'Moment with Edmond'
No one really knew how he lost his legs. He arrived unexpectedly one day, sitting in a wheel chair, strapped in and covered with a blanket. In the place where his lap and legs should have been, a blanket lay oddly flat, folded up to his stomach, then straight down and over the seat of his wheelchair. Of course, there was nothing coming off the seat where his legs would ordinarily dangle down almost to the floor. He had no stumps to which a prosthesis might have been fastened; they were cut off at the hip joint or close to it. In bed he either lay flat or sat in a harness that hung from an attached pole fastened high to the head board, placing him afloat almost dead center in the middle of his bed. The sling looked like a pair of shorts, with the leg openings sewed up. None but the nurses and aids really knew how close the amputations were to the torso.
The nursing home housed about eighty people and the noise from the bustle of the front entrance filtered into his room, along with various odors of perfumes, sweat and three daily meals. His nose was as sensitive to the changing smells in the hallway as his eyes were to the sights that passed by the narrow width of his open door. It was always open and his eyes were always fixed in that direction, in anticipation of something...someone Although he looked terribly sad he was not. He seemed to be expecting someone in particular. If you‘d asked him, whom or what he was looking for he would look at you and ask in a resonant, husky voice, “What do you mean, who am I waiting for?”
Edmond was eighty-five, but he looked well for his age. His complexion, though dark toned, was clear. His face was lean and the folds were well-placed with no deep or shallow or wrinkled tell-tale signs of his age, and his dark hair was combed straight back. He looked well cared for. The predominant feature was his eyes- his enormous brown eyes. After seeing him, one could hardly describe his nose, mouth or eyebrows because only his eyes stuck in one’s memory.
That was the first impression Rose Sylva had as she passed by his room, glancing curiously through the door. In an instant, his eyes impressed themselves indelibly on her memory. All through the two-hour, weekly church visitation, and all through the afternoon, she couldn’t shake the vision. She asked her friend, Joanna about the legless man, and all she knew was that his name was Edmond. She had made his acquaintance a few times during her visitations. There was nothing special about him, aside from the fact that he had no legs, and that he sometimes sat upright in the peculiar and unusual swing that swayed slightly, low over his bed. Yes, and, she was sure that he was Catholic.
Of course, they both knew what it meant spiritually, being of the same religious persuasion...Rose and Joanna were devout Fundamental Baptists. Like most pious Denominationals, they were under the conviction that, although a few other Protestant denominations might be ‘saved’, the spiritual fate of most Catholics was questionable. Their Jesus had not yet risen, his image shone forth on their crosses. The Mass was to all intents a continual, literal infusion of the body and blood of Christ rather than a
remembrance of Him as He himself stated in the Gospels. The deviations from Biblical doctrine were varied, according to the Scriptures. Had not Jesus proclaimed to his mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” yet, was Mary not, in their eyes, equal to Christ, and not to mention, the worship of saints? It was their Christian duty to fulfill the great commission to spread the Gospel to all the world, including members of ‘wayward’ denominations.
This was Rose’s first visit to this particular nursing home, having been well informed by Joanna in previous discussions of the spiritual condition of individuals in the group she visited. She felt comfortable bringing magazines and ice cream and doing little favors in hopes of eventually gaining their confidence.
Rose was not inclined to employ humanitarian efforts in her pursuit of spreading the Gospel. She was on a mission and being sidetracked by niceties was not her idea of evangelism. Before she became a believer she had volunteered at various functions, including raising money for causes that she now felt should have been supported by other agencies. To her, visiting the nursing home with Joanna, was a matter of following God’s will to snatch, as it were, a few souls from the edge of eternal damnation, and that was her main focus. Since Joanna had divulged to her the fact that several residents were Christians who looked forward to visits for a time of fellowship and prayer, Rose was prepared to serve in that capacity also, willing to minister to the brethren.
She drew a line however, when it came to merely pacifying the emotional needs of the majority of those whom Joanna visited. In that respect they differed greatly, coming from varied denominational backgrounds. Joanna, having been converted recently from the Episcopalian faith, and Rose, being a Baptist from years of faithful practice, had studied the Word diligently and followed the principles of her evangelistically-driven church for more than twenty years. She had come to know the Lord through a tragic event many years ago, and been active in soul-winning and visitation. She still looked back with embarrassment at the fanaticism in the early years of her conversion. Her zeal had waned considerably by the time she had arrived at this moment, having learned to discipline her zeal. Her instincts were ever keen, even now, twenty years after her beginning in church ministry. She had learned to witness selectively, through the discerning power of the Holy Spirit and not by her own efforts as she had previously been taught. In her early zeal-driven diligence, she had alienated many from the desire to seek God’s Kingdom and she was well aware of that. She felt even now that, on rare occasions, God’s Spirit was clearly speaking to her heart to witness, giving her no choice but to oblige His prompting.
On their way out, Rose hesitated at the door of Edmond’s room, looking at her co-worker, begging to stop in for a visit. Edmond smiled and greeted them, being acquainted with Joanna.
“Hello Edmond, are you up to a short visit?” she looked at her watch as if to emphasize the element of time.
“Oh yes, come in!” he said humbly. Everyone liked him because he never complained or asked for favors.
“Can I do anything or get something for you while I am still here?” asked the cheery, thin, former school teacher, ever willing to run errands in an attempt to do good works and prove herself friendly. She had confided her routine to Rose in hopes that she would follow the methods of her program. Rose, however, did not agree.
She knew too many kind, helpful people who had no intention of promoting the gospel even if they were believers. Nor would they necessarily be so bold.Some were simply volunteers and that was how she had perceived Joanna.
