A story of love to warm your heart and soothe your soul. This is the story of Laura and Bob for whom love lasted a lifetime and beyond.
Today was the first time Laura had ever seen a beautiful white perfect feather. She’d heard about them of course and read all about Angel messages in a book she had received as a birthday gift. The book had been hidden away under a cushion and forgotten about until she came across it a few days ago. Heavily pregnant and extremely tired Laura had picked it up and began to read until suddenly the first pain shot through her and all thoughts of angels and feather were immediately forgotten. Well there wasn’t going to be much time for reading from now on, Laura thought, smiling to herself as she looked at the tiny baby asleep in her arms. She was trying to figure out how she felt in this moment now. Right now. Mindfulness they call it, when you live in the moment of now, or so the book said. ‘Well then, how do I feel,’ Laura whispered to the tiny child? Overwhelmed maybe and just a little bit frightened, she thought. Laura looked down at her daughter and stroked her cheek. Kate was two hours old, wrapped in an ivory shawl and the thought in Laura’s head was that her tiny daughter was as light as a feather. That’s when it happened for the very first time. The smallest of pure white feathers fluttered down from somewhere and landed on the shawl. So delicate and pretty and the sign of angel presence according to the book. Laura looked all around the room wondering where it could possibly have come from and there was absolutely nowhere, it just didn’t make sense. Maybe it didn’t have to. It was such a beautiful moment, one Laura would never forget. That single moment in life when everything was as it should be, when her heart was bursting with such joy she could hardly breathe. Very gently Laura picked the feather up and as she did the child stirred and looked up at her. Together their eyes rested on the little white feather. There was silence except for the very gentle sound of breathing as Laura held her daughter to her breast so they could breathe in time together.
Laura and Bob had gone on to celebrate the birth of two more daughters and each time Bob would buy her a feather to place in the child’s hand. It was what Laura wanted. ‘Our own very special gift for each child,’ she would say. Bob had always loved Laura from the first moment he saw her working in the local newsagents. He bought more magazines than he could ever hope to read in the next few weeks until one day he summoned up the courage to walk in and ask her out. He said ‘hello,’ then stuttered and stumbled over his words until Laura asked him his name. ‘Bob,’ he answered. ‘Well my name is Laura and I think it’s about time you asked me out don’t you?’ They had never looked back. It was meant to be she told him over and over again. The angels decreed it. Well he wasn’t sure about that but whatever and whoever took him into the newsagents that first day he would be eternally grateful.
It was Laura Bob was thinking about today as he stood looking out of the window in a house that was far too quiet. In all their years together he had often wondered how it would feel to have a bit of peace and quiet. It wasn’t at all how he imagined it would be.
Fifty three years they had been married. How on earth could all that time have passed by? The newsagents was long gone, now part of a new block of very modern flats. The girls were all grown up with children of their own and they planned a long and extremely tiring retirement if Laura had anything to do with it.
‘We must travel,’ she would say and spend hours flicking through travel brochures planning trips to places they would never go. There was always a school play to attend, babysitting duties, birthday parties, which Bob remembered smiling were always at their house with Laura in the centre of things. They had been talking about the possibility of a cruise one day and Laura had laughed. ‘Maybe one day Bob when nobody needs me,’ she had said, then instantly her eyes had filled with tears. ‘Oh how awful that would be,’ she whispered.
It had been a wonderful marriage he thought. They rarely argued or disagreed. Simply because Laura would turn around with tearful eyes, tilt her head to one side and I would immediately back down and agree to whatever it was she wanted, Bob thought. ‘There now all is well,’ she would say and continue with her plans.
There was never a quiet moment in the house. One by one the children had left home. Bob had proudly walked his daughters down the aisle as Laura cried, each time feeling the loss and wondering what on earth she was supposed to do now. Fortunately, by the time their last child left home the first grandchild was on its way and the house was suddenly filled with travel cots, bottles, baby clothes and a high chair. Kitchen cupboards became impossible to open because there were baby locks on them and the beautiful wooden floor that Bob said had been perfectly safe for their own children was now to be replaced by carpets. ‘Safer for them when they begin to crawl,’ Laura told Bob. He would have stood up to her and told her she was being ridiculous but the light shining in her eyes stopped him. There was a glow about her that he had not seen since the children left home. Why had they been so lucky Bob often thought to himself? All these years in the same house. All he ever had to do was look around him and it was all there. So many memories.
