of the question.  Her cheeks burned with anger for a moment.  Blonde girl, brown guy... something must be afoot. 

Joshua turned and stared at JenniAnn.  He glanced at the woman near her and then back to JenniAnn, smiling sympathetically and shaking his head.

JenniAnn immediately felt her anger begin to dissipate.  She felt bad for judging the woman's intentions.  After all, she likely wouldn't have said anything if she hadn't been sitting there crying.

"I... yes.  Of course.  I'm sorry.  I'm sure I look... not right.  He... umm... he's my best friend and... and we just came back from the Holocaust Museum and... and he's Jewish and I..."  JenniAnn blurted out before sniffling and rubbing at her eyes.  "I'm just kind of a mess.  But, yes, I'm here willingly.  With him."

The woman patted JenniAnn's shoulder.

"Of course you're upset.  I don't blame you.  But I hope you can enjoy your evening with your friend."

"Thank you.  I appreciate it."

"You're welcome.  Take care."

By the time Joshua had gotten them checked in, JenniAnn had regained control of herself.

"Okay, we're set.  I got us a room with two queen beds.  I hope that's okay.  If you want separate..." he started to ask out of politeness.  He knew the answer.

"No," JenniAnn interrupted.  "I don't.  One room is good."

"Good."  Joshua handed JenniAnn her key card then motioned towards an elevator.  "Third floor."


Stepping into an elevator so unlike the one at the museum, Joshua cheerily greeted the other passengers while JenniAnn only managed a weary smile.  Joshua had to nudge her to get her off the elevator.  She followed him down a hallway and towards their room, smirking when she saw the number: 333.

"Did you ask for this room?"

Joshua grinned.

"I didn't exactly ask.  It just sort of... happened that way."

JenniAnn laughed, surprised by the sound.

"Mysterious ways?"


Joshua waved JenniAnn into their room and noted her pleasure at the pleasant, patriotically decorated room.

As Joshua locked the door behind them, he spoke.

"You pick whichever bed you want.  I have no preference.  Either is going to be more comfortable than sleeping on the floor of Cephas' boat so my standards are pretty low."

JenniAnn again laughed before sitting down on the bed nearest the window.

"Thanks."  She yawned.

"It's after 6:00.  How about you stay here, get comfortable, and I'll run downstairs and get us some drinks and sandwiches?" Joshua offered.

JenniAnn tensed up.

Joshua set his bag against the wall before approaching and sitting down beside her.

"Nothing's going to happen to me.  It's just a Starbucks."

In spite of her unease, JenniAnn smiled.

"Yeah... true."  She sighed and rested her head on Joshua's shoulder.  "Why do I feel so clingy?"

"A person doesn't need to be God to surmise that one, JenniAnn."

"Yeah...  And... I'm sorry about earlier.  With the lady in the lobby."

"I know."  Joshua patted her hand.  "It's important to be vigilant against prejudice.  Today was a good reminder of that.  And you know I've faced it before... you've even faced it with me."

JenniAnn's face clouded as she recalled their encounter with Beatrice in the grocery store... when the woman had implied that Joshua was a terrorist.

"But it's just as important to not go around seeing prejudice where it's not.  Like many hotels, this one educates its employees about spotting potential victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse.  That woman, Cassandra, was worried for you because of that.  My presumed race didn't enter into it."

"Good.  I am sorry."

"I know.  And it's okay.  You weren't rude to her... just gave her a little scare that you didn't intend to.  Now... how about I go get that food?  Or we could order room service if you'd rather?"

JenniAnn shook her head.

"No, I'll be fine.  And I would like to take a shower."

"Good idea.  Bath time has always relaxed you, ever since you were a baby."

JenniAnn beamed up at Joshua when he rose and patted her hair.

"Be right back.  Any requests?"

"You know what I like," JenniAnn replied with a smile.

Joshua chuckled and nodded.

"That I do."

JenniAnn walked Joshua to the door and watched as he made his way back to the elevator.  She smiled when he greeted a passing maid and held a door open for her.  She could imagine him striking up a spirited conversation in line at Starbucks.

