I just have to share this with y'all, hope you enjoy it. My niece Rebekah (who will be 18 years old April 3) said she woke up the other morning with an idea, wrote all day, and here is the result. This kid amazes me. A Soldier and his Angel Remember the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again?" In the culture we live in today these wise words have been morphed into, "If at first you don't succeed, just quit and move on." A bit of a letdown if you ask me. But to my surprise, I've recently realized no matter what the masses of society conform to there will always be a renegade who breaks free. Not an uncontrollable rebel, but a refined sort of quiet uprising against the status quo. I may not have realized this profound truth had it not been for a chance meeting with Clarence Donovan, a man characterized by unwavering perseverance, a man Lily Tyler would describe as patiently stubborn. My lunch break in Central Park evolved into an unforgettable history lesson. I was sitting in my customary seat, four benches from the chess tables and directly under the giant oak tree. The sun peeked through the treetops and kissed the dew-drenched grass as I slowly surveyed the quiet happenings around me. There were people strolling along, bikers whizzing past and homeless men begging for a handout. None of these scenes were what caught my attention, though, that day. In the stillness of the park with people bustling around and birds chirping, I witnessed an old gentleman kneel down by the old stone wall where a lady of his age was seated. His hands were folded in a prayer-like fashion, as if begging for something. Dawn broke across my face as I concluded that a sweet proposal was being made. But just as joy flooded my being, I noticed the woman's face. She was staring off into the distance, stricken with sadness, merely ignoring her eager suitor. The man however with his hands outstretched was still smiling a smile of pure happiness. Curiosity washed over me and I found myself walking towards the pair. Why my feet decided to override the screaming voice in my head telling me to stop, I will never know. Unwillingly, I trudged over to their spot at the wall and introduced myself. Surprise registered on the woman's face, yet the man quickly stood with a grin and shook my hand. His name was Clarence Donovan and his companion was Miss Lily Tyler. Trying not to be blatantly rude, I cautiously questioned the scene I had witnessed. Lily's cheeks turned crimson and Clarence cackled with laughter, an unlikely response to my query. Before I could surmise the situation's truth, Clarence began to eloquently recount Lily's and his timeline: a story I will remember forever. Years earlier, stationed in a wasteland of unrest, otherwise known as Berlin, Germany, Clarence sat alone in his bunker praying for angels to surround his men and him. He could never have dreamed that World War II would wreak so much havoc on society. Inwardly, he wondered how one man's demented reality could force the world to intervene and try to restore order. Everyone was painfully aware that no one could truly clean up the gruesome ordeal. Clarence's platoon had been stationed in Berlin for four months. In that brief time, he had seen young mens' precious lives stripped away by obscene battles. The battlefield resembled a disorganized morgue filled with rotting bodies. His nightmares had become a blur of death, yet Clarence had remained unscathed so far. That all changed one foggy morning when an unexpected attack seized his bunker. Clarence lay motionless as his blood mixed with the muddy earth beneath him. He sent up a prayer as he slipped into a peaceful unconsciousness. Dreams of angels swirled indecipherable through his mind as he desperately tried to resurface through the thick fog of oblivion. The one steady reminder that life still coursed through his veins was the sweet angel's voice whispering reassuring words in Clarence's ear. He believed the voice to be a hallucination due to his wounds, yet still held on to a small shred of hope. Days seemed to pass as Clarence listened to the voices around him, none as soothing as his angel's. Determined to meet his beautiful guardian, Clarence forced the unwanted light to filter into his eyes. The scene he beheld caused his shallow breath to catch in his throat. A radiant beauty, her golden hair haloed by the soft light of the afternoon sun, stood studying a set of medical charts. Her smooth brow furrowed as she scribbled down notes and checked the watch clasped around her tiny wrist. Setting down the clipboard, the petite nurse surveyed her patients, her eyes ending on Clarence. Her kind emerald eyes widened in surprise and her cherry-red lips formed a perfect "O" as she audibly took a breath. Clarence continued to stare at the nurse until two blossoms of red exploded on her cheeks and she bashfully ducked her head. A laugh bubbled in Clarence's throat, turning quickly to a dry cough. She hurried to his bedside with a glass of water and arranged his pillows so he could sit comfortably. As his cough subsided, Clarence inquired about his whereabouts and the well-being of his troops. He learned over the next few hours from his personal nurse and angel, Lily, that five days before his platoon had been gruesomely attacked, resulting in only two survivors. Clarence had sustained a slight concussion and an open wound on his leg, leaving his knee in a ragged condition. Lily Tyler had arrived minutes after hearing the blast, finding the bunker strewn in pieces. After patiently working on