The passenger train, carrying almost one thousand souls, jumped the tracks going 50 mph. In little more than a split second, the peaceful tranquility of the countryside was shattered by the horrific grinding of metal and steel being tangled and crushed, leaving fragile human beings trapped inside the ghastly wreckage. On that unforgettable spring day in 1954, eighty-nine men, women, and children were killed instantly.
During the following weeks, twenty-two additional individuals lost their struggle to survive, and more than three hundred people were seriously injured, many left with physical disabilities that would alter the rest of their lives. Others had to cope with long-term psychological and emotional trauma that interfered with their ability to function.
Although there was an exhaustive investigation, the reason for the derailment was never determined. But whatever the cause, the accident affected lives like no other train wreck before or since. Because in this case, the ramifications were felt for the next sixty-five years.
But today, the astonishing story of a man who survived the crash was going to be told. The individual’s life-long secret was going to be revealed, and because it was so unusual, the person who heard it would initially have trouble believing it was true.
Kimberly Jude pulled into the driveway of the address she had been given, put her car in park, and killed the engine. There was something strange about this proposed meeting that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. The invitation she’d received by email had been cryptic at best. Although she frequently received unsolicited inquiries about her freelance writing, this one had stood out and grabbed her attention.
In no hurry to get out of her car, she sat and looked at the modest house. Thinking it was probably built in the 1940s, it seemed to be unremarkable in every respect but one. The front yard and she assumed it was true of the backyard as well, featured multiple flower beds bursting with an impressive selection of colorful plants. Because it was late spring, the roses were in full bloom, creating a dazzling spectacle.
Kimberly had never seen such gorgeous landscaping on what could only be described as a simple home. Either it was professionally done or it was a huge labor of love requiring immense effort and countless hours of commitment by an individual. Because it appeared to have a personal touch, Kimberly guessed it was the latter.
Unsure of what she was getting herself into, she hesitated for a few more moments. The urge to start her car and put it in reverse was strong, but she had come this far, and she couldn’t deny being intensely curious about a writing project that had been described as “crying out” for someone to breathe life into it.
As a successful writer of nonfiction, Kimberly enjoyed the challenge of making cold hard facts relatable to people’s lives so that they could make an emotional connection with whatever the subject matter might be.
However, she had, on occasion, had leads that were over-hyped and did not turn out to be newsworthy. Glancing around at the other well-kept houses in the quiet neighborhood, she suspected that would be the case with this offer. Although she knew that looks could be deceiving, it was difficult to believe that inside this particular home there could be a story that was worth telling. But there was only one way to find out.
As a precaution, she had told a close friend exactly where she was going, and she promised that once inside, she’d text him if she felt safe. Deciding to stop stalling and get the meeting over with, she reached across to the passenger seat and grabbed her soft briefcase containing the tools of the trade.
After a short trip up a walkway bordered with stunning flowers on each side, Kimberly got to the porch, rang the doorbell, and waited. She quickly heard movement on the other side and then the heavy wood door swung open.
The individual standing in front of her smiled warmly – but she did not return his warmth. She couldn’t. As she looked at him, it took all the concentration Kimberly could muster to maintain an even gaze without showing any reaction.
Never in her twenty-eight years of life had Kimberly ever met a person with such serious scarring. Somehow the man had managed to survive what could have only been life-threatening burns. Because he was wearing a short-sleeve shirt, the scars were not only visible on his hands but also up and down both arms. However, it was the scarring to his face that was particularly striking. She couldn’t imagine enduring such pain and anguish and ever being able to smile again, but his expression had not changed.
In a pleasant tone of voice, the man said, “Thank you for coming, Miss Jude. My name is Edwin Ferguson. It is so nice to meet you.” He extended his right hand. She shifted the briefcase to her other hand, reached out and shook.
Instantly, Kimberly realized that there was far more damage to his hands than just scarring.
