The monotonous drone of a vacuum cleaner cut in on his meandering thoughts, as he pondered the contents of a letter from a new friend. It wasn’t the first hand written letter he had opened that began with the bold statement, ‘There is no God’.
“Morning Tom. Sorry to disturb you. I won’t be long.”
Tom manoeuvred the wheelchair away from the desk in his usual obliging manner, turning his sunshine smile towards Lily’s voice. She pushed the cleaner around the compact room that was now his home. He knew every detail of her complex family. Kindness and patience elicited confidences from those who inhabited Tom’s limited world. Losing the power of speech and the use of his legs had thrown his life into chaos and emotional turmoil for a while, until he had understood and accepted alternative ways of serving God.
Gnarled brown hands softly caressed the pristine white paper lying on the desk. Picking up his pen, Tom wondered, not for the first time, how much longer he could continue before the disease deprived him of this privilege. Head bent forward in prayer, wispy white hair falling over faded grey eyes, he gave his thoughts to his best friend, before meticulously committing his faith to paper. Several times his eyes sought out the new laptop lying on the floor beside the old chair. The chair meant a lot to Tom. It had been a gift from his church just after the disease had begun to accelerate and he could no longer continue as pastor. Having no family of his own he cherished the love showered on him by his former congregation.
Folding the completed letter into an airmail envelope, Tom carefully placed it on the dresser for Lily to post. It had been several years since his role of preaching the Gospel from the pulpit of a thriving inner city church, had evolved into the silence of evangelising via the written Word. A smile crossed his pallid face at the sight of the engraving on the beautiful pen, a gift from the staff at the nursing home.
Lily paused in the open doorway of Tom’s room, hesitating as she witnessed the signs of his physical pain from too much use of his weakened hands. She had urged him to start using the laptop, but he had patiently informed her that the people who wrote to him had only scraps of paper and old pens and he felt it right to do likewise. It had been a real eye opener when he had shown her the letters from poorer countries. Many written on the backs of old envelopes, scraps of wrapping paper and on the backs of outdated paper documents. She had called him the pen and paper missionary and he had laughed delightedly at the thought.
“Come on Tom. Lunch is being served in the dining room. Don’t want to miss your favourite.”
She smiled as with a gesture he indicated his need for another five minutes. Sitting in the old chair she watched as his arthritic hands completed the final word of his second letter of the day. Two letters each day were his limit, but the love poured into each personally written gift made her feel that, despite his disabilities his life had a worth beyond recognition.
On the way to the dining room Lily wondered how Tom’s life could be made more bearable, yet when she looked at his face there was only contentment. But she knew the inner frustration he felt when struggling to make himself understood.
It was a glorious autumn morning when Lily ran up to Tom’s room with the letter. She knew how much it meant to him when letters arrived from what she called, his pen and paper congregation. The sun was streaming through the open window, glinting on the gold tip of the pen clasped in his now almost useless right hand. His elbow rested on the creased sheet of paper he was trying to keep from shifting on the slippery surface of the desk. She opened the letter for him and left the room.
“It’s lunchtime Tom,” Lily called, bustling into his room. He was sitting by the desk, a smile lingering on his peaceful old face, the letter clutched in twisted hands. She didn’t need to be told he had gone.
The childlike spidery writing filled the whole page with few words.
‘My brother Tom. My heart knows Jesus lives. Thank you from Alexander’.
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