Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Memory (07/10/08)
TITLE: The Letter
By Karen Shell
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Sally was home from college for the summer, so she was a blessing to her mom, handling the loss with strength she couldn’t explain. The outpouring of responses began to overwhelm her, but one letter caught her attention. It was addressed to her. She fought the tears that streamed down her face as she carefully read each word.
Just then, her mom walked into the room.
“Sally, are you O.K.? I’m sorry I left you alone. There’s so much to handle right now,” she began explaining.
“Mom, I’ve never heard this story before.” Her voice quivered as she handed over the letter.
Marion began reading, then her eyes moved quickly to the end of the next page, for the signature. It was written by a Mr. Jones. She returned to the letter, trying to identify it’s author. It began with the familiar condolences. Something suddenly clicked in her mind as the author began the story of the night of the fire.
Sally watched her mom as tears fell from her eyes, remembering that night as Mr. Jones recalled his version. When she finished reading, she wiped her eyes and reread aloud part of Sally’s letter, “When I heard the news of your father’s passing, I had to let you know how sorry I was. I also wanted to share a memory that he may not have shared.”
Marion stopped reading and laughed, “He knew him, didn’t he?”
Sally could sense her mom drifting into the past as she recalled that night. “John and I had been married less than a year,” she began. “We lived in a one-bedroom in Cherry Lane Apartments.”
Sally nodded as she pictured the old building, still occupied, downtown. She never knew her parents had lived there.
Marion continued, “Somehow, John would run into Mr. Jones, one of our neighbors, every day as he left or came home from work. He always felt sorry for the cranky and hateful man. I always avoided him.
One night, we were driving home late. As we got closer to the building, we saw smoke coming out of one of the windows. John stopped the car, jumped out and told me to call the fire department. He turned around and said, “It’s Mack’s apartment.” He had gotten close to Mr. Jones. He ran up the steps and later said he had to break down the door and carry him out. Apparently, he had fallen asleep on his couch and left his oven on. The fire chief said they may not have arrived in time to get him out. John brought him to our apartment that night and stayed up talking while I went to bed. The next day, he told me Mack’s story. His wife had left him just a few months earlier and taken their youngest son with her. He felt like his life wasn’t worth living. Your dad prayed with him early in the morning and he accepted Jesus Christ.”
“So that’s what he meant in his letter when he wrote “He saved my life that night, in more ways than one,” Sally said.
“Those are the same words he used when I saw him a couple days after the fire,” Marion remembered.
“I wish I had heard this story before now, but I’m thankful Mr. Jones shared his memory of Dad with me.”
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