My heart flutters a little as I walk up the steps, raise my hand to ring the bell--and the giant door opens and he is standing there.
"Good--good morning, sir."
He is not the man I remember... not that I expected him to be. The ravages of illness do that to you. His face is white and lined, the eyes show pain, though a strange light still shines behind it all. I tear my eyes away. It is not polite to stare at your elders.
"Ah, Briana. Come in."
He has waited there for me. I know, though he does not say so. Does he also anticipate this meeting?
I step through the door; he closes it softly behind. My feet sink into the carpeting. He insists that I precede him down the hall, though I rather would not. His steps are slow, painful. I drop into a chair, more so that he will rest than for any other reason. He takes the one opposite.
We speak of small things, of teaching and of moving and of life. Of horses. He tells me how he always wanted to learn to ride. (There are more sides to this man than I ever dreamed.)
In time I hand him the letter I wrote last week. The letter that tries (unsuccessfully) to put into words what I have learned from him. It is long. Maybe too long. I watch as he reads it. Ever the consummate teacher, he comments on a word here, a phrase there. I smile. As he gets further in, the comments slow.
"You were considering. . . ? Many people are. They just don't know what it's called."
"Ah yes. It was all God."
He nods. Brushes something from his eye. Folds the letter and puts it back in the envelope. I let a smile flicker quickly across my face. We go on to speak of other small things.
An hour passes and I must go. It is too long to stay. Yet I know what I have come here for. And as we rise and go to the door, I know it is now.
"May I pray with you." It is a statement, not a question, and I nod, bow my head. We clasp hands and the coldness of his hand is warm. His prayer is a blessing--a benediction. As his life has been, and is.
I remain with head bowed after we say Amen. Then I lift my eyes and meet his. The light--the fire--still burns there. It will continue till life itself is gone. But I know it has passed to me as well.
"We will meet again. May it be soon."
The torch is in my arms. From this day forward, I carry it on.