“Please come in, and follow me.” She nodded and walked into the narrow entryway which led to a small comfortable living room that was tastefully, but inexpensively, decorated. As she glanced around, the interior of the home seemed to be just as well kept as the exterior. Trailing Mr. Ferguson, they passed through and continued down a hallway to the last door on the right. There he stopped, produced a key, and unlocked the door. Opening it wide, he said, “Come on in.”
Kimberly stepped into the room which was much larger than she thought it would be. It had been remodeled at some point, but because it was on the back of the house, you could not judge its size from the street. She stopped and looked around. The room was filled with sealed boxes stacked against all four walls, in some spots from the floor to the ceiling. She could see a small label on the end of each one, but the print was too small to read from a distance. The boxes were stacked row after row to the point that there was only a small area in the middle of the room that was clear. In that space, there were two chairs, and a stand with a TV and a DVD player.
Unable to hide her confusion about meeting in such an odd setting, Edwin found Kimberly’s puzzlement amusing, but he wanted to make her comfortable, so he said cheerfully, “Please sit down. I can get you a small table if you would like something to write on as you take notes.”
Knowing that she was going to have to speak sooner or later, Kimberly decided there was no sense in putting it off. Not wanting to give out any signals about committing prematurely to this bizarreness, she declined. “Thanks, but – not – right – now.” As always, her words came out in a stammering spasm. A lifelong stutterer, she waited for the usual response of shock that she typically experienced when someone heard her speak for the first time. But there was none.
Edwin listened carefully to her voice. Her stuttering seemed even more pronounced than it did on the video he had watched, but he knew that was easily attributable to her nervousness. He would do his best to help her relax so she could focus on their discussion and speak freely.
Knowing they had a mountain of information to cover, Edwin first had to address an important legal formality. “As mentioned in the email you received, before we can start, I need you to read this non-disclosure agreement.” He held out the document. “If you agree with the limitations, please sign it, and we will begin.”
Kimberly quickly looked it over, signed it, and gave the papers back to Edwin who placed them in a manilla folder for safekeeping.
Not knowing how to begin a conversation in such peculiar circumstances, Kimberly decided to address the elephant in the room. She knew from the email that an elderly man had died, and she was being interviewed to see if she would be willing to write a book about his life. Other than that, she felt like she had stepped into the greatest of mysteries. Studying the boxes that surrounded her, she commented, “Looks like you’ve already started packing up the belongings of the deceased. I guess you have to move everything out.”
Edwin shook his head. “No. No. The boxes are for you.”
“What?” She couldn’t help but wonder how many surprises there were going to be this afternoon. At this point, the entire situation seemed surreal. She tried to picture what this scene would look like to someone walking in cold. A petite black woman who happens to stutter sitting in a crammed room talking to a gentleman, most likely in his early eighties, with a patchwork of scars on the visible areas of his body. Certainly not something you see every day.
Edwin sat ramrod straight in his chair. He was neatly dressed and gave off an air of quiet dignity. Kimberly, realizing she was slumping, tried to sit up straighter. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do about the jeans and T-shirt she had thrown on at the last minute. A T-shirt that, unfortunately, now looked even worse.
Running close on time, she had gotten a fast-food burger and fries on the way over and had, unfortunately, dripped ketchup down the front of her. She now wished she had worn something nicer, although a prettier top would still have a bright red stain on it. For some reason, even though she had severe doubts about the prospects for this job, she still felt the need to try to make a good impression.
Completely unconcerned about her appearance, Edwin said, “The boxes are for your research.”
Kimberly didn’t know what to think let alone where to start asking questions. Fortunately, Edwin was more than willing to guide the discussion.
“I hope you’re not pressed for time, because this story deserves to be told in detail – and you deserve to know what you would be getting into.”
With some regret, Kimberly said, “I’m not that popular. This is my only appointment today, so I have time.”
“I’m glad you can stay.” Edwin paused, took a deep breath, and began. “Forgive me if I struggle at times. My friend’s death is still quite painful to me…… The man you will be writing about is Isaac Tindallson. He died three weeks ago at the age of ninety-two. Isaac was born in 1928. He was a husband and father – and he was my dear friend for sixty-five years.”
