That evening after her long nap, Anna sat up in bed feeling hungry. She looked at the clock and realized her aunt and uncle had probably already gone to bed. She went to the refrigerator, and smiled when she saw the plate of food inside waiting on her.
While it was heating up in the microwave, she prayed silently, Thank you for this food. Then she sat down at the table alone for her meal. Afterwards she put the dishes in the dishwasher with the other dirty dishes, and started the wash cycle.
Now that she was awake and full, she wished there were someone to talk to. However, all her family was asleep. Matt was on her bad list. Jackson was not longer around. Despondent, she hobbled back to her room.
Why would Matt do that to me? she kept asking herself over and over again. Why, Lord, why? Do You have some further work for me to do? Does all this ‘Chosen Princess’ stuff fit into Your master plan somehow? I thought I was doing so well. The fear of flying is gone, I think. All of my other phobias seem to have vanished. My necklace is a good reminder of Your protection of me.
Then today – wham! My oldest and greatest fear of pain is thrown right in my face when I least expected it. Where is the lesson in that? What am I supposed to have learned today? Why am I the chosen princess? Chosen for what prince? Please help me to understand, she prayed in anguish. Tears were running down her face again. She let them fall, unheeded and unashamed.
Alone, in the quiet of her room, with her eyes closed, she caught a familiar whiff of wildflowers and honey, mixed with almonds and cinnamon. She opened her teary eyes and saw a blurry figure standing beside her bed.
“Samuel, is that you?” she asked.
“Yes, my Anna, Samu-el is here.”
“Am I in need of healing again, or maybe about to be in need of healing?”
“Your spirit is broken, my child. Healing your spirit is between you and God.”
“I was doing so well until today, Samuel. My fears were gone. The nightmares were gone. I was happy. Matt became a Christian. Everything was great. Then he called me the ‘Chosen Princess.’ He took me to his parent’s house and told me his dad, who used to work in Carville, had been looking for me all these years.
“I was nine years old again, Samuel.” She was crying as she tried to talk to him. “They hurt me. All those needles. All those tests. I was scared. It all came back.”
“Anna, fear not. Do you really not understand why you are the Chosen Princess?”
“No, Samuel, I don’t. Will you please explain it to me?”
“It was a miracle when you were a small child. Praise be to God. The pain confirmed that you truly were chosen to bring healing.”
Anna remembered that Samuel’s explanations were usually rather cryptic.
“I still don’t understand,” she confessed.
“Your parents did a wonderful job of taking you to church from the time you were a baby, teaching you to pray, instructing you about God, and raising you in a loving Christian home. Unlike some children, however, you listened to the gospel with your ears, you heard the Savior calling with your heart, and you gave your life to Him at a very early age. I remember that you were young, innocent, pure, full of faith, and willing to help others in any way that you could.
“Maybe you never realized how much good you actually did for the suffering people at Carville. Your grandpa, and the other Carville patients, suffered from the side effects of Hopkin’s Disease, more commonly known as leprosy. Your involvement benefited them greatly.”
“But the doctors hurt me,” Anna told him.
“Yes, and that was the miraculous gift that made you the Chosen Princess. Pain is the blessing of life that lepers loose. As the bacteria attacks their nerves, they loose the sensation of pain in their fingers, toes, and other tissue. So when their fingers get injured they don’t know it. They don’t feel the pain which would warn most people that something is wrong. So the injured fingers, toes, and other tissue get infected, often resulting in disfiguration and amputation. They don’t feel pain so they don’t know how badly they get hurt.”
“But they hurt me at the clinic.”
“Yes, praise be to God, my Anna. Through your body’s ability to fight the bacteria and retain its feeling of pain, the doctors discovered a wonderfully effective treatment for that disabling disease.”
“You mean I have leprosy?” she asked.
“You were accidentally infected with the bacteria that causes leprosy as a baby from your grandpa. He didn’t know he had it at the time. But thanks to you, he had many good years to spend with you before God took him Home. Plus, you enabled the doctors to discover the treatment. You should read Dr. Paul Brand’s book Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants. You see, my Anna, pain tells you to stop what is injuring you, and work on healing. Without pain, you keep on injuring an already weakened part of your body.”
“Today it scared me to be faced with all that again,” she told him.
“Do not be afraid, my Anna. You are truly the Chosen Princess. God is with you, and He protects you.”
“Why was I faced with all that fear today when I was doing so well casting off my fears?” she wanted to know.
“What else was left for you to cast off? God wants His children to cast all their cares on Him, not just some of their cares.”
“Thank you for coming to talk with me, Samuel.”