Bob had walked from room to room yesterday until he could no longer bear the wonderful memories. The hallway where Kate had taken her first steps. Honestly the celebrations, you would think no other child had ever done such a thing. The spare bedroom where his youngest grandchild’s cradle now stood. He had walked slowly over and gently rocked the cradle remembering the day he brought Laura home from hospital. They had put the baby in the cradle and stood either side of it absolutely terrified of the responsibility. Where on earth had the time gone, Bob thought once more before making his way downstairs. He sat on the bottom step and stared at the front door with a lump in his throat remembering all those years ago carrying Laura across the threshold on their wedding night, both of them giggling nervously. They had been so much in love.
Today as Bob turned away from the window he looked around. There were Feathers everywhere in the house. Each one with a very special meaning but he couldn’t look at them now so he turned back to stare out of the window where life was normal. People went shopping, chatted, hurried to work, drove cars and Bob watched them. He leaned his head against the cool glass. All he wanted was to be dashing round a supermarket somewhere, Laura at his heels making him to hurry up because there was still so much to do. Babysitting, preparing the Sunday lunch, cleaning. How wonderful that would be.
Bob watched some children across the street playing and continued to reminisce. He should be grateful he supposed. Three healthy children, four grandchildren and a house that was never empty. Laura had cooked lunch every Sunday and expected every one of her children and grandchildren to be there. Every grandchild’s birthday would be celebrated at their house with balloons, party games, food and naturally a birthday cake. ‘No sneaking out of the house for you young man,’ she would tell him while handing him a bag of balloons to blow up. ‘You’re the man of the house you have to be here.’ The last birthday party Bob had folded his arms and said ,‘remind me when I last got a say in what goes on in this house. Man of the house indeed, only when it suits you my girl.’ ‘Oh behave,’ she told him ‘you know you love it all really.’ Of course he did, they were lucky him and Laura.
Every anniversary Laura would cook them their own very special meal. He was remembering the little restaurant he had taken her to on their first date. A little Italian bistro on the high street. It was cheap and the best he could afford at the time after spending most of his money on magazines. They had both eaten Spaghetti Bolognaise washed down with a glass of cola. Bob had tried so hard not to laugh at Laura trying to be sophisticated and failing miserably. When the last bit of spaghetti lashed each side of her cheeks sending bolognaise sauce flying everywhere they had both burst out laughing until he leaned over and dabbed at the corner of her mouth with a napkin. Without a shadow of a doubt Bob knew he would love her for the rest of his life and told her so there and then.
On their first anniversary Bob wanted to take her back to the restaurant but Laura said she wanted to surprise him. When he came home from work that night it was to romantic music, a candle lit room and the most delicious smell coming from the kitchen. They had laughed so much that night enjoying the wonderful spaghetti bolognaise that Laura had cooked promising that this is how they would celebrate every year. No restaurant, just the two of them.
And so they had, even this year. He had almost lost his temper with the nurses which is something Bob could never have imagined doing. They had been absolutely wonderful not only to Laura but to him. Still he insisted, even if it meant carrying her home himself. It wasn’t necessary, they understood. She had been too weak to walk so Bob and the girls had decorated her wheelchair in feathers and pretty ribbon and had set out the kitchen like a little bistro and cooked their favourite meal.
It had been the most special anniversary ever, they had chatted and laughed, reminisced and even sipped a little wine, not allowed, but who cared, tonight was very special. All thoughts of the last few months pushed firmly to the back of their minds just for tonight. This year there was a slight difference to the anniversary celebrations. After the meal the door burst open and the children and grandchildren shouted ‘surprise.’ The children ran round the room with balloons, they all played silly games and the children carried in the cake and shouted happy anniversary. Everyone stayed late and for just a moment during the evening Bob forgot all about the situation. It was only when during all the noise of the party Bob looked over and saw Laura was sleeping that he was brought back to reality with a thump. Laura slept all the way back to the hospital and very fortunately did not see the tears streaming down her husband’s face. He gently lifted her into bed and one of the feathers from the wheelchair had caught in her dress. He looked at it for a moment then placed it in her hand and kissed her goodnight. There were bits of cake stuck to her sleeve and he began to clean it off when the nurse arrived. ‘I will do that for you,’ she said smiling. ‘No thank you, I can manage just fine,’ Bob replied. Gently, he leaned over and kissed her. ‘Happy Anniversary sweetheart,’ he whispered.
