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{SFTH}   *Henry*  6/27/01


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Michael's long awaited book Straight From the Heart: "A Celebration of
Life," is finally here!  Close to 200 pages of true short stories filled with love
and laughter await you!  Visit our web site to order the EBook, or to order
by credit card! You can also read some sample stories from the book here!


A number of people have written to us asking what an EBook is, since our
book is being offered in both print and EBook versions.  An EBook is a book
that can be downloaded and read right on your computer.  The advantage of
ordering the EBook is that is costs less, $8.95 (No other charges), as compared
to $14.95 + shipping and handling for the print book.  Plus you can download
the EBook and begin reading the stories in a few minutes!  EBooks are read via
Acrobat Reader, which is software that most of you already have on your computer.
And if for some reason you don't, it can be downloaded free of charge at the web
site.  So for those of you who don't want to wait for the print book to be delivered,
check out this web site to order the EBook version of Straight From the Heart
"A Celebration of Life."


We have yet another wonderful story by SFTH favorite, Jennifer Oliver.  Be sure
to continue writing to each of the authors to let them know how their story
affected you!  The SFTH readers are widely known for their encouraging feedback,
and I hope and pray the tradition continues!
Have a great day everyone!


By Jennifer Oliver

"Death is not a period, but a comma in the story of life." -- Amos J. Farver

He was visibly relaxed, using his heels to rock the porch swing back and forth.  Observing the antics of squirrels in a cluster of pecan trees.  Gauging the weather with squinting eyes.  Watching time stroll by.

My husband, Stephen, had been on the job a few days now, watching his customer.  It was the same thing everyday.  The man sat on a double swing suspended from the ceiling of the back porch, and the only breaks away from his post were lunch and calls of nature.

He was in his late eighties, Henry Foster was.  A slight man in coveralls with soft blue eyes and wispy hair.  He lived roughly an hour from us in a small community, and Stephen was tasked through his company to paint the exterior of Henry's two-story home.  It was arduous work, scraping off old paint and priming the surface prior to layering on it fresh coats of eggshell white.

At first, Stephen figured he had an anxious customer who wanted an excuse, as odd as it was, to oversee his work without being overt about it.  He had had customers in the past that hovered over his every brush stroke, but this one took the cake, candles and all.

Stephen couldn't stand it anymore.

"Why do you stay out here all day?" he asked.

Henry's smile vanished.  He rose from the swing, leaned against the post, and cast his eyes skyward as if he would find the answer etched there.  Stephen was startled to see tears forming in the old man's eyes.


"I can't stand to stay inside the house for long."

Seeing the puzzled look on Stephen's face, he continued, "My wife died over a year ago, and everything in the house reminds me of her."

"Oh, gosh, I'm really sorry to hear that," Stephen said.  He resisted the temptation to hug this sweet man.

Henry motioned with his hand for Stephen to come closer.

"Do you have a minute?" he asked, opening the back door.  "I'll show you what I mean."

Stephen was taken aback.

"Uh...sure.  Let me clean up a bit first."

Henry proceeded to give a tour of the house, pointing out one prized possession after another, his voice quavering as he relived each moment.

"My wife and I bought this lamp when we were on vacation at..."

The tour ended up on the back porch where they sat down on the swing, sipping iced tea.  Henry divulged his entire life to Stephen.  His wife's cancer.  The children he had outlived.  The grandchildren who never wrote.  When the shadows grew long, it was time for Stephen to go.

That night, Stephen related his experience to me.

With tears in my eyes, I scanned the living room, staring at our antique collection garnered from years of canvassing small, dusty towns for that perfect bargain.  Antique-ing was our shared passion.  I had never thought about it that much before, attaching significance of an item to a time or place that Stephen and I had visited.  My eyes settled on an owl clock we bought the day we were pronounced husband and wife.

"Do you remember where we got that clock?" I asked.

"Stop it.  You're going to make me cry."

But he already was.

Stephen stretched out the job longer than normal, taking his sweet time with the details.  Henry didn't seem to mind.  There were days when Henry cut Stephen's work short so they could sit on that back porch swing together.  Just sipping lemonade and watching time stroll by.

About a month following the completion of the job, I overheard Stephen on the phone.

