What I am about to tell you is true. Start to finish. You decide whether you believe.
I had just returned from the fighting on the European front. I had taken in enough shrapnel on the beaches of Normandy to gain a ticket home to our homestead on Hat Six.
I was not the kindest soul when I returned. My demons, whom I chose to fight alone, rendered me all but impossible to be around. I see that now. After a time of chasing skirts and engaging in too many fistfights, I retreated home to the ranch and tended my cows. They were not as pretty as the girls and harder to land a punch. It suited me fine. I stayed out of trouble and mostly out of the bottle.
I chose odd jobs which promised solitude. Delivering mail on the rural postal route was one of them, which is how I found myself alone on Christmas Eve, fighting to stay on the road in a blinding snow storm. Out of nowhere a shimmery white beast with a massive head of horn casually strolled across the road. For all the world, it looked like a reindeer. I overcorrected and promptly met with a fence post.
Whether it was folly or my fury, I left my wounded car and set out on that frigid Christmas night to find help. Just as my toes began to lose feeling, I spotted a cabin, golden lights pulsing from the windows. I headed there.
Icicles caked my beard, my mind addled with chill, I must have been a sight for the man who answered the door. Though I was a stranger, this man with the kind face, his wife and their young boy welcomed me in. They fed me, gave me a pipe to smoke and implored me to stay the night. They gave me rest.
Curiously, there were several small animals in the room, a couple lambs nestled against a calf or two. I did not notice them at first, but I was not the only visitor. There were two other gentlemen. Not quite city slickers but not from around here either. Their presence did not seem accidental; they seemed to have journeyed here on purpose. Just as I settled into my corner chair, another visitor appeared, a man similarly dressed in the style of the other two regal men. He brought a small gift wrapped in burlap for the lady and a toy for the child.
The cabin teemed with warmth as the young family tended to us with unmatched kindness. It felt I had wandered into a pilgrimage of sorts, as if this peculiar band of characters were led here to witness a remarkable event. I still remember the glow of the cabin, still hear the popping of the cranberries on the kettle near the fireplace, the easy conversation, the sense of belonging. It’s the feeling of a dream you cling to, fending off consciousness as long as you can. I felt a profound sense of tranquility, the depths of which I had never experienced. In that moment, I knew the mess I was currently making of my life would get untangled, that it would be all right. I began to cry. Everything will be alright.
It’s no small exaggeration to say I left the next morning a changed man. In the years since that strange and magical night, I’ve traveled on that same gravel road. I’ve never seen that cabin before nor since. Nonetheless I swear it to be true. My Ford, incarcerated on the hillside behind my house, bears the dents to prove it.
I am not a particularly religious man, the things I saw on the front changes one’s perspective on faith, humanity and the powers of evil. No soldier surviving what we did would tell you otherwise. It doesn’t help that religion nowadays foments more hate and division than I care for. I do my best to avoid it.
But I am an old man now. My strength is failing and my end is near. I lost my dear Marjorie long ago. My children are scattered across the country, all with demanding jobs and an inflated sense of importance. I have no one left to tell my story.
It is in these final days, as I creep closer to death, I am reminded of the hope and rebirth I felt in that wondrous cabin. I witnessed what I believed to be the all-encompassing peace and love of Christ. I have quietly modeled my life after it.
I am ready to go.