This heartwarming story is about eight-year-old Jimmy Longwood, who has fallen in love with a Golden Retriever puppy. When his parents explain that their condo does not allow pets, Jimmy is heartbroken. While skiing in Aspen the entire family is killed in an avalanche. Jimmy goes to heaven and meets an angel who decides to send Jimmy back to earth as the very Golden Retriever he’d wanted for his own and to learn the one lesson all human beings must learn…unconditional love.
It took three lifts to get to the point where he’d wanted to go. There were two other sets of skiers in front of them and a threesome coming up from behind. Even higher above them on the un-groomed slopes, a helicopter lowered itself and dropped three daredevil skiers onto the slopes.
“Awesome!” Jimmy exclaimed.
“Idiots,” Melanie groaned. “Those helicopters scare me,” she said as the helicopter flew away.
“Those are real adventurers, Jimmy,” John said.
“You said it, Dad.”
Melanie skied over to the edge of the precipice and looked out.
“John, I’ve never seen anything this beautiful,” Melanie said with a rush of wonder in her voice. “Why it’s like I’m nearly to heaven.”
“You’re as far up this mountain as you can get,” John said.
“I want some pictures before we start down.”
“Good idea,” John said skiing over to Jimmy. “How’s this?”
Melanie took two shots and then John took photographs of Melanie and Jimmy.
“We should have gotten that new camera, Dad. The one with the delay so we could prop it up and it would take all of us together.”
“You’re right, son. I should have.”
As Melanie took a round of photos of the topography, a mass of clouds funneled over the top of the mountain. But these clouds were not high and fluffy like the ones that had transformed into shapes in the sky earlier. These clouds were dense, low and moving very fast.
A sense of dread enveloped Melanie. In seconds, it was as if the sun had been blotted out. Where only moments ago she was squinting into the sun, now she couldn’t see the sun at all.
“John, did you check that weather bulletin this morning?”
“What…bulletin?” He asked too late. He shivered and not from the cold. “I think we’d better start down.” He turned to Jimmy. His voice was filled with concern. “No hot dogging this time, son. Okay?”
“What is it, Dad?” Jimmy asked feeling their fear. Sensing their terror.
The snow squall moved over them, masking them from the skiers behind them.
“Let’s go. Jimmy, you follow me. Melanie, stay close.”
“I’ll do it,” she replied determinedly.
The squall moved faster than lightening Jimmy thought. He was a good skier and yet, he felt as if he was going far, far too slow. In minutes he couldn’t see in front of him, or beside him. He was thankful his father wore a fire engine red jumpsuit. His mother wore tangerine orange. Both of them stuck out of a crowd like summer vegetables at market. Against the snow, they were like bright lights of hope.
Expertly, John led the way, increasing his speed yet dodging trees and circumventing moguls. His skill at the slalom proved to be lifesaving as he swooshed past clumps of underbrush that seemed to appear out of nowhere, like elves popping out of the ground. Intermittently, he turned his head to keep Jimmy and Melanie in his sights. Each time he did, he signaled with a nod that everything was fine.
Though they moved quickly, the wind gusted at ever increasing speeds thrusting the cloud of blinding snow down the slope. It threatened to overtake them.
John knew that if they didn’t beat the squall, they would have to find shelter until the snowstorm passed. There was no telling how long that could be. If they were to remain this high on the mountain overnight, they could freeze. Realizing their predicament was more dire than he’d originally thought. John slowed and motioned for them to take another route to the left. “We need to go around the squall,” he yelled to them.
But the wind suddenly seemed more than wind. It didn’t howl anymore, it thundered.
John slowed down for Jimmy and Melanie to catch up to him.
It was then Jimmy saw the panic on his father’s face. “What is it?”
John cocked his head to the distance. Suddenly, the ground rumbled as if it were a sleeping ice dragon come alive.
“Avalanche!” John yelled, ramming his poles into the snow. “Ski, Jimmy, as fast as you can. Just go straight! Fast!”
Jimmy followed his father’s command. He shoved himself off, keeping his knees bent, skis straight and together, he picked up speed. He leaned as far over the front of his skis as was possible. He was flying like the wind.
The snow squall created a white out. Jimmy couldn’t see anything. He skied as if he knew where he was going, but he didn’t. He pretended “the force” was guiding him. He had to pretend something because he just didn’t know anymore.
The sound in the crisp, cold air was thunderous, like rounds of cannon fire must have sounded to ancient warriors. Jimmy had never heard anything like it. It terrified him. The ground moved as if making moguls of its own. Then Jimmy realized it wasn’t that the snow underneath was moving, it was rolling snow moving from the top of the mountain down over them.
He didn’t see his father anymore. He didn’t know where he’d gone or if he was even alive.
Suddenly, above the roar of the avalanche, he heard his mother’s voice. “Jimmy!”
How odd. She doesn’t sound scared anymore.
“Jimmy.” She called him as if she were calling him to dinner.
Then everything in Jimmy’s vision went
Ms. Lanigan is a frequent speaker at literary functions and book conventions as well as inspiring audiences with her real stories of angelic intervention from her Angel Tales series of books. She is an outspoken advocate for domestic violence and abuse and was honored by The National Domestic Violence Hotline in Washington, D.C. She has been a guest on numerous radio programs including “Coast to Coast” and on television interview and talk show programs as well as blogs, podcasts and online radio interview programs. She writes a monthly blog for Heartwarmingauthors.blogspot.com.