So far nothing seemed particularly newsworthy to Kimberly, but she was touched by the genuine affection that Mr. Ferguson had for the deceased.
Edwin continued. “Isaac’s health began to deteriorate about a year ago, and over the last six months, I begged him to allow his story to be told, but over and over, he politely declined. He simply did not want any attention drawn to him. As his health worsened, I pleaded with him to at least allow his secret to be told at some point after his death, but he refused to even consider it – until he read your article.”
“Which one?” Because Kimberly chose topics that did not necessarily have mass appeal, she was forced to continuously churn out work in a never-ending struggle to eke out a tenuous living as a freelance writer. Consequently, there was no way of knowing which piece he’d read. Although not particularly well compensated for her efforts, considering one ketchup stain put a significant dent in her wardrobe, she was at least prolific.
“Isaac read your essay about children with intellectual and physical challenges being bullied, and it touched his heart.”
Kimberly was pleased that of all the subjects she had written about, that was the one that had made an impression. It told her that this man, whoever he was, had empathy for other human beings, and for the first time, she thought that perhaps there was a chance this meeting might be worth sitting through.
“Isaac called me as soon as he finished it and insisted that I read it immediately. Although it clearly demonstrated your masterful skill with language, my friend was even more impressed because he sensed that you were speaking from the heart. It was at that moment he made the decision to allow you – and only you – to write about his life. He stipulated that I should contact you as soon as possible after his death.
“However, that was not your only work that impressed him. Over the final weeks of his life, he read everything he could that had your name on it. And more than ever, he was struck by the genuine concern and sensitivity you showed toward the individuals and situations you chose to bring to light.”
Kimberly shook her head. “I appreciate that, but I’m not well known.”
“That doesn’t matter. A few weeks after reading your article, I got a call from Isaac during the evening, and he asked if I had seen the news on a local TV station. I had not. He explained in great detail how the young lady responsible for the wonderful piece about bullying had given a live interview – and he said that you stuttered. It was then that he realized your considerate and thoughtful approach to important subjects was most likely based, in part, on your personal experience.”
Kimberly gasped in embarrassment. So her stuttering was what this was all about. She felt thoroughly disgusted to discover that the only reason her services had been requested was because of her speech. The last thing she needed was some eccentric stranger feeling sorry for her. She had worked hard to learn her craft, and she didn’t need anyone’s pity because of the way she happened to speak.
Standing up, she said icily, “I think I’m through here.” She started to walk away but then turned back to Edwin. “I don’t know who you think you are or why your friend believed he had to help the ‘poor woman that stutters’, but I want you to know that I do not appreciate it!” Because of her anger, it took a moment for her to notice the look on Edwin’s face.
His expression was one of empathy and understanding, and when he spoke, it was from the heart. “I think you and I both know what it’s like to have people refuse to look past a particular aspect of your life. They do not see who we really are. In your case, they only hear the way you say words. In my case, they only see scars. But we are each so much more than that…… I would ask you to please reconsider, and sit back down.”
Kimberly hesitated. It was unacceptable for her to either get a job or lose one just because she stuttered. Her work should be judged on its merit and nothing else. For several seconds she debated whether or not to stay before dropping back into her chair. She no longer cared whether she was slouching, she just wanted to get this over.
Choosing his words carefully, Edwin said. “Isaac was touched by your humanity and the way you allowed yourself to feel honest emotion regarding your subjects. He hoped you could do the same for him. Therefore, he said that after his death, I was to invite you to do this interview. It would be the only – and let me stress only – opportunity I would be given to tell his story. If you decline, no one will ever find out the truth about this man.”
Still confused, Kimberly protested. “But it doesn’t make sense. If the story is that compelling, you could have taken it to someone prominent. Someone who is established with a national reputation.”
Edwin smiled and said, “Isaac chose you.”
