A woman is shocked when she sees a homeless stranger wearing the pendant she’d buried with her fiancé after his death in a car crash.
Linda Gillian thought that she had done all her mourning for her fiancé, Jake Reynolds, but when she caught a glimpse of that man on the street corner, with the light catching on the pendant around his neck, her heart broke all over again.
Two years ago she buried Jake with that exact pendant, buried him and all her hopes of happiness with him just two days before what should have been her wedding day,
Now this man with a dirty face and lost eyes wearing Jake’s pendant was here to remind her of all she had lost, all over again.
Linda had met Jake through her work as a physical therapist. Captain Jake Reynolds of the US Army had stolen her heart while she was working on restoring the strength to his legs.
When his therapy ended, Jake came back and asked Linda out. “I’ve been looking for you all my life,” he’d said. “I don’t want to waste any time!”
But Linda had been through a bad marriage and a worse divorce, and the idea of plunging into a serious relationship with the handsome soldier had frightened her.
So the two of them took it slow, one baby step at a time, and four years after they met, Linda accepted Jake’s proposal and promised to be his wife.
The two had spent the next nine months in an exciting flurry of activity, planning their wedding, having the little house they bought together restored and redecorated, getting ready for the rest of their lives.
Life sometimes brings us second chances in the most unexpected ways.
Then the phone rang, and a voice on the other end told Linda that Jake wasn’t coming home. Not tonight, not ever. A truck had spun out of control on the highway, and just like that, Jake was wiped out of her life.
Linda thought she had gotten over the worse of it, and now the sight of this dirty man’s pendant had brought back the memory of the same silver teardrop hanging against his chest in the shower.
“What’s that?” she’d asked, and Jake told her that it was a remembrance of the man who saved his life in the Middle East, a man named Tom Eastland who had dragged him to safety in the middle of combat.
Jake had promised Tom he’d be there for him one day if ever he needed him, and as a token of that vow, had given him a pendant just like his own. But sadly, Jake was shipped home to recover (and meet Linda) and had lost touch with Tom.
Could this man huddled on the street corner whimpering and weeping be the Tom Jake had talked about? Linda walked up to the man and hunkered down to his level. Immediately the stench of cheap drink overwhelmed her.
This man was drunk, Linda realized. “Are you Tom Eastland?” she asked, but the man kept sobbing, and gazed at her with lost, frightened eyes. Linda made a swift decision.
She got to her feet and hailed a cab. She asked the cab driver to help her get the homeless man into the car, and then later on, up to her apartment. The cabbie had been concerned.
“Pretty lady like you,” he said. “Are you sure you want this man in your house? He might be dangerous!” But Linda thanked the man, tipped him generously, and sent him on his way.
Then she settled the homeless man into her guest bedroom and let him sleep it off. He woke up late the next morning and stumbled into her kitchen looking lost and confused.
“Where am I?” he asked.
“That depends on who you are,” Linda told him calmly. “What is your name?”
“Tom,” the man said. “Tom Eastland.”
Linda got to her feet and took his hand. “In that case, Tom, this is home for as long as you need it to get back on your feet,” she said. “Go take a shower and shave. I’ll leave clean clothes on the bed.”
“Why are you doing this, lady?” asked Tom. “You don’t know me from Adam!”
Linda smiled. “Because long ago you saved someone who was precious to me and gave me five extra years of happiness,” she said. “You saved Jake Reynolds, and he promised he’d be there for you. Jake is gone, but I will keep his promise to you.”
Tom closed his eyes and his hand reached up to touch the pendant hanging around his neck. “He gave me this…He’s gone?”
“Yes,” whispered Linda. “Yes, he’s gone, but I will do what he would want me to do — help you if you want me to.”
It wasn’t easy of course, coming back from the type of pain and horror that Tom had lived through never is, but Linda put him in touch with a group that helped veterans with PTSD, and he stopped drinking to drown out the memories.
Tom took the long road home, and eventually, he started working as a counselor at the same organization that helped him get back on his feet. He has his own place now, and he and Linda have started talking about maybe being more than friends.
Linda knows that Tom is not Jake and can never take his place, but maybe, just maybe, the two of them can find a little happiness together. Jake would like that.
What can we learn from this story?
Death is not the end of gratitude or love. Even though Jake was dead, Linda was determined to keep his vow to the man who’d saved his life.
Life sometimes brings us second chances in the most unexpected ways. Through helping tom, Linda rebuilt her own life and found love again.
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