of her father.
“Come on, Tina. It’s time.” Diane gently pulled Tina’s arm and led her toward the trail.
Tina closed her eyes.
God … give me the strength.
When she blinked them open, she felt a little more capable than before. “I know.” She inhaled slowly. “Now or never.”
The three friends headed toward the lake. For nearly thirty minutes, the threesome walked in silence, each lost in her own
thoughts. They rounded a corner and Tina remembered the time she and her father had stopped in that spot when she twisted
her ankle once.
“Can you make it, honey?” She could still hear her father’s voice, caring for her, encouraging he.
One after another the memories of her father bombarded her with an almost physical force. The three friends turned a corner
to approach the steepest hill of the climb. The path followed the hill straight up and then leveled off along a fifty-yard
plateau. At the top of the hill, a bench marked thespot where Tina and her father had often sat and talked when they visited the lake. Tina swallowed hard and stared straight
ahead. She would have to take the hill by storm, facing every memory along the way and refusing to give in to her overwhelming
feelings of grief.
Then suddenly she saw someone on the hill high above her.
A tall man in jeans and a T-shirt stood on the plateau staring out at the lake. From her viewpoint, the man looked exactly
like her dead father. Tina gasped, but her friends didn’t seem to hear her. The trio continued up the hill. As they did, Tina
kept her eyes on the man, and suddenly she felt a burden being lifted from her shoulders. When they were just ten yards from
the man, he turned toward Tina and smiled the same warm and reassuring smile that had once belonged to Paul Ewing alone.
Tina’s friends still seemed oblivious to the man and continued past him without stopping. When Tina was only a few feet away
from him, she paused and stared into his eyes. He winked once, smiled again, and then slowly turned back toward the lake.
Although Tina did not believe that people could come back from the dead or that people became angels after death, at that
instant, she had no doubt that somehow this man was her father. She did not know how it could be possible, but there was no
way anyone could look so much like him and be anyoneelse. She seemed to know, instinctively, that there was no need to question the man or engage in dialogue. A peaceful reassurance
washed over her. She smiled at the man one last time and nodded as she continued on her way. At the bottom of the hill, she
caught up with her friends and asked them to stop a moment.
“Did you see that man?” She could feel the way her eyes were shining. Something they hadn’t done since her father had died.
Finally, after months of grieving, she felt at peace with herself.
“What man?” Diane’s expression was blank.
“Yeah, who?” Lora tilted her head, her eyebrows lowered.
“You know who.” Tina cocked her head curiously. “That man, up on the top of the hill.” She pointed toward the hill, but the
man had vanished. “He was up there, near the bench.”
Diane looked at Lora and shrugged. “I didn’t see anyone, did you?”
“Not a person. We’ve been the only ones on the trail all day.”
“No, seriously, guys. Back there on the hill. That guy in the jeans. He looked just like my —”
Tina stopped short. Her friends would think she was crazy if she finished her sentence. Besides, if they hadn’t seen anyone,
then … Tina felt another wave of peace. There was no need to share the story of the man and her meeting with him.
“Never mind.” Tina began walking again. “must’ve been my imagination.”
Diane and Lora shrugged; Tina was thankful when they dropped the subject. Whoever the man was, he had given her a glimpse
of the father she so badly missed and the reassurance that she had desperately needed. She would keep the incident to