She didn’t know how to respond. But when Edwin continued, Kimberly’s surprise grew.
“Isaac wanted to personally make this offer, so he recorded a brief video. Of course, you are under no obligation to watch it, but please indulge me. I would like for you to see it.”
“All right.” After all, what did she have to lose? The young woman believed there was no way the afternoon could get any more surreal. But she was wrong.
Edwin pulled a small remote from his pocket and with the push of a couple of buttons the DVD began to play on the TV screen.
The first image Kimberly saw was that of an elderly man, who, although he appeared to be seriously ill, had a kind face and a natural gentleness to him.
Edwin never took his eyes off of Kimberly as the man in the video looked into the camera and began to speak. “Hello, Miss Jude. My name is Isaac Tindallson, and I want to thank you for coming here today.” Edwin paused the DVD player because he knew she would react.
Kimberly stared in disbelief at the screen and then turned to Edwin. She saw the tears in his eyes as her own tears started to burn. Overwhelmed with emotion, she could not have been more shocked.
Isaac Tindallson stuttered just like her.
But before she could say anything, Edwin hit play. Again Isaac spoke in a distinctive way that required her to pay close attention. “It is important that you understand that I decided I would like for you to write my story before I saw you speak on TV. What I’m offering you is not because you are a stutterer. We all have issues and challenges we deal with. The reason I picked you is because of your amazing skill and ability as a writer. But I wanted you to be aware of the fact that I also know what it’s like to communicate in a way that attracts unwanted attention. My stutter is part of who I am. Nothing more or less. And I sense it is the same for you.
“Miss Jude, I sincerely hope that you will stay and listen to what Edwin has to tell you. If after hearing him out, you feel that this is not a writing project deserving of your time and talent, then that will be the end of it.”
It was obvious to Kimberly that because he was so sick, speaking was exhausting, but Isaac wanted to make one more point.
“Just let me say that you are sitting across from the finest person I have ever known. Throughout the decades, he was always by my side doing the extraordinary, day in and day out. My life would not have been possible without Edwin’s wisdom, compassion, and dedication. If you choose to accept this offer, I believe you will soon learn to think of him in the same way. Again, I want to thank you for your consideration, and I hope that when my friend has given you all of the information, you will agree that this is a story worth telling.”
As tears ran down Edwin’s face, he switched off the video, pulled out a handkerchief, and dabbed his eyes. “I apologize for my grief. It’s just difficult to believe that such a man could really be gone. The world so desperately needs him.”
Kimberly sat dazed. After all of this, she still had no idea what the story was. “Mr. Ferguson, I completely understand your sense of loss, but this all seems so strange – I don’t know what to think. Could you please just start at the beginning?”
He took a breath. “Of course. But first, we need to get one thing straight. I am Edwin – not Mr. Ferguson – and my friend is Isaac – not Mr. Tindallson. Now, would it be all right if I call you Kimberly?”
“Yes, that would be fine.” Right now, names were the least of her concerns. But as she waited for Edwin to begin, she suddenly remembered her phone. “I’m sorry, but before you start, I need to send a text. As a precaution, I told a friend where I was going, and I want to let him know I’m in a safe place.”
“That was very wise.”
It only took a few seconds until the text was sent. Once again trying to sit up straighter in her chair, Kimberly looked at the man who at some point in his life had been so badly burned it was a wonder he was alive, and with her first real sign of enthusiasm said, “Please, Edwin, I want to hear about you and your friend.”
Happy to oblige, Edwin launched into an incredible tale that had the power to forever alter Kimberly’s career. “Isaac married Tess, the love of his life, in 1951. She was twenty-three, and he was twenty-four. Two years later, they had a baby boy named Joel. In the spring of 1954, they were taking a cross-country train trip. Isaac’s parents had not yet gotten to see their grandson, and the family was happy and excited to be traveling. But late in the afternoon on the first day of their journey, something went horribly wrong. For some unknown reason, the train derailed. It was one of the worst railroad accidents in modern history.
