Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Friendship (04/04/05)
TITLE: Not Just Coffee
By Lori Othouse
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Fran hurried to the counter and picked up the three steaming dishes, skillfully balancing them on her arm. She had worked at Joe's Diner for four years since her divorce. The busy atmosphere provided a welcome escape from her lonely apartment. The money wasn't great, but it was enough and she enjoyed the people there.
On her way back to the counter, she noticed an old man slowly walk in and take a seat by the window.
"Hi, can I help you?" she asked.
"Just coffee," he answered, smiling pleasantly.
Fran guessed he was in his seventies, but his eyes danced with a vibrancy of someone half that age. She barely spoke to him that day, but the generous tip he left stuck out in her mind.
Every day he would come, sit by the window and order just coffee. He had a warm smile and always left his more than adequate tip. Fran learned his name was Harry and his wife had died some years earlier.
As she was clearing the table one day, she noticed he had left a small paper with his tip. It said "Will I see you on the other side?" and told about Jesus and how to be saved. Fran sighed. Church was okay on occasion, but most Christians she knew were too uptight. Although, Harry must be one and he was the friendliest, most sincere person she had met in a long time. She shoved the tract in her apron pocket and went back to work.
Harry continued to leave little things for her: tracts, devotional stories, his church newsletter. Some of them were touching and sweet, some made her laugh out loud. He never pressured or lectured her, just let her know that the doors of his church were always open. More out of wanting to please him than a genuine desire to go, she agreed to visit.
As she walked up to the door the following Sunday, a familiar face greeted her. It was Harry. He was all smiles, as usual, and welcomed her warmly. The service was good, although she felt a knot of conviction in her stomach toward the end. They gave an altar call, but she remained seated. It was too much, too soon, but something made her want to come back.
For weeks she attended the church, always staying seated as the pastor gave the invitation. Deep down, Fran knew she needed to respond, and finally did. As she prayed, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around to see Harry with tears in his eyes. She hugged him and felt a wave of peace flow over her like nothing she knew before.
Several months later, during the announcements, the pastor stepped to the podium with a somber look on his face and began to speak.
"I'm sure many of you know Harry Clark, our faithful door greeter. We found out this morning that he passed away unexpectedly last night. He began having chest pains and was admitted to the hospital. He died around 10 pm. Funeral services will be held this Wednesday for those who would like to attend."
Fran felt as though a knife had been put through her heart. She furiously tried to blink back the tears, but couldn't. Not Harry! Yes, he was old, but so full of life! She couldn't imagine not seeing him at the diner anymore or shaking his hand at the door every Sunday. She missed him already and he wasn't even gone a day yet.
The funeral was short and sweet...and crowded. At the cemetery, people talked quietly and held each other. Fran stood by the casket silently, thinking about Harry's faithfulness to her over the last few months. It was because of him that she now had hope for her life and a joy that she never thought possible.
A woman approached her and smiled. "How did you know Harry?" she asked gently.
Fran hesitated for a moment. "He was my best friend," she answered.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a wrinkled paper that said "Will I see you on the other side?" and placed it on the casket.
"Yes, you will," she whispered through her tears, and slowly walked away.
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