Today Bob leaned against the window almost wishing the numbness would come back. It helped block out the pain. He was remembering how hard he had tried not to listen when the doctors had had told him what was happening. He had been angry with them for not making her better and he had told them so. It was then he had suddenly lost the feeling in his fingers and toes and the iciness spread through him making him shiver uncontrollably. The small room they were in had been so hot, the radiator on full, but none of it reached him. He had pleaded to be left alone but the young nurse had simply sat beside him and took his hand without speaking. Cups of tea had been sent for and left to go cold. Many hours later Bob found his voice and said on no account was Laura to be told. He wouldn’t have it. She might give up. ‘ Please don’t tell her,’ he pleaded. ‘I don’t want her to be frightened.’ Bob had hurried to the rest room, washed his face and gave himself a good telling off. It would be fine surely. He took a deep breath and rang the children briefly, knowing if he spoke to them for too long he would become upset again. He walked purposefully down the long corridors wanting nothing more than to take Laura in his arms and march straight out of there.
Was it only last week he thought when they had sat chatting. ‘Doctor said everything will be fine,’ he had told her. Laura took his hand and smiled. ‘Bob darling you always were the worst possible liar.’ They began to talk about the children and grandchildren. Safe subjects. They planned young Joseph’s next birthday party and talked long into the night about anything other than why they were here. It was then Laura told Bob what she would do to let him know she was alright. ‘You must believe,’ she had told him, ‘promise me.’ Bob promised.
The television had never been on so much as it had since Laura went into hospital. Every time Bob left the house he would switch it on to ensure there would be voices when he returned. A quiet empty house was simply too lonely for words. The children after all had their own lives to lead, there was work, school, and football practice. He had told them he was fine and to stop fussing then felt angry at himself. It was up to him surely to hold the family together but then remembered that was what Laura did best and he was no match for her.
He had been offered help which he refused. How on earth could anyone make this better? ‘Any miracles in your back pocket,’ he had said to one of the counsellors ‘because unless you have then forget it.’ Immediately, he had turned away then just as quickly turned back and apologised, but they understood. They were trained to do so, he supposed. Last night he had sat in his favourite comfy chair and under the cushion found one of Laura’s angel books. He could see her face now, could hear her laughter and imagine her in the room with him. ‘Oooh look Bob, it’s a sign,’ she would say and he would smile at her and shake his head. ‘It’s a sign you’re losing it,’ he would tell her and she would throw a cushion at him. Yes that’s exactly how it would be, he thought smiling and continued to play out the scene in his mind. Bob picked the book up and held it closely to him because he could smell her perfume on it. Somehow it brought him comfort so he began to read it. He read the book over and over again hoping and praying that every word was true. He was still far from convinced and yet there was a spark of hope that told him just maybe his Laura was right.
Bob was still standing at the window and had no real idea how long he had been there. The house across the street turned their Christmas lights on and Bob thought about last week when he had gathered the family together and told them Laura would be coming home for Christmas. Bob had absolutely refused to have Laura taken to a hospice when she had a perfectly good home to go to so everything had been put in place and Laura’s new bed was in the lounge. There was great excitement and the grandchildren said they should have the biggest tree in the whole wide world. Bob told them he couldn’t agree more. Nurses would be coming in every day and Bob suddenly with a new spring in his step started to prepare for his wife coming home to the tallest and most special Christmas tree he could find. It was carried out like a military operation, Laura would have been so proud. The grandchildren were to pick the tree decorations, the girls were to buy lights and a tree stand. My job said Bob is to find the biggest Angel in the shop for the top of the tree.