“Edmond, this is Rose, my friend from church!” she said absentmindedly, Joanna was now eyeing the door, her work was done for the day and she found this unexpected deterrent a bit irritating. Edmond was not on her list today. His eyes looked deeply into Rose’s, as he seemed to look deeply into all things that passed his vision. He smiled but not with his wise, suffering eyes. She felt a sense of urgency to speak to him but at the same time she knew Joanna’s impatience. Feeling rushed and distracted, she reached across the bed, shook his hand, smiled and said,
“It’s so nice to meet you, Edmond.“ he lit up, obviously impressed and comforted by her gentle demeanor and said simply,
“Hello Rose, that is a nice name, do come back when you have the time!” he begged, she knew he meant it. The memory of Edmond stayed with her throughout the following two weeks, in her prayer time, while driving along; she was connected to him in some strange, spiritual way and she knew they were destined to a divine appointment. It had been a long time since she had used her little Worker’s Bible, made simple by an added help section on verses and questions to use while witnessing. Although she had never before gone by the recommended formula she felt an urgency to get reacquainted with the information laid out in those pages. On her next visit she was fully prepared to give account of her faith, should an opportunity present itself to witness to him. The urgency that had taken hold of her had not diminished since she saw him last.
She met Joanna at the door and together they began making their rounds. Rose’s little Bible was safely tucked into her purse, ready to spring into action at the spur of the moment. Edmond was the second in line today for a visit and they spent some time getting reacquainted. He and Rose spoke while Joanna sat silently, smiling. Nevertheless; the conversation did not progress beyond polite chit-chat.
He was a retired accountant from Pennsylvania with a rather boring past, a person who had worked all his life in his chosen career. The most memorable experience he recalled from his childhood was his boyhood love of being chosen as a choir boy and the ceremonial pomp of his church. He said nothing of the loss of his legs and Rose felt it to be an intrusion to ask him about it. Joanna was restlessly looking into the hallway, ready to move on and Rose obliged her reluctantly. A strong urging to return to Edmond caused her to excuse herself shortly after they left and she rushed back to his room. His expectant look turned to surprise and delight when he saw her approach. She bent over the foot-rail of his bed and spoke the first words that came to her mind.
“Edmond, what do you think of Jesus?” she asked.
Her breath abated as she watched his glad eyes turning somber.
“Oh, I feel sad when I think of him because he suffered so.” he said, looking down.
She knew the moment had arrived and began speaking to him of the hope of heaven and the surety of eternal life. She pulled out her Bible and notes and together they examined the Scriptures. When she left, she knew that Edmond had willingly and joyfully made the transition to eternal life according to the Bible. Joanna received the good news gladly but with some skepticism.
Rose was not able to meet Joanna on the next visit but she was there punctually a month later, eagerly looking forward to seeing Edmond. They walked along the hallway discussing friends, when they approached the open door of his room. The empty bed was freshly made with new sheets, a fluffed pillow and a folded blanket at the foot-end. Rose was surprised, anxious, as she turned to her co-worker.
“Edmond passed away a few days ago. Sorry, I didn’t have a chance to tell you yet.” she said, slightly embarrassed for forgetting, but she would have remembered.
“But, he seemed so well...did you have a chance to speak with him at all? Do you think he was truly ‘saved‘?” she asked, wanting, needing to know her opinion.
“Oh, I believe so.” said Joanna, “I saw him a week after you talked to him and he was so excited. He asked me to read Scripture to him and we prayed together. He thanked me for bringing you. You know, I spent almost my whole visit with him the last time and I’m glad now that I did. He insisted on telling me his life’s story, said he wanted me to tell it to you if I saw you before he did. Joanna paused thoughtfully and went on, “You know I get the feeling right now that he knew his time was short and he wanted to be sure that you knew why he was ready to hear what you had to say.” She took Rose’s hand and went inside the room, closing the door behind them, sitting down on the freshly made bed, and began to tell his story, imagining him being right there with them.
Edmond was young when he lost most of one leg during the second world war while running with Joshua, his buddy, to safety. They both fell from a blast at the same time. Joshua carried him a mile, praying aloud all the way. He had never forgotten him, but then, they had stayed in touch sporadically over the span of many years. Joshua had become a minister after the war ended and, although he never openly confronted Edmond with the Gospel, his strong sustaining faith spoke clearly through the pages of his finely honed letters. Edmond had not been able to weave the kind of faith as Joshua had displayed that day long ago, into the fabric of his own life. When the debilitating effects of Diabetes wrought havoc with the remaining stump on which a prostheses had worked nicely for many years, now causing never ending infections, he became bound to a wheel chair and crutches. Finally his other leg weakened, becoming ulcerated and infected, leading to gangrene and amputation. He had borne his fate and managed to live on, believing in the goodness of each day and vaguely in a senseless, distant God. He always hoped somewhere within that he would see Joshua again, but once he stopped communicating, he thought him to be dead.
Toward his last days Edmond had felt the memories of his life more vividly, his mind returning often to his friend, wishing for one more chance to speak with him about the things of God because, as he knew he was approaching death himself, he felt an emptiness inside that wanted desperately to be filled; and so he waited, hoping for someone to come by.
When he set his eyes on Rose that day he felt the anticipation of a promise fill his entire being and he was not surprised at seeing her the second time, coming back into his room. She came instead of Joshua...filling the void in his soul with the affirmation of eternal life. The night he felt death approaching, he lay peacefully, awaiting the wonder that lay beyond his final breath.
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