“Tragically, Tess and Joel were killed, but, of course, Isaac miraculously survived. However, he suffered, what today would be called, a traumatic brain injury. It left him blind in his left eye, and with severe weakness on his left side requiring the use of a cane for the rest of his life for balance and support. He could still drive and, as you no doubt noticed, he could work in his beloved flowerbeds, but the brain damage affected his speech, and he stuttered for the rest of his life.
“Many other families were also decimated in the crash, and hundreds of people were severely injured. But in Isaac’s case, the damage did not impair his intellect. He was the most intelligent person I’ve ever known. Mentally, he remained sharp until the very end. He was in complete control of his faculties when he asked me to contact you.”
Kimberly couldn’t imagine what it would be like to lose your entire family. “I wonder how he found the strength to go on and live such a long and productive life.”
“The answer to that question is at the heart of the story he wanted you to tell.”
At this point, Kimberly was at least interested enough to begin making a few notes. Edwin was pleased to see her open her briefcase and get out a pen and legal pad. For the first time, she seemed to relax. “Please go on.”
“Isaac’s recovery was a long arduous ordeal made even worse by soul-crushing grief. For the first six months after the wreck, he said he was barely aware of what was going on around him. All he could think about was his wife and child. But then one day something happened that helped him refocus on others. It was something that gave him a new purpose in life.”
Edwin smiled as he watched Kimberly begin to write furiously, and, at that instant, he knew she was going to say yes to their offer.
With her curiosity fully engaged, she asked, “So what was it that gave Isaac a purpose in life after losing everything?”
Edwin answered with complete honesty. “It was another person’s guilt.”
“I don’t follow.”
“A gentleman named Clifford Stanford was the majority stockholder in the company that owned the railroad line that crashed. The exact cause of the wreck was never precisely determined. There was no negligence on the part of the railroad, and no blame or responsibility was ever assessed. However, Mr. Stanford still felt enormous remorse over the deaths. To compound his anguish, just a short time before the accident, he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He would live another eighteen months, but his guilt, even though it may have been misplaced, was not something he wanted to carry with him to the grave.
“Mr. Stanford’s regret eventually compelled him to make financial restitution in the form of $50,000 to each of the forty-nine families that lost a loved one. At the time of his death, Mr. Stanford’s wealth was estimated at $390,000,000. His total payout to the families came to $2,450,000. That is a considerable sum even by today’s standards, but in the 1950s it was astronomical. Mr. Stanford gave this money with no stipulations. As far as he was concerned, it could be used for anything the family needed.”
Kimberly finished an important note to herself and then said, “That is incredible – particularly in light of the fact that he was under no legal obligation to make any kind of monetary payment.”
Edwin agreed. “You are right. But it gets even better. A year after the death of Isaac’s wife and son, a courier arrived unannounced on his doorstep with a check for $50,000. Of course, Isaac was stunned by the money, and his initial impulse was to refuse it. However, after a surprise phone call from Mr. Stanford himself, Isaac reluctantly agreed to accept the money – but only because he had a plan. And what happened next shocked Clifford Stanford to the core.
“Isaac had seen a report in the newspaper, and because of what he read, he did something absolutely remarkable. Though still consumed with grief, and in great physical pain, Isaac chose to give the money away to help someone else. He did not keep a single penny.”
Kimberly stopped jotting down notes for a moment. “My God. He gave it all away? The entire $50,000?”
“Yes. When Mr. Stanford learned that Isaac had not kept the money for himself, but rather used it to help someone else, he had difficulty believing that someone could be that caring and generous. But it dawned on him that he had met a person who placed the needs of others ahead of his own. And, more importantly, it made him reconsider a difficult decision he would soon face. Stanford had no children and no other living family members. He was alone in the world as his life began to come to an end.”
Now completely intrigued, Kimberly asked, “Do you know who Isaac gave the money to?”
“Yes.” There was a long pause and with his voice breaking, Edwin said. “He gave the money to me.”