every soldier, only three made it out of the ravaged remaines. The third survivor was lost due to shock. Clarence and his comrade, Ronnie, were treated and bandaged at the army base hospital. Lily personally attended to Clarence, as per instruction, encouraging his recovery through soothing words and cheerful bedside manner. She prayed day and night, ever releasing the hope and faith instilled in her being. His clear blue eyes staring back at Lily now were the answer to her earnest prayers. She had spent hours daydreaming about Clarence's eyes and the voice that would match his courageous spirit. Lily knew she must appear as a silly schoolgirl to this strapping soldier, yet she wanted to believe something more would come of this relationship. Believe it or not, Clarence was contemplating the exact same sentiments and before he knew it a proposal burst from his mouth. Lily stood on wooden legs, straightened her uniform and hurried away too shocked to answer. They both remained quietly astounded for the remainder of Clarence's recovery, never again mentioning the rash proposal. On his last day before returning to his home of New Jersey, Clarence wandered through the hospital halls hoping to say goodbye to Lily. Another passing nurse informed him that she had returned to New York the previous morning. His spirit plummeted upon hearing the news. In his heart, Clarence knew Lily was his future bride. A spontaneous trip to New York never sounded more inspiring. His nervousness built as he traveled back to America, not knowing how Lily would react to his presence. He found himself, bags in hand, climbing the stairs of a small apartment building. When he timidly knocked on the apartment's door, an older woman with Lily's kind eyes answered. After sitting down with Lily's mother for a cup of tea, Clarence learned that Lily was now stationed in the midwest. Color drained from his face as he wearily walked towards the train station. His angel was gone, out of his grasp. Did she even remember the wounded soldier she had once cared so dearly for? Alone in Kansas, Lily sat blankly staring at the wild expanse before her. She had been crazy to think that Clarence would come for her. Why had she run away from the life he had offered her? Now here she sat alone in a decrepit hospital sorting through records covered in dust. Lily yearned for nothing more than to be by the fireside sipping tea with her mother; or better yet snuggling in the security of her soldier's arms. Years passed, neither Lily nor Clarence made grand attempts at meeting, and soon both were but a reminiscent memory. Twenty years later, at the World War II reunion, Clarence sat under the dim light of a chandelier sipping a glass of champagne. He lifted his eyes to the dance floor just in time to catch a vision of gold float down the stairs. He immediately recognized his angel, Lily, her eyes scanning the crowd. Clarence could sense the exact moment she saw him, the same astonished expression she had worn years earlier in the hospital overwhelmed her demeanor now. Slowly making her way to Clarence, her smile began to widen, but just as her confidence built, uneasiness flooded her. Lily no longer knew the man who stood before her. Would all the years melt away in a heartbeat? Her fears were extinguished as Clarence held out his hand and led her to the dance floor. The night seemed to last forever as they gracefully spun around the floor, recounting the years apart. Clarence and Lily agreed to meet the next morning for a walk through Central Park. Bundled up against the harsh cold, the couple watched as ice skaters whizzed by them. Their relationship felt as if they had been together since the days of the army hospital. As they sat mesmerized by the softly falling snow, Clarence gently clasped Lily's mittened hand in his. Slowly he turned to look into her eyes, innocent and wide, waiting: waiting for the words hanging heavily in the frigid air. This time when the proposal was voiced, she accepted. Lily no longer feared a life with Clarence. She anticipated their future together. A fairytale story about a soldier and his angel had finally become a reality. Planning the wedding moved smoothly, until Lily's mother became violently ill. Lily felt torn between her love for Clarence and the dedication towards her mother. She wrote Clarence a brief note explaining her indecision and that she regretfully must back out of the wedding. By the time Clarence received the note, Lily was on her way to Georgia where her ailing mother was living. Again the feeling of loneliness overwhelmed Lily and Clarence, yet this time they separately decided to let one another live out their lives alone. This is the life they chose to live until October 19, 1997: the day I sat witnessing a proposal like no other. Clarence and Lily had been walking through Central Park, heads down against the crisp autumn air, and bumped into each other. Years had weathered their features, yet their eyes both sparked in recognition of a lost love. After sitting and reminiscing, Clarence slid to his knees, captured the attention of his love and proposed for the last time and Lily, tears streaming down her face, answered yes. I attended a wedding today: a wedding where a soldier finally kissed his angel. A marriage that had been in waiting for fifty-five years, unifying a lifetime of love. So, the next time you hear the wise words, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again", listen because you never know when persistence will bring you a priceless treasure, maybe even an angel.