"I'll be there in about an hour or so."

"Who was that?" I asked when he hung up.

"That was Henry Foster."

"I thought you were finished with his job."

"Well, not exactly," he answered with a sly smile.  "I pretended to forget a few things at his house.  I just wanted an excuse to go back.  See how he's doing and all."

I gave him a crushing hug.

"You are just the sweetest thang."

"Oh, hush."

Stephen continued making excuses to visit Henry until he ran out of excuses.  He began visiting his friend just for the sake of visiting.

Not long after his last visit to Henry, the early arrival of our first baby steered our lives in a different direction, then another baby ten months later eclipsed our social calendar.  Living in a fixer-upper consumed us as well.  Everything outside our home became secondary.  Including a sweet old man named Henry Foster.

We don't know how it happened.  As we immersed ourselves into our home and family, the years rolled by.  We had two more babies, and our house demanded our full attention to accommodate our burgeoning family.  Our priorities shifted, and soon Henry was relegated to the rank of a distant relative.  Guilt bubbled up every now and then when we took a moment to inventory our collection and reminisce about the time we bought a particular piece.  Stephen would sigh and say, "I wonder how the old guy is doing."

One Sunday we filled up our gas tank and took to the back roads, soaking up the scenery.  We were on our usual prowl for that perfect bargain.  Stephen took a sudden turn.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"You'll see."

He navigated a myriad of streets unfamiliar to me, then slowed down in front of one particular house, a two-story structure with plastic toys littering the front yard and Christmas lights, one month out of season, still stapled to the eaves.  Several pecan trees arched up from behind the home, the winter sun streaming through their bare branches.

"Who lives here, Daddy?" one of our boys piped up.

Stephen swallowed hard.

"I knew a man who used to live here.  His name was Henry Foster."

"Was he a nice man?"

"Yes, Cody, he was a nice man.  A very nice man."

"Where is he?"

Stephen took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

"Well," he finally replied, his eyes misting. "I believe he went on a long vacation with his wife."

Pulling from the curb, I noticed two squirrels chasing each other up one of the pecan trees.

Jennifer Oliver

E-mail Jennifer and let her know what you thought of her story!

Copyright © 2001 by Jennifer Oliver, All rights reserved.


Other real-life vignettes by Heartwarmers Gem Jennifer Oliver, 38, are
waiting for you at, and, and  Jennifer
resides in the heart of Texas and has three full-time jobs as a
computer specialist for the government, wife to awesome
househubby, Stephen, and mother to four beautiful kidwarmers,
ages 9 months to 6 years.  One of her stories, "Anthony's Wish"
was published in the latest Heartwarmers book.

Thought For The Day:

"The man who sings his own praises always gets the wrong pitch."

Verse for the Day:

"Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips." --Proverbs 27:2

Kid's Thought For The Day:

"Squeeze the tube slowly, because once the toothpaste is out it's hard to
get it back in."

Parent's Thought For The Day

"No need to worry about your teenagers when they're not at home. A
national survey revealed that they all go to the same place --'out'-- and
they all do the same thing -'nothing'." --Bruce Lansky

Coach's Thought For The Day

Too often we forget it is the players who do the competing.  You never
heard the word "I" so much as when coaches get together.  Our challenge
is to keep the focus off ourselves and work towards developing a
cohesive team.  We're all important to the overall effort, but none
of us is irreplaceable. --Denny Raarup

Deep Thought For The Day:

If it's such a "beautiful day in the neighborhood," then why is Mr.
Rogers always wearing a sweater?



Just wanted to Thank Everyone for the Prayers for my Mom.  On her recent trip to the Dr. she was told that they got all the cancer.  Thank you all for your prayers and best wishes.

\_\  /  
/_/  \    "For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but
\_\/\ \   Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body I live for the Son
   \_\/   of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 


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"I thought of you first after my family sat down to watch the video we gave
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crying and my dad did too.  They said it was the best Christmas gift we
could have given them!!  You did such a beautiful job!  They were so
surprised and so touched---they really, really, really loved it.  Thanks
for helping to make it so special to us all.  My mom mentioned how
the songs were perfect for the video too!  Thanks again!"
Kelli-- College Station, TX

Let me make you a video from your pictures or home movies!
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