He was so beautiful...


JenniAnn had wondered if she'd be able to eat dinner that night.  But between Joshua encouraging her and his heartening presence, she found she had an appetite.  They talked about the museum, about Chava, and about how important it was that Christians remember and honor their Jewish past.  Then, after they'd finished eating, the two Facetimed with Andrew, Belle, and Avi which further lightened their moods.

After the call was finished, conversation turned to the angel of death.

"He seemed... concerned," JenniAnn mused.

Joshua nodded.

"Sure.  Just because I was with you doesn't mean you were fully protected emotionally.  And he knows that."

"True...  You were with him... in the flesh... back then.  At points.  I know that now."

"I was. And he still felt everything... deeply... painfully."

"And now..." JenniAnn sighed.

"Now you're with Andrew when he remembers," Joshua finished.

"That's a pretty significant drop.  From God to... me."

Joshua wrapped an arm around the woman's shoulders and kissed her hair.

"I'm still with him.  I'm with you both.  Always.  But... sometimes you truly are the better one to be with Andrew, in the flesh."

JenniAnn gave Joshua a wary smile.

"What's that Mother Teresa quote?  Something about how you won't give me more than I can handle... but I wish you wouldn't trust me so much."

Joshua chuckled.

"Close enough.  And my trust isn't misplaced."

"Thank you.  It's just... sometimes I worry that I won't find the right words."

"Sometimes it's not about the words, my own.  Sometimes it's just about listening... and holding him and drying his tears.  JenniAnn, I care about Andrew.  He's my baby.  As much as you, as much as everyone.  I wouldn't have entrusted him to you if I didn't think you could take care of him... and him take care of you."

"I try...  I really do.  But it's hard not to feel like..." JenniAnn considered her words.  "Well, like I exist outside of time, I guess.  I never know where his mind... his dreams... will go.  One night, we could be very happily in 2018 and then the next day... something reminds him of the witch trials or the Holocaust or... or even your death.  And... and, yes, it can be very painful to experience that with Andrew but... it scares me even more to think about what might be bothering him that I know nothing about and that he won't tell me anything about."

Joshua again embraced the woman.

"JenniAnn, we all have our secrets.  And sometimes those secrets are good to tell.  Sometimes there's healing in telling them.  And sometimes... sometimes we need to wait until the right moment to tell them.  Other times... it's better to keep them to ourselves.  I'm the Light...  I'm the Truth...  And sometimes people take that to mean that everything should be known, that there should be no darkness, no secrets.  And everything is known.  To me, to my Dad, to the Spirit.  There's not a single thing that Andrew's experienced or feared that I don't know about.  There is nothing that he's absolutely alone with.  But there are things that are best left between the two of us.  There's holiness in the dark, in secret places as much as in the light and the known world.  When Andrew remembers the most difficult times... the times he can't bring himself to speak about... I'm there to whisper assurances, to acknowledge what he experienced.  And you... you're there to hold him and anchor him to the present, to your love for him, to the family you built together.  We're a good team, I think."

JenniAnn sniffled and smiled through her tears.

"Yeah... we are."

She winced.

"It's time to pump," Joshua realized.  "Do you want me to..."

JenniAnn looked up and shook her head.

"No.  Stay, please.  Not like you don't, umm, know what I have.  You created them!"

Joshua chuckled.

"Yeah... I did."

"Well, then..."  JenniAnn hugged Joshua and kissed his cheek.  "Thanks for the pep talk.  I feel better."

"I'm glad.  Very glad."

JenniAnn got her supplies ready and settled back onto her bed to pump breast milk.
  While she initially and foolishly felt a little awkward about Joshua's presence, he easily took those feelings away with his light-hearted banter.

"You know, we should stop into the National Gallery before we leave tomorrow.  You'll love it.  And you can admire the many paintings of me as a baby, pushily trying to get Ama to nurse me."

JenniAnn laughed.

"I've seen those lots in books.  They make you seem like a grabby little guy."

Joshua chuckled.

"Yep.  A downright brat.  There's even a painting there where it looks like I'm trying to choke John."


