Angel Antonius' Tattered Robe
Angel Antonius looked appreciatively at his tiny wooden workbench. Many millennia ago, he had carved it from a giant oak tree he had found after the great flood. He did not need the workbench to do his chosen task, but he found that it helped him focus. He needed that focus sometimes to help with the competing emotions of his chosen task. He ran his hand over the smooth finely-grained surface and once again felt connected to the earthly world he served.
“Antonius” a small voice cried out, “Antonius.”
Antonius saw the small Cherubim flying towards the area where he had positioned his workbench.
“Malachi.” Antonius replied to his friend. “I cannot talk now. I have to return to Earth.”
“I know.” Malachi responded. “I want to come with you. I want to learn what you know and to help.”
“Are you certain that this is the task you want for yourself?” Antonius asked as he gestured to his simple workbench and the tattered hem of his robe.
“You could fix your robe if you wished.” Malachi answered. “Many of the other angels think it is silly to have such a tattered robe.”
“It is not all joy and happiness, Malachi.” Antonius stated, a slight frown creased his brow. “My task brings pain with the joy, tears with the laughter.”
“But you bring the kittens to earth.” Malachi replied, “And I do love the newborn kittens.”
“But I also bring the Lost Ones back to Heaven.” Antonius stated.
“Please, Can I help you?”
“Yes.” Antonius agreed. “You may help me.”
Antonius motioned for Malachi to follow him.
They walked together across the vast expanse of Heaven.
Malachi noticed a simple cobblestone bridge. It shimmered with the colours of the rainbow. This side of the bridge was clear but the far side was concealed with a faint haze. Every so often, a human would appear. Sometimes they would be accompanied by a single cat or dog or bird or ferret or bunny or horse or other animal, other times they would be followed by several.
“Is that the Rainbow Bridge?” Malachi asked.
“Yes.” Antonius said. “We built it soon after Humans befriended the first animal.”
Antonius and Malachi reached a small spot where there appeared to be thousands of newborn kittens all sound asleep. Antonius walked softly amongst the sleeping kittens. He looked lovingly down upon the tiny little furry bodies.
“How do you know which ones to take?” Malachi asked.
“There are no wrong ones to take, Malachi.” Antonius replied. “Each has a purpose and a destiny set for it by God. I simply place them on their path.”
Antonius methodically picked from the multitude of sleeping kittens. The kittens barely stirred from their slumber as Antonius kissed them on their foreheads and placed them into the folds of his robe.
“Can I carry some?” Malachi asked.
“Certainly.” Antonius replied as he picked two small Siamese kittens and placed them into Malachi’s hands. “Now slip them into the folds of your robe for they get very cold.”
Malachi slipped the two kittens into his robes and grinned as he felt the kittens snuggle up to the warmth of his body. Antonius smiled.
“We will go and deliver these beloved ones to Earth.” Antonius said as he motioned for Malachis to follow.
Antonius and Malachi stood over the sleeping body of the pregnant Siamese cat. She was sleeping soundly and did not stir at the presence of the two angels. Antonius looked at Malachi.
“Take your kittens and give them to their mother.” Antonius guided.
“But there are four within her, Antonius.” Malachi asked. “Why did you have me bring only two?”
“Because that is all God said to bring.”
“What about the other two?”
“They were never meant to breathe the air of Earth.” Antonius said. “Do not fret for them. They will remain but a husk, an empty shell. Sometimes, that is the most merciful thing we can do.”
Malachi took the two kittens from his robe and placed them next to their mother.
“Now pay attention.” Antonius began to sing softly to the mother cat.
Malachi listened to the words of Antonius’s song and grew sad as he heard each note and syllable leave Antonius’s tongue. The forms of the two kittens slowly merged with the mother cat. When Antonius was done, Malachi saw that the angel was crying and that his tears fell softly on the still sleeping cat.
“Why do you weep, Antonius?” Malachi asked. “Is not birth of a creature a joyous thing?”