“I need no thanks. Samu-el goes where he is sent. Praise God, for He is good. His mercy endureth forever.”
“Samuel, I have one more question,” Anna told him. “Why ‘Princess’? Doesn’t a princess have to marry a prince?”
“That is not a question for Samu-el to answer,” Samu-el told her. “But keep asking and maybe you will find the answer from someone else.”
“Praise God,” Anna answered, looking down. When she looked back up Samu-el was gone. She picked up her Bible and began reading.
Chapter Thirty Six
Sunday morning Anna woke up early. It was not even time to get ready to go to church yet. She felt terrible about how she acted the day before at Matt’s parent’s house. She wasn’t sure if he would be awake this early, or if he even wanted to talk to her, but she called him on the phone anyway.
As soon as he answered she quickly told him, “Matt, I’m so sorry about how I acted yesterday. You didn’t know that showing me the picture was a problem. How could you have known?”
“It’s all my fault, Anna. I should have told you what was going on.”
“No, it’s my fault. I overreacted, and let my fears get the best of me,” she admitted.
“No, it’s my fault,” he insisted.
“Matt, stop it. I called to apologize. Really, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, all right. We’re both sorry about the way things turned out yesterday. So where do we go from here, Anna?”
“You said you thought your dad was probably interested in meeting me. If he really does want to get together, then I’m willing to give it a try.” She was a little scared that further pain and treatments might be requested. But after talking with Samu-el she vowed to keep fear from ruling her life. She was willing to give it a try – facing this primal fear in her life. If God needed her to endure more pain for those in need, then she was willing to consider going through the testing.
“I was just guessing that he wanted to meet you, Anna. I don’t really know for sure. I can call him and ask. No need to drive all the way back to Baton Rouge just to find out.”
“OK, Matt. You can ask him. If he wants me to meet with him then I’m willing, as long as you’re willing to come along with me.”
“Let me call him, and I’ll get back with you.”
After Matt called his dad, he called Anna back with the response. As Matt had guessed, his dad desperately wanted to meet with Anna. His dad suggested a late lunch that very day after church, at the Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans, his treat.
Anna returned from church with her aunt and uncle shortly after noon. A few hours later Matt drove by her house and picked her up to carry her to the restaurant. Anna had heard of the Court of Two Sisters, but had never actually eaten there. They were shown to a table in the garden patio. As they approached the table, a man she did not know stood up for her.
Matt introduced them. “Anna, I would like you to meet my dad, Doctor Gary Waters. Dad, this is Anna Thibodeaux. Mother didn’t come with you?”
“No, she already had plans, son. I’m honored to meet you Anna. I have so looked forward to seeing you again. It has been such a long time.”
“I’m pleased to meet you, sir,” she told the older man. She did not remember ever seeing him before. If he had been at the Carville clinic, then it must have been such a long time ago that she had forgotten him.
“The pleasure is truly all mine,” he replied, staring at her. “Please sit down.” After they were seated, there was an awkward silence for a few minutes.
Matt attempted to start the conversation, “Yeah, Dad, like I mentioned on the phone, Anna was the girlfriend of Jackson, my friend. Remember I told you and Mother that Jackson and I were escorting her to Florida when we were involved in the train wreck.”
“I was so sorry to hear about your friend Jackson,” his dad answered, continuing to stare at Anna.
“We all miss him,” Anna answered, starting to feel awkward under the doctor’s scrutiny.
“Please forgive me Anna,” he told her. “I don’t mean to stare. I looked at the picture again of the little girl just before driving over here. I guess I expected you to still look the same. I didn’t consider the fact that you would have grown up since then.”
“It’s all right sir,” she answered.
“You look very different, but very lovely,” he assured her. “When you smile I can tell it’s you. Dr. Brand had a special way of getting people to smile. Your smile is beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she said, looking down, knowing that her face and ears were starting to turn red. “I liked Doctor Paul. He was nice.”
“He was a gifted surgeon, a brilliant doctor, and a deeply religious man. I was very privileged to have had the opportunity to work with him,” Dr. Waters told her, continuing to stare at Anna.
“So, what’s the prognosis, doctor?” she asked him, trying to distract him from staring at her. “Are more tests needed? Now that you’ve found me, what will be required?”
“No, Anna, its nothing like that. Don’t be afraid. No more tests are needed. Thanks to your help years ago, we have a very effective treatment for the bacteria that causes Hopkin’s disease. Today I simply wanted to meet you and thank you for all the help you gave us. You were so young. You probably never knew how much good you did.”
“Someone else told me the same thing recently,” she told him.
He seemed surprised, but didn’t question her. “Also, Anna, I brought a letter from Dr. Brand that he insisted I deliver to you personally if I should ever run across you. I’ve had it in my desk drawer for a long time.”