"John likes to tease me about it.  There are also a couple of busts of him as a boy there.  In one, he looks beatific and serene.  In the other, he looks like he's about to blow a raspberry.  I'll let you guess which is more realistic."

"Definitely the latter!"

"You win!"

"Yay me!  But back to the earlier topic... why were painters... and patrons, I assume... so obsessed with the idea of Maryam nursing you?"

"Many reasons.  It was evidence of my humanity.  It's a sweet, homey scene.  It's symbolic of my blood... life-giving as mother's milk.  And... some people just really like to paint breasts," Joshua admitted with an impish grin.

JenniAnn rolled her eyes.

"Some guys are so weird about them."

"I'm afraid so."

JenniAnn sighed.

"It is really amazing... being able to nurture Avi like this.  But I hope Belle doesn't wonder about why I didn't nurse her."

"You had a lot on your mind when Belle was a baby.  Everything was so new and overwhelming.  And it would have isolated Andrew in a way that it doesn't now."

JenniAnn saw the wisdom in that.  Nowadays, she thought nothing of nursing Avi in front of Andrew.  But she had a hard time imagining herself feeling equally uninhibited during Belle's infancy.  Likely, she would have excused herself to another room.

"And, by the time Belle is old enough to really think about it, she'll understand that Avi needed that special attention in a way that she didn't," Joshua continued.

"Yeah.  Good point."  JenniAnn yawned.

"I think it's a good thing you're almost done," Joshua commented.

JenniAnn yawned again, causing Joshua to chuckle.  She smiled before finishing up.

"Very good," she agreed before stepping into the bathroom to rinse her pump.  Soon, she had the milk stowed in the room's refrigerator and had sunk back into bed.

"Comfortable?" Joshua checked.

"Very.  You?"

"Mmm hmm," he replied with contentment.



"What if... if I have a nightmare?"

Joshua rose from his bed and sat on the edge of JenniAnn's.

"Then I'll be right here and we can talk about it if you want."


Joshua bent and kissed JenniAnn's forehead.

She smiled.

"A kiss good night.  Do I get a bedtime story, too?"

Joshua chuckled.

"If you want."

"Yes, please."

Joshua stretched out, making himself comfortable, and began.

"Once, a not so long time ago, a little girl was born in a magical land known as... Nebraska."

JenniAnn giggled as she snuggled into her pillow.

"This little girl grew up, bringing much joy to her parents, godparents, and so many others.  But there was someone out there who needed her... a boy from a far off and yet so close Kingdom."

As her eyelids grew heavy, JenniAnn listened to Joshua's mythical version of her and Andrew's relationship.  Lulled by his voice and his nearness, she soon fell asleep.


Joshua woke with a start and stared up at the ceiling.  He was momentarily unsure of why he had awoken so suddenly.  Then he heard the whimpering...

Throwing off his covers, Joshua approached JenniAnn's bed.  He frowned and began to gently stroke her back.

"It's okay, my own.  C'mon, wake up for me."

JenniAnn's only response was to curl up into fetal position.

"JenniAnn, wake up," Joshua coaxed, beginning to shake her right shoulder.

The woman's eyes at last squinted open and she peered up at Joshua.

"I'm here," he soothed.

JenniAnn sat up, threw her arms around Joshua's neck, and began to bawl.

"There now...  Shh...  You're okay, sweet girl."  Joshua rested his cheek against her hair, his own eyes filling.  "I'm okay."

JenniAnn let out a shuddering sigh but remained as she was.

Joshua began to hum a lullaby that Catherine and Vincent used to sing to their Psyche.  As he did, JenniAnn stirred.  Knowing what she was attempting to do, Joshua loosened his hold enough so JenniAnn could shift and rest her right ear against his chest.  He stopped humming, allowing her to focus on the steady beat of his very living heart.

When he sensed the woman had calmed down, Joshua spoke again.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

With some reluctance, JenniAnn pulled away from Joshua and sat up.

She nodded.

"I... I had a nightmare a-and I was... there."

"In one of the death camps?" Joshua guessed, cringing.