“The creation of life is a joyous event.” Antonius replied. “But life for these two will not be happy or pleasant. You wondered why we only brought two kittens. It is because the Humans who own this poor creature do not care for it properly and see it as a means to satisfy their own greed. Their callousness is why we could only bring two.”
Antonius brushed the tear from his cheek.
“Come.” Antonius moved away from the sleeping cat and her ready to be borne kittens. “We have many more to deliver yet.”
Malachi followed Antonius to the next cat. Antonius once again pulled a certain number of kittens from the fold of his robe and placed them next the sleeping cat. Once again with his mournful song, he merged the kittens with their new mother. The act repeated itself over and over. Malachi thought his heart would break as he felt the loss Antonius carried in his song. Soon there were no more kittens in Malachi’s or Antonius’s robes.
“We have one more thing to do.” Antonius said. “For now, we have to guide the cats and kittens who have passed back to Heaven.”
Antonius took Malachi to a dreary forlorn spot. The building might have once been a warehouse where Humans worked and toiled, but now it was blackened and lifeless. Antonius moved to a small corner where several charred beams and pieces of wood had collapsed. Malachi gasped as Antonius lifted the burnt wood away and exposed the still, scarred body of a cat.
“Poor cat.” Malachi mourned, “I hope she did not suffer.”
“But she did.” Antonius replied. “She suffered most cruelly. But she gave her life in an attempt to save those she held most dear.”
Antonius gently moved the body of the cat and exposed the uncharred forms of three small kittens. Unlike their mother, their bodies bore no mark of fire.
“Knowing that she could not escape, she placed her body between her kittens and the fire in hopes of saving them with her sacrifice. But it was for naught, for although the fire did not touch them, the smoke surely did.” Antonius noted. “And now it is time to take them all home.”
Antonius knelt beside the still forms of the cats. He pulled one feather from his left wing and placed it on the ground in front of him. He then pulled another feather from his right wing and set it next to the other. Antonius repeated this pulling of feathers from his wings until he had four sets lying on the ground. He reached down to hem of his robe and pulled a thread from the silken cloth. Gently, he bound two feathers together with the thread and then he placed the feathers on the charred body of the mother cat.
Malachi listened to Antonius as he worked on the feathers. Once again Antonius was singing, but the song was not mournful or sad. It was full of joy and happiness. Malachi was confused.
Antonius placed his fingertips to his lips and then touched his hand to the feathers on top of the mother cat. There was golden shimmer as the feathers grew into a set of angel wings and attached themselves to the mother cat’s back. As they grew and fixated onto the cat’s body, the scars and burn marks from the fire faded. Antonius placed the feathers onto the kittens and placed a kiss onto each kitten. He sang as the wings appeared and smoke-filled lungs once again breathed clean air.
“That’s why your robe is tattered.” Malachi stated.
“Yes.” Antonius replied. “This is why it is always tattered. Never more than thumb-width, but never less. My tattered hem is a reminder of all the cats I have brought back to Heaven. To repair it would not be right.”
“But why was the song placing the kittens on Earth so sad, but the song of their death so happy.” Malachi asked.
“The song of their birth is sad, because I know that I might be dooming them to a life of fear, pain and loneliness far from the grace of Heaven.” Antonius said. “But my joy knows no bounds when I know that I have come to return them to Heaven. I am allowed to free them from their existence on Earth and bring them back into the light of God.”
“Some of the cats will choose to stay at the Rainbow Bridge and wait for the Humans that cared for them.” Antonius stated. “But Lost Ones, such as these, will come back with us to Heaven, for they have no one to wait for at the Rainbow Bridge.”
Antonius scooped up the three kittens and motioned for Malachi to pick up the female cat. The kittens purred and squirmed in Antonius’ arms. The female cat looked over at her kittens and accepted that they were finally safe. She snuggled into Malachi’s robe.
“Now we take them home.” Antonius smiled to a beaming Malachi.
Malachi smiled back and then briefly closed his eyes. The hem of his robe unraveled to match Antonius’s. Only a thumb-width. No more. No less