“A letter? Why would Doctor Paul write me a letter?” Anna wanted to know.
“I don’t know. He gave it to me just before he retired in 1986. Soon after that he moved to Washington State I see him occasionally at conferences, but it has been a while since the last time. He always asks about you, but until today I never knew what became of you. I never opened the letter, so I don’t know what it says. If you truly are that same little girl, and I believe you are, here is your letter.”
He took a yellowed envelope from his suit jacket pocket, and handed it to her. The name Annabelle Landry was handwritten across the front of the envelope.
“I didn’t know your name was Annabelle Landry,” Matt told her.
“That was my name as a child. When my aunt and uncle adopted me, they changed my name to Anna Thibodeaux. After the plane accident, and the magazine picture, the press was awful. They wouldn’t leave us alone. I think my aunt still jokingly tells people that she didn’t answer the phone for six months. She home-schooled me that year. We lived like hermits – never leaving the house except in the cloak of darkness.” She jokingly held her hands up for emphasis. Matt smiled, and she couldn’t keep from laughing while telling the story.
“Aren’t you going to read it?” Matt asked her, indicating the unopened letter in her hands.
“She can read it later in private if she wants to, son,” his dad counseled him.
“I’m curious about what it says, but also a little nervous,” Anna told them. “I would like to read it now, if you don’t mind.”
“We can step outside, if you want some privacy,” Matt’s dad offered.
“No, don’t do that. Just give me a minute to read it.”
She opened the old envelope, removed the pages, and started to read. As she read, the years seemed to slip away. She could hear the voice of the nice old man that she had known eleven years earlier as a child.
Annabelle, my precious Annabelle. You are like a daughter to me. I thank God every day for the miracle of choosing you to bring the answer to us. Your generosity and willingness to always help others has led to the tremendous breakthroughs in medical science that we have made here in Carville.
Your grandfather and your parents were special to me. I was so sorry to learn of their passing four years ago.
“When did you say he wrote this?” Anna asked Matt’s dad.
“1986 – seven years ago,” Dr. Waters answered.
“Hum, fours years after he had last seen me, and after my parents died.” She continued to read.
I pray that these past four years between when I am writing this letter and their loss has made you stronger, not bitter. Our God is great, and I pray every day for your safety and your happiness. I pray that God will send you a strong guardian angel to direct your path and keep you safe.
I am an old man, my child, and God is leading me far from Louisiana for the next stage in my life’s journey. I will be retiring from the Carville clinic within the next few days. My greatest sadness is that one day in the future you might stop by this clinic again, and I won’t be here to greet you.
In truth, I don’t know if you will ever receive this letter. Your aunt has asked that we have no further contact with you, and rightfully so. I plan to ask one of the other doctors here to give this letter to you in person should you ever stop by. Please know, my precious Annabelle, that I hold you always in a tender place in my heart. I cherish the memory of you. I thank you for all the great good you allowed us to accomplish through you. I praise God daily for selecting you as the Chosen Princess to bring us the great medical breakthroughs. May God richly bless you always, my dearest child. My prayer is that God will direct your path in finding your Prince.
Your friend forever,
Tears were running down Anna’s face when she finished reading the letter. “Look at me, I’m a mess,” she said, patting her face with the cloth napkin in her lap. “Maybe I should go to the ladies room and freshen up. Please excuse me.”
Both Matt and his dad stood up as Anna stood up. Matt helped her with her chair, and helped her get headed in the correct direction. The cast on her leg made getting in and out of chairs difficult for her.
“Thank you, I’ll be right back,” she assured them. “You two can read the letter if you want to. It was personal, but not of a private nature.”
“No need to hurry,” Matt’s dad told her.
The older man read the letter, then handed it to his son.
“Matt, where in the world did you find this precious young lady,” his dad asked him when Matt finished reading the letter. “She is absolutely captivating.”
“Like I told you earlier, she was Jackson’s girlfriend. She’s been here all along. I guess I just never noticed before because she was taken.”
“Well, I hope you don’t let her get away now, son.”
“Dad, as wonderful as she is, we’re just friends. I tried for a few weeks to be more than that to her, but it just didn’t work. That’s apparently not what God wants for her right now. I’m not her Prince.”
“God?” his dad asked. “That’s an interesting way of saying it, coming from someone who never wanted anything to do with religion if he couldn’t prove it.”