"Y-yeah.  B-but it... it was like I was an angel.  No one could see me.  A-and... I saw you.  B-but..."  JenniAnn reached out to gently tug a lock of Joshua's hair.

"My head was shaved?"

JenniAnn nodded again.

"A-and... they were clearing people out of... of the barracks and it... it was... horrid.  People were crying a-and screaming.  And I tried to follow...  And to yell for you.  B-but you didn't hear me.  And... and I was screaming at all of them.  The SS guards, I mean.  A-and telling them that... that you were there.  But... they didn't hear me either.   A-and it... it all... happened.  Like... like in that panorama sculpture.  It was like... like ones I've had be-before but... worse.  More... more detailed.  A-and real.  I... I saw your... your body.  I... I've never seen that be-before and..."

Joshua again pulled JenniAnn to him when she began to weep uncontrollably.

"It... it's not that my... my heart doesn't break for the six million.  It does.  And when I think of... of Chava a-and David and their families..."  JenniAnn sniffled and shook her head.  "But... it's you who... who I've loved since... since I was a little girl.  Before even...  And... and to think...  You... you are... are... father and mother, friend and brother, lover and beloved...  And people who were all... all those things... who were a-and are your children... suffered and died.  And you..."  JenniAnn held Joshua's gaze.  "You are Immanuel...  'God with us.'  A-and so...  Were... were you there?"  She clasped his right hand in both of hers.  "Like this."

Joshua sighed and smoothed some hair behind JenniAnn's ears.

"What you saw wasn't a vision.  It was just a nightmare, JenniAnn.  But... yes.  I'm always with my children... but sometimes... sometimes I need to be there like this.  Physically.  And I was at points during the Holocaust and the years leading up to it.  Afterwards, too."

"B-but... like how?" JenniAnn pressed.

"My own, it won't help you to know that.  There's nothing you can do about it."  Joshua dragged a hand through his hair then cupped the girl's chin.  "And I know that you'll jump to the worst case scenarios and I don't want you to.  Please.... please, try not to.  You have to understand that everything is worthwhile for me.  For every blow of a nail, for every crack of a whip... I would have done it all just for those thirty three years with my parents, my cousins, my friends and followers.  And even more so knowing it gave me a future with you... with the Friends... with people so numerous that only my Father, the Spirit, and I can count them.  I feel the same about those years.  Whatever happened to me... it was worth it for the countless acts of agape... of bravery... of faith that I saw with two human eyes.  It was important to me to be with my people... as God and as a man.  Still is."

Sniffling and wiping at her eyes, JenniAnn nodded.

"I... I can understand that.  But..."

"But you would do anything for Max, Shelby, Violeta, Belle, and Avi," Joshua interrupted.  "You would suffer immensely if it meant taking even a little pain away from them.  And you would deem it all worthwhile.  Right?"


"I did what every good, loving parent would do," Joshua explained.  "If you had to make the same decision, I don't think you'd want any of your children beating themselves up about it, huh?"

"No... I wouldn't."

Joshua smiled, relieved that JenniAnn's tears had stopped falling. 

"It's important to never, ever forget what happened... to bear witness when you're called upon to do so.  But it's also important to not get so bogged down by the horror and grief of it all that it becomes all you can focus on," Joshua continued to counsel.  "Don't torture yourself thinking about where I was and what happened to me... not unless you're going to give equal attention to all the people I've watched fall in love, all the beautiful weddings I've witnessed, all the parents I've seen meet their babies, all the art, the laughter, the beauty..."

"Okay...  I won't," JenniAnn vowed.

"Good.  Now why don't you lay down and try to get some more sleep.  There will be a lot of walking at the National Gallery.  Maybe I could tell another bedtime story?" Joshua offered.

JenniAnn smiled sleepily and nodded.

"Yes, please."


After JenniAnn had laid back down, Joshua tucked the blankets around her and, continuing to sit beside her, began to tell a story of Belle's early days with her parents.

As the story progressed, JenniAnn's body grew less and less tense.  She yawned and her eyelids began to flutter.