Kimberly sat upright in her chair. “You?!! He gave the $50,000 to you?!”
As he tried to control his emotions, Edwin nodded.
Although she suspected she already knew the answer, Kimberly’s job was to ask questions. “May I ask why he chose to give the money to you?”
Edwin looked away for a few moments and then faced his questioner. “I was seventeen at the time. On a Saturday afternoon, my father and I were working on my first old car. For some reason, gasoline in the carburetor exploded. My father did not survive, and I suffered third-degree burns over the upper half of my body. I lost three fingers on my left hand and two on my right. Unfortunately, the treatment at that time was severely lacking. The doctors did the best they could and that was at least enough to save my life. But I had surgery after surgery to try to reconstruct my face.”
“And Isaac read about your situation in the paper.”
“That’s correct. Even after everything he’d been through, Isaac honestly believed that my family needed the money more than he did. It was several months after my accident when Isaac contacted my mother. The medical bills for my treatment were piling up, she was behind on the mortgage, I had three younger sisters she was trying to care for while working two jobs – and all of this was happening while she grieved the loss of my father.”
Kimberly sat quietly letting his words sink in. A man who had lost everything was willing to give away $50,000 to a family he did not know in an effort to ease their suffering. Finally, she declared, “You’re right. This is a sensational story.”
Edwin looked at her with a funny expression on his face. “Kimberly, I haven’t gotten to the story yet.”
In disbelief, she asked, “You mean there’s more?”
“You have no idea.”
There was a long pause, but for some reason, the silence did not seem awkward. For one thing, it dawned on Kimberly that she no longer noticed the scars on Edwin’s face and hands. Instead, she saw a beautiful human being whose love and devotion to his deceased friend was breathtaking. “Mr. Ferguson –”
“Please. It’s Edwin.”
“Yes, okay.” As clearly as she could, Kimberly said, “Edwin, I want to thank you for contacting me. In my profession, there is a dearth of good news to write about, and yet people love positive uplifting stories. But they can be difficult to find. To have one handed to you is truly a gift.”
“You earned this opportunity because of your skill and because of the compassion you show in your writing.”
“Thank you.” Although Kimberly was somewhat embarrassed by the compliment, it was nice to be appreciated. But she still needed to hear some kind of coherent rationale regarding all of this. She thought a good place to start would be to address the obvious.
Waving her legal pad at the wall, she asked, “What about the boxes? When are you going to tell me about the boxes?”
“I’m almost ready. Picking up where we left off, Isaac gave my mother the money, and it saved our home. It paid off my medical expenses and gave us a future. A short time later, Clifford Stanford somehow found out what Isaac had done with the money that was supposed to be used to rebuild his life. At first, Mr. Stanford couldn’t believe it was true. It just didn’t seem possible. But when he verified with us that Isaac had indeed given my family the $50,000, he realized he’d discovered a person who deserved to inherit his fortune. He based his decision on the belief that Isaac would use at least some of the money to help others.”
Furiously taking notes, Kimberly stopped, put her pen down, and rubbed her hand.
Trying to be helpful, Edwin said, “In our future meetings, it might be easier to record our conversations.”
Kimberly made a sheepish face. “Agreed……But before you go on, I have to say that this sounds crazy. I mean it’s not every day that a multi-millionaire leaves all of his money to a complete stranger.”
“Well, when you say it like that –”
“There is no other way to say it!” Kimberly caught herself and reined in her frustration. Without thinking, she reached up and massaged the back of her neck.
“It’s your posture.” Edwin offered.
“Your neck hurts because you’re slumping. Poor posture can cause a myriad of problems.”
Kimberly fixed him with a hard stare that indicated her displeasure at his diagnosis. She sighed deeply and tried to regroup. “Let me take stock of where we are, and you tell me if I’ve got everything straight. Isaac survived the train wreck that killed his family. Clifford Stanford gave him $50,000 in compensation. You and your father had the accident. Isaac gave his money to your family, and when Stanford found out, he decided to leave his fortune of $390,000,000 to Isaac. Sound right?”