There had been much laughter in the garden centre that day as they all ran round choosing garlands, bright red tinsel, baubles and fake snow until two trolleys were piled high. When Bob was told how much he had spent he faked a faint making the whole family roar with laughter. All anyone would have seen looking on that day was a happy family preparing for Christmas. There were, of course, more hysterics when it came to putting the Christmas tree into his Son in Law’s van and the children were screaming with laughter as they heaved and pushed and eventually managed to get it in. Back home the children wound tinsel round the legs of Laura’s bed, hung baubles from the bedposts and were extremely pleased with their handy work. Lucy who was always the artistic one suddenly had the idea of making a pair of Angel wings out of paper to glue onto the bedposts so everyone was hurriedly gluing white pieces of paper together. By late evening they were all thoroughly exhausted and after eating dinner prepared by the girls two of the grandchildren fell asleep. As midnight approached the girls carried on finishing all the decorating and then cleaning up as they carried the young ones onto the sofa and covered them with a blanket. ‘Come on Dad’ they said, ‘this is the best bit.’ They handed him the Angel for the top of the tree before switching the lights on. ‘Mum will love this,’ they said, ‘wait till she sees that it lights up can you imagine her face’. ‘A battery powered Angel’ said Bob ‘whatever next’ and everyone burst out laughing. He held the angel for a moment then gave it back to Kate. ‘Mum has to be here when we put this up,’ he said and they all quickly nodded in agreement. Later that evening Bob poured himself a whisky and looked around him. ‘Wait until I tell you how much I spent today Laura’ he said smiling. ‘That should make you sit up’ he told the empty room.
Tomorrow, he would make the final arrangements to bring Laura home. How excited she would be to see the angel wings on her bed and the spray snow that was not only on the Christmas tree but all around the room. Bob hadn’t the heart to stop the children. ‘Leave them Bob,’ he could hear Laura saying. ‘Let them have their fun’ and so he had. It had been a good day and there would be many more to come Bob was sure of it. Somehow when he got her home she would get better. How could she not get well in a home that was filled with so much love? Laughter apparently released happy hormones and made you feel better so Bob was determined there would be no sad faces when Laura came home.
Bob closed his eyes and began to dream. They would all be gathered around the most colourfully decorated bed in the whole world. The grandchildren would be sitting on the bed cuddled up to their grandma, Bob would place the Angel on the top of the tree and the girls would switch on the lights. There would be a gasp of delight, the children and Laura would clap their hands and Bob would take a bow. It was a perfect dream. When Bob finally went to bed that night the first flakes of snow had begun to fall and the little Angel seemed to sparkle and shimmer in the glow of the moonlight filtering through the windows.
Preparations were finalised and the family eagerly awaited Laura’s return home on Christmas Eve to the welcome home party. This year everyone would be staying over so they would all wake up together to Celebrate Christmas morning. It would be a noisy house just the way Laura like it. There were Christmas presents hidden all over the house and the girls had been busy wrapping for days and bringing over everything they would need for the Christmas sleep over.
As Christmas Eve approached Bob was counting the minutes until she came home. Christmas was a time for miracles and Laura’s angels would surely take care of her. Yes, that’s how it would be from now on and she would get stronger every day.
Laura looked out of the window at the falling snow as she listened to the choir that had come along to sing for the patients. Mentally, she was going through all the presents Bob had told her the children were getting this year and imaging their faces when they ripped the paper off as they always did. The biggest Christmas tree in the world she thought to herself, what on earth was happening to her sensible Bob and goodness only knows what state the house was in. Laura had never cried, it would do no good. She was frightened but it wasn’t necessary for anyone to know that. She would be fine after all but goodness knows what would happen without her. Bob had never in all their married years got to grips with the washing machine without dyeing everything a different colour and never had she got him to check all the clothes for tissues before putting them into the machine. He was absolutely hopeless at remembering birthdays and she always had to remind him. The girls would keep him right of course. The girls. Laura could not think of them now, or the grandchildren. I’m telling you now she told her angels, don’t you be going and thinking I will be floating around on clouds, playing harps and swinging on stars. No way. I am a grandmother, wife and mother. Better let the big man know I intend to be busy watching over my family. ‘Just so you know,’ she said out loud. The choir began to sing Away in a Manger one of Laura’s favourite hymns and she closed her eyes and began quietly to sing along. The snow that had begun to fall quite heavily now was so pretty she thought to herself and then for the very first time as the choir sang Silent Night Laura began to cry.
The telephone call that no-one wanted came in the early hours of Christmas Eve. Laura’s Angel’s had called her home to celebrate Christmas with them. The Angel with the batteries never made it to the top of the tree and was placed back in the box. The pain was unbearable but they carried on. ‘Laura would have wanted it,’ he told the girls, the children must have their Christmas morning. Bob began to think about Laura’s promise. It was the only thing that kept him going.
He had asked to go alone and see her. Still so beautiful looking to all the world like she was only asleep. ‘Was it the shock of how much I spent this Christmas,’ he asked her with a false laugh, ‘no need to go to this extreme you know.’ He began to tell her about what they had prepared for lunch. ‘Just in case you fancy dropping in,’ he said. All these years together and Bob could not think of another single thing to say to her.
