“Coming through!” hollered the attendant pushing a wheel chair through the busy lobby at Savannah Bay. Edmond, strapped in, attracted stares. 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 chair.
“There you go. Do you want to sit in the harness or lie down?” asked the attendant pointing to an extension that jutted out over the center of his bed attached to the headboard. Hanging from the extension was a leathery, bucket-like contraption.
“If you don’t mind I would like to try the harness,” Edmond said giving it once again an evaluating, wary look. The burly attendant lifted him with one sweep up and deposited him into it.
Edmond’s sunlit room, the first on the right was filled with noise from the bustle of the front entrance. He seemed to be untouched by the commotion outside the open door, his senses as alive to the changes in the hallway as his eyes were to the sights that passed by. He stared unwavering at the door as if in anticipation of something...someone and appeared terribly sad. Edmond was eighty-five. His dark, lean face with well-placed folds and no telltale signs of his age looked sixty, not a day older. The predominant features were his eyes- his enormous brown eyes.
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 she couldn't shake the vision.
“Joanna, do you know the man without legs in the first room on the right?”
“I know his name is Edward. We’ve talked a few times on my visits,” she said, moving on. “There is nothing special about him, aside from the fact that he has no legs.”
“Have you ever mentioned, you know...witnessed to him?” Rose asked furtively.
“No Rose, I haven’t had an occasion to speak to him about spiritual things.” Joanna answered. Rose sensed a slight agitation in her voice. She stifled her curiosity hoping for a chance to visit Edmond at another time.
This was Rose's first visit to the nursing home. She had been well informed by Joanna in previous discussions of the spiritual condition of individuals in the group she visited. Joanna felt comfortable supplying her flock with magazines and ice cream in hopes of eventually gaining their confidence.
Rose was not interested in Joanna’s method of spreading the Gospel. In that respect they differed greatly, coming from diverse denominational backgrounds. Rose had come to know God through a tragic event many years ago and had since been active in evangelism and visiting the sick. Her zeal had waned considerably over the years. By now, she had learned the spiritual discipline of witnessing selectively.
On their way out, Rose hesitated at the door of Edmond's room. She looked at her co-worker begging to stop in for a visit. Joanna obliged her reluctantly.
"Hello Edmond, are you up to a short visit?" she asked, looking at her watch.
"Oh yes, come in!”
"Can I do anything or get something for you while I am still here?" asked the cheery, thin, former schoolteacher in her usual manner of servitude. Rose stepped forward smiling at him. "Edmond, this is Rose, my friend from church."
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. Rose felt a sense of urgency to speak to him but at the same time, she sensed Joanna's impatience. Feeling rushed and distracted she reached across the bed and shook his hand.
"It's so nice to meet you, Edmond!" His face lit up. He seemed impressed and comforted by her gentle demeanor.
"Rose…a lovely name. Do come back when you have the time!"
The memory of Edmond stayed with her throughout the following two weeks. Feeling connected to him in some strange, spiritual way she knew they were destined to a divine appointment. It had been a long time since she had used her little Worker's Bible. It was made simple by an added help section on verses and questions to use while witnessing. On her next visit, she was fully prepared should an opportunity present itself to witness to him.
She met Joanna at the door and together they began making their rounds. Rose's little Bible safely tucked away in her purse was 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 silent in the corner. Nevertheless, the conversation did not progress beyond polite chitchat.
He was a retired accountant from Pennsylvania with an admittedly boring past. The most memorable experience he recalled from his childhood was of being chosen as a choirboy in St. Mary’s, the Catholic Church his family attended. He said nothing of the loss of his legs and Rose felt it an intrusion to ask him about it. Joanna appeared restless, 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 delight when she approached him. She bent over the foot-rail of his bed and spoke the first words that came to 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 made the transition to eternal life according to the Bible.
Rose was not able to meet Joanna on the next visits 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. Rose was surprised, anxious as she turned to her co-worker.
"Edmond passed away a few days ago“she said “Sorry, I didn't have a chance to tell you yet." Joanna appeared slightly embarrassed.
"But, he seemed so well...did you have a chance to speak with him at all? Do you think he was truly 'saved'?" Rose asked urgently.
"Oh, I believe so," said Joanna, "I saw him a week after you talked to him, he was so excited. He asked me to read Scripture to him and we prayed together. He thanked me for bringing you. I spent my whole visit with him 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 looking thoughtfully at Rose. "You know I get the feeling 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 led her to sit with her on the freshly made bed where she began to tell her his story.
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. All he remembered was the blood gushing from his leg while Joshua carried him a mile praying aloud all the way. They had stayed in touch sporadically over the span of many years. Joshua had become a minister after the war ended. 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 in all the years that followed to weave Joshua’s kind of faith into the fabric of his own life. When the debilitating effects of Diabetes wrought havoc with infections on the stump on which prosthesis had worked nicely for many years, 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 relived the memories of his life more vividly, wishing for one more chance to speak with Joshua about the things of God. As he knew that his end was approaching, he felt emptiness deep inside that wanted desperately to find God.
When he set his eyes on Rose that day he felt the anticipation of a promise fill his entire being. 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.