“I’m glad you mentioned that, Dad. I’ve been meaning to tell you and Mother of a recent decision of mine. Jackson and Anna, my two closest friends, were both very serious Christians. Like you said, I always wanted proof before I would believe anything. Well, last week I was over at Anna’s house, hoping to become more than friends with her. She challenged me to read the Bible all week instead of visiting her every day. Absentmindedly, I agreed to her challenge. And I discovered a great truth while I was reading.”
“What was that, son?”
“I discovered that I didn’t need proof after all. The Bible in general, and God in particular, was all described there in black and white, just waiting to be accepted and believed in. Before the week was out, that was exactly what I did. I’m a Christian now, Dad.”
“That’s great news, son. You know your mother and I never forced our beliefs on you, but we always hoped and prayed that one day you would come to a belief in God on your own. Maybe it took a pretty lady to make it stick. Like I said, you should hang on to this one.”
“At this point, Dad, I can do nothing more than let go and let God direct. Besides, if you had seen how mad she got yesterday afternoon when I showed her the ‘Chosen Princess’ picture in your office, you might be giving me different advice.”
“Son, you can really pick them, can’t you?”
“You don’t know the half of it Dad. Here she comes.”
“Maybe I can keep from crying for a few minutes, now,” Anna told them with a smile.
“There’s nothing wrong with being tenderhearted,” Matt’s dad assured her.
“That’s a relief,” she joked. “Dr. Waters, thank you for bringing the letter to me. It answered some questions for me.”
“I’m glad to have been of service to Dr. Brand,” he answered. “He would have liked to see you again himself.”
“I would like to see him again one day, too,” she said.
“Dad, you should hear Anna’s story about the train wreck.”
“I’m sure it was an awful experience,” the doctor said.
“It was awful for me, Dad, but you should hear Anna’s side of it.”
“OK, Anna, are you up for telling a story?” Dr. Waters asked.
“I don’t know that it’s much of a story,” Anna answered. “I don’t even remember the train wreck itself. The first thing I remember is waking up in Samuel’s cabin in the bayou with a broken leg and broken arm.”
“Dad, she was about a mile from the wreck. The Coast Guard and I almost never found her,” Matt interjected.
Anna smiled at Matt. “Matt makes it seem so dramatic and extraordinary. According to Samuel, after the wreck Andriel brought me to him to be cared for. He is a healer, so he cleaned me up, set the bones, applied splints, quenched my thirst, fed me, and generally took care of my every need. That’s really all there is to the story.”
“Listen to this, Dad. The Coast Guard and I went about a mile upstream, and heard her yelling for Samuel. When we got close, she fell into the water and looked like she was going to drown. We pulled her into the boat, and she passed out.”
“It sounds like it was a good thing Samuel knew how to care for you, Anna.”
“He did a wonderful job of not only caring for my injuries, but also caring for my emotions. You see, always before I was scared of everything – scared of flying, scared of the dark, scared of being alone, scared of meeting new people – you name it and I was probably scared of it. Those fears are gone now.”
“You don’t look like someone who’s afraid of anything now,” Dr. Waters told her. “I don’t remember you being easily frightened as a child.”
“There you go, see, I’m cured. I’m back to living a life free of fear, just like when I was a care-free kid.” Anna couldn’t stop smiling at Dr. Waters as she spoke.
“Dad, Anna left out the important part of the story,” Matt told him.
“Matt, what part was that,” she asked.
“About the angels,” Matt told her.
“Angels?” his dad asked.
“Well, it’s my opinion, Dr. Waters, and just my opinion because I don’t have any real proof. I personally believe both Samuel and Andriel were angels. According to Samuel, Andriel has been watching over me, and he was sent to be my healer. He gave me this necklace.” She held the leaf pendant out for the older man to see.
“The necklace seems real enough to me,” the doctor told her. “Do angels give tangible gifts?”
“Apparently. They both seemed real enough when they were with me, just like anyone else. So I can’t say for sure that they were angels, it’s just my opinion.”
“You’re a very special woman,” he told her.
“No, I’m not really. I’m just plain, ordinary Anna.”
“Anna, you are so much more than ordinary that it amazes me you don’t see it,” Matt told her.
“Then we all know you don’t know me very well,” she said laughing.
“Should we order lunch?” Matt’s dad asked.
“Dad, did I tell you that when the Coast Guard went back to the cabin, the only footprints they found were Anna’s? Not Samuel’s. Not Andriel’s.”
“Really?” his dad asked.
“Dr. Waters, did Matt tell you that he also met the angel Andriel, if that’s what she was?” Anna asked.
Dr. Waters wisely chose to stay out of the middle of this discussion. “I wonder if they serve grilled chicken salad,” he suggested, picking up his menu.
Anna picked up her menu. “That sounds good,” she said.
Matt wisely looked at his menu also.