“Yes. That is correct.”
“Okay. My next question is, how did you and Isaac develop your extraordinary relationship?”
“Well, first of all, although Isaac initially protested, Mr. Stanford did leave his fortune to him. By that time I had, for the most part, recovered from my accident, so I contacted Isaac and told him I wanted to speak to him in person. He invited me to this very house, and because of everything we had both endured, we seemed to naturally know that we could be honest with each other. There was no need for pretense, we could just be ourselves. The first time we met, we talked for hours, each of us completely comfortable with the other. I cannot describe what it felt like to have someone see me instead of my scars.”
“Oh, I understand. It’s the way you made me feel when you first heard me speak.”
Edwin nodded. “I know I’m throwing a lot of information at you, but it’s important that I make this point clear. When I met Isaac for the first time, I did not know one thing about him. I was unaware that his family had been killed, and I had no idea that Clifford Stanford had given Isaac his fortune. I only knew that he was a person who had shown more compassion for a group of strangers than I could imagine.”
Kimberly had stopped making notes and was now hanging on every word. “That first meeting must have been incredible.”
“It was. Because of what we’d both been through, we shared a connection that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Ultimately, it was a bond that proved to be unshakable. But the reason I had reached out to Isaac was because I wanted to thank him for what he’d done and to promise that no matter how long it took, somehow, I would pay back all of the money. He listened respectfully and then asked me a simple question that exposed the implausibility of my promise; he asked me if I had a job. Sadly, I did not. Every time I went to an interview, they would take one look at my face, and I would be shown the door.”
Feeling genuine empathy, Kimberly said, “That kind of constant rejection must have been so painful.”
Edwin shrugged. “It was a fact of life. But when I admitted I was unemployed, Isaac did something astonishing. He didn’t feel sorry for me or pity me. He didn’t think that I was somehow less or that I couldn’t make an important contribution in life. Instead, he looked me in the eye and asked if I would like to work with him. I had wanted to meet this man because I owed him $50,000 – and now he was wanting to hire me. I quickly realized he didn’t want me to pay the money back – he wanted to give me more! What kind of person does that?”
“Did you have any idea what the job would be?”
With her mind racing, Kimberly wanted to make sure she had a full grasp of every detail. “Please explain to me exactly what Isaac wanted you to do.”
At this point in their discussion, Edwin decided it was time for Kimberly to learn about the secret that his friend had kept hidden all of his life. With deep heartfelt admiration, he said, “The job was simple. Isaac hired me to help find other worthy candidates to receive his assistance.”
Kimberly wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly. “Wait a minute! Let me make certain I’m clear on this. You’re telling me that you are not the only person Isaac helped? There were others?”
Edwin bit his lip as raw emotion flooded over him. He had no choice but to pull out his handkerchief to dry his eyes.
Kimberly sat perfectly still trying to anticipate what he was going to say, but she had no way to know what was coming.
Once Edwin had regained his composure, he looked at the young woman and said the words she would never forget. “I was the first of thousands that he helped.”
Although everything Kimberly had heard so far was difficult to believe, this was particularly hard to accept. Doing her best not to sound incredulous, she asked, “You’re claiming that Isaac Tindallson helped thousands of people the way he helped you?”
Kimberly could not afford to take chances. Because she would have to be careful not to make unsubstantiated claims in a biography, she asked cautiously, “Do you have any proof of this?”
Edwin knew it sounded unbelievable, but one thing he had learned in life was just how strange the truth can be. “Yes. I have a more precise number, but for now, it’s enough for you to know that my family was just the beginning.”
Kimberly tried to wrap her mind around what she was hearing. “So the two of you worked together finding people that Isaac could help with his new fortune.”
“More or less.”
“Did you have an office or support staff?”
“No. It was just the two of us, and for sixty-five years, we worked in this room.”
Desperately trying to control her skepticism, Kimberly was prepared to unleash a barrage of questions, but before she could ask the first one