Today as he stood looking out of the window the cold feeling was returning and he began to feel numb. ‘Just you remember,’ he said, ‘don’t let me down now. I’m waiting. A promise is a promise’. The family arrived and they all chatted around him but he heard nothing. He had to concentrate hard in case he missed it.
During the past few days they had all been busy with arrangements. Bob felt withdrawn from them all and was happy to let his children take over. He had watched and waited for days, still nothing and soon he felt it would be too late. Laura hadn’t kept her promise, not yet anyway.
Maybe it would be today when they were finally saying goodbye, yes that was it. Definitely it would be today. Time was running out though and the family would be here soon. At least the sound of the children’s voices would take away the awful silence that he had endured all morning. He had tried putting on the television, then the radio but he couldn’t listen to people talking as though today was just the same as any other day. It wasn’t.
Still nothing. So that was it then, this was how it was going to be from now on. This mindfulness thing she always went on about, maybe it was time after all these years to give it a go. Living in the moment, she called it. Surely it had to be better than looking to the next five minutes, five hours, five days, months, years. That was not possible now, not anymore, not without her. Looking ahead, planning, thinking about the future that was something they did together. The here and now would be good enough from now on. Bob jumped at the bang on the door. They were early. He had wanted to be alone with his memories this morning. The family had tried to insist on staying with him overnight but he had put his foot down. He had compromised and they were coming over to sit with him to wait for Laura arriving. Bob squeezed his eyes tightly shut. They were too early and it still wasn’t here and she had promised. Just five more minutes, he thought. He heard a second knock then a key being turned in the lock. Bless them he thought, knocking first to give him time to pull himself together. He put on a brave face and walked over to his family. No flowers by request it said in the notice. Laura had never been one for flowers. There was something else she loved more, always had, and the house was covered in them. On shelves, under statues, in boxes and drawers where she would look at them and smile. Each one of them reminding her of different times in her life, each one a special memory of special times. Little white feathers and each time Laura had found one she would become so excited. Look she would say, a message from the Angels and place it somewhere around the house. Each anniversary and birthday he would buy her a new angel book or card and last year she had been thrilled when he had given her a beautiful glass Guardian Angel statue.
There was noisy chatter all around him but he heard nothing because he needed to concentrate. People were speaking to him but he didn’t hear them. Still it hadn’t come and Bob was beginning to panic. She had promised and in all the years they had been together he had never known Laura break a promise. He had tried to push the thought away that maybe she had been wrong all these years, maybe it had all just been coincidence but the thought of it not being true was too painful to contemplate. Bob squeezed his eyes shut. ‘Please God let it be true. Come on Laura, time is running out,’ he whispered.
Bob jumped when Kate placed a hand on his shoulder, ‘Dad it’s time to go. Your neighbour is here to watch the children.’ Bob walked towards the door and paused to look over his shoulder one last time. The bed in the corner of the room that had been brought downstairs for Laura was still there. He had insisted. The new feather pillows were there as his Christmas gift to her and Bob’s eyes stung with tears thinking that she had never seen them. The pretty little battery powered angel still lay on top of the box and the Christmas tree lights were unplugged.
‘Dad,’ said Kate again gently. Bob nodded and smiled at her. It was time. She hadn’t sent it. Wasn’t going to. He turned to face his family with a weak smile on his face as his daughter took his hand.
Suddenly, it happened.
The young boisterous twins raced across the room, dived onto Laura’s bed and the feather pillow burst open.
There was a stunned silence as time seemed to stand still. There were feathers everywhere. Floating in the air, resting on furniture, until slowly, as everyone watched in silence, they began to land gently on Bob’s shoulder.
The silence was broken when Bob burst out laughing and continued to laugh as the rest of the family all joined in. ‘Nice one mum,’ whispered Kate as her eyes filled with tears.
Bob walked over to the Christmas tree and switched on the lights, then picked up the angel. He pushed the batteries in and she lit up immediately. Carefully Bob placed the Angel on the top of the tree.
‘Thank you Laura’ he said smiling, ‘although as always a little over the top.
Really darling…….one would have sufficed.
I hope you enjoyed it. For more stories visit my website suzannelambert.com
With love and blessings.