"Andrew stared in wonder at you... pondering how the girl he'd first met had been transformed into the mother of this beautiful little girl he instantly loved and adored.  And he knew... without any doubt... that he had to be with you, had to share your life.  And that's when he met me in the hospital chapel..."

Joshua realized that JenniAnn had fallen back to sleep.  He smiled when he realized her own lips were turned up in a gentle, dreamy smile.  Tenderly, he bent to kiss her hair.

"Rest well, my own.  I love you."

Carefully, Joshua crept back to his bed.  He prayed that JenniAnn wouldn't be further plagued by nightmares.  And then, he allowed himself to slip back into time... to remember all that he had witnessed. 

"You are my witnesses..."  He had spoken it and he had meant it.  But he had also meant the flip side.

"I am your witness."

And he would never forget.


The following morning, Joshua and JenniAnn made their way to the National Gallery.  Admiring the art... and especially listening to Joshua offer color commentary on the religious paintings... restored JenniAnn's spirit.  After lunch, Joshua drove back to New York City and then escorted JenniAnn to Willowveil.

Andrew greeted them as soon as they entered the castle and embraced JenniAnn.

"How are you doing, my girl?" he asked, his voice husky.

"I'm... good.  I feel... more settled," JenniAnn replied before meeting his waiting lips.

Andrew sighed with relief.

"Good."  He cupped her cheek and peered into her eyes, searching for any hint of trouble.  She truly seemed to be at peace.  Keeping JenniAnn at his side, Andrew directed his attention to Joshua.  "And how are you, Joshua?"

Joshua clapped the angel of death on the back and smiled.

"I'm doing good.  It was difficult, of course, but... I think it was important for us."

JenniAnn met the carpenter's gaze and squeezed his hand.

"It was.  Thank you for going with me."

"It was an honor, JenniAnn.  And I very much enjoyed this morning."

JenniAnn giggled as she recalled some of Joshua's jokes.

"Me too.  And... it was nice having time with you... just the two of us."

"We'll do it again sometime... somewhere else.  I promise," Joshua vowed.  "But for now..."  He took one of Andrew's hands and joined it to JenniAnn's.  "I'll watch Belle and Avi for a while.  I know you two have something you want to do."

"Visit Chava's grave?" Andrew checked with JenniAnn who nodded.  "Let me grab my coat.  Oh and..."  He handed Joshua the baby monitor he'd been carrying in his pocket.  "I don't know if you need this but both the kids are down for a nap.  Belle probably won't be for too much longer, though."

Joshua accepted the monitor and put it in his own pocket.

"Good.  It'll give me a chance to spend some time with her before I leave... for now," he hastily added when he saw JenniAnn flinch.  "Just for now," he reiterated, again clasping her hand.

"Good..."  JenniAnn hugged Joshua tightly until Andrew returned with his coat.

"You ready?" the angel checked.

"Whenever you are."

Andrew gave Joshua his own hug.

"Thank you," he murmured, knowing Joshua would understand that he was expressing gratitude for taking JenniAnn to the museum in his stead.

"You're welcome.  It... it meant a lot to me.  And someday, if you want, I'll go with you."

"Thanks."  Andrew gave his Creator a tearful smile then turned back to JenniAnn, offering her his arm.  "I'm ready."

"Be back soon, Joshua," JenniAnn assured.

"Take your time.  I'm in no hurry," Joshua called after the two.

"Thanks, Joshua!" Andrew shouted back.

"You're welcome!"

Joshua watched the two head towards the portal, feeling a sense of pride.  They'd grown so much since meeting Chava... individually, yes, but even more so as a pair. 


When they reached Chava's grave, Andrew immediately set about cleaning smudges from the headstone and brushing away fallen leaves.  JenniAnn knelt beside it and placed a candle she'd bought at the Holocaust Museum and a painted stone she'd gotten at the National Gallery.

"Happy birthday, Chava," she murmured.  "Selfishly... I wish you were here to celebrate.  But I know the celebration There is much greater than anything we could have planned.  I... I do miss you, though.  And... I think I understand maybe just a little bit better what... what you went through."

Andrew finished his work and knelt beside JenniAnn, linking an arm around her.

"I... I'm so sorry," JenniAnn continued.  "But... but Joshua says I can't get too bogged down in... in the grief and anger.  And he's right.  Of course.  So... so I just want you to know that I will always remember your courage a-and your grace and, of course, the love story that you and David shared."

Andrew nodded before speaking.

"I... I remain so moved... so humbled... by your grace and your compassion, Chava.  I... I..."

JenniAnn looked to Andrew.  He dragged his hand through his hair and continued to stare at the headstone.

"I'll never... never forget what I... I saw.  The... horror a-and cruelty.  But also... also people like... like your David.  I... I wish..."

The angel of death's face crumpled and he shook his head, trying and failing to get control of his emotions.


Feeling JenniAnn gently stroke his back, Andrew broke down, letting out wretched sobs.

"Andrew... my love..."

The angel collapsed into his anam cara's arms, shaking as she held him.

JenniAnn closed her eyes as she rested her head on Andrew's bowed one.

Joshua's voice echoed in her mind.

"Sometimes it's not about the words, my own.  Sometimes it's just about listening... and holding him and drying his tears."

JenniAnn drew in and let out a deep breath.  Her tears slid into Andrew's hair but she held fast to him.  As much as Andrew's sorrow hurt her heart, she also knew he wouldn't give up those memories even if it were possible.

It would not be long before the last of the Holocaust survivors would go Home to their God.  In time, their children and grandchildren would follow... each generation likely forgetting a bit more, losing a little more of their families' stories.  But as she embraced her beloved, JenniAnn realized anew that the words of Isaiah were true.

"But Zion said, 'The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.'
'Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.'"

But there was more to it.  In the minds and hearts of many angels who still walked the Earth, the memories and the stories lingered.  Remembrances of Kristallnacht, pogroms, forced labor, experimentation, death camps... they lived on alongside memories of once-vibrant shetls, resistance, selflessness, and bravery.  So long as angels continued to visit, the victims and survivors of the Reich would be thought of and remembered on the Earth that they had once called home.     

Andrew stirred and sat up.

JenniAnn followed his gaze to a nearby tree and smiled at the dove sitting upon a branch.

Andrew extended his hand and the bird came to him, cooing as it alighted on his hand.

"So beautiful..." JenniAnn whispered.

Smiling through his tears, Andrew nodded.  He stroked the bird and, once JenniAnn had done the same, it flew into the air.  The couple watched it as it soared higher and higher.

"Are you all right?" JenniAnn checked after kissing Andrew's brow.

"Better.  Just... overcome.  I... I just needed to let it out, I guess."  He let out a ragged sigh.  "There are no words to... to describe everything I saw then."  He peered at the headstone.  "Everything that Chava and millions of others saw and experienced...  But I also saw what came after.  The welcome Homes.  The reunions.  God comforting His children..."

Andrew looked back up to where he'd last seen the dove.

"They're safe now.  They're respected... they're loved."

JenniAnn wrapped her arms around the angel of death.

"They're remembered," Andrew concluded.

For several still, silent moments, the two continued to kneel at Chava's grave and remembered.

The End

Author's Note: As you might imagine, visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum is a very emotional, exhausting, and overwhelming experience.  I started this story the evening after I toured the museum and have worked on it since.  I tried to have Joshua's and JenniAnn's tour replicate the order of the real tour but, even by the evening of my visit, I was struggling to remember the order of the exhibitions.  So if anything seems confusingly arranged, it was likely the fault of my memory and not the layout of the museum.  I did try to check it against the museum's site ( which is extremely well-done but, obviously, can't replicate an actual tour.

Works Cited:
Isaiah 43:10- "You are my witnesses." 
Luke 13:1-3- Pilate's massacre of the Galileans
Genesis 4:1-16- Cain kills Abel
Deuteronomy 4:9- "Only guard yourself...
John 14:6- "I am the Truth"
Catherine's lullaby from Beauty and the Beast
Isaiah 7:14/Matthew 1:23- Immanuel
Isaiah 49:14-26- "But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”

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