Master of the Ivories

Sandy had just enough time to make it to Marjorie Slade's apartment before choir practice. It was his bi-weekly visit with odd treats from "the outside world" for his old friend. Long time mezzo-soprano in the St. Matthews choir. Until the arthritis had made it pretty well impossible to continue.

Oh, she could make it around the apartment all right. The wheel chair usually just sat in the corner. But in getting outside, the challenges were just too hard. Parking lots, curb sides, stairways, the bustle of the people, the chill and damp of November. Marjorie was seventy-seven. Her Herb had had his stroke eight years ago. Paralyzing left arm. Slackening left cheek. Slurring speech to a humiliating degree. He had lasted only another three years.

That last Christmas Herb had insisted on attending midnight service to hear Marjorie give her heavenly rendering of "O Holy Night". Sandy's daughter Kate and her husband had helped him throughout, and he couldn't thank them enough. In the after-service buffet in the parlour he had slipped Sandy a note as the latter offered Christmas carols on the baby grand. It read:

"Thank you Sandy for insisting that Marj keep up the music. It is truly an offering on her part. I love to hear her. She is my constant joy. She needs the break from fussing over me. Much love at this rich season to a dear friend in Christ. Herb"

..."Well here you are, and with just enough time for some tea and cake. Sandy, did you bring the material?"

Marjorie was sewing some festive aprons for the women's guild and this year's Christmas gathering. She had decided that a dozen would be adequate; each to have a seasonal image in her remarkable embroidered stitch.

"Not to worry, my dear, there's ample in the bag. I also brought you a copy of the soprano part in the cantata we're practicing. You're usually so quiet up here these days. Why not knock back a couple of sherries and let the old tubes rip with the sounds of the season?"

Marj rocked forward and back hugging herself and issuing that half-silent moist-eyed laugh which Sandy had come to love. She thrust him the cake plate and motioned to the tea service on the walnut table.

How she enjoyed these times. Full of smiles, the occasional joke, perhaps an insight from scripture to be shared from the week's considerations. A tid-bit of news from the local paper. For her Sandy represented Christ in shoe leather. Ruddy. Middling height, but solid throughout. Inordinately large hands. (Great for those memorable piano chordings.) Strong constitution from thirty-four years, largely out of doors, supervising commercial building construction. Retirement started only two years ago. But Sandy had found much to keep himself busy.

"Marj, I have to leave soon, but could we take a moment to pray for young Ron Stinson?" The associate pastor Wil Stinson's son suffered from cystic fibrosis. Only eleven, thin and pale, but with a penchant for assembling plastic model cars, which Sandy gladly supported.

"Has it been bad Sandy? With the change of season? That young family has certainly had some struggles."

The next five minutes brought Heaven closer. Fuelled by the compassion of Christ, these two old saints went to the Father's throne room. Pleaded for mercy and relief for the boy. Persevering faith, energy and wisdom for his parents. Skill for the doctors. Inspiration and outreach for the congregation in the coming festive season.

Then time to leave. Marjorie reached for her purse. Her friend shook his head as if to say 'the material cost so little; your sewing means a great deal more.'

"No, good man. this will be thirty dollars for Ron. My Herb used to go on about his favourite old '54 Ford Fairlane. Do you think that you could find a model of it for the boy?"

(See also the previous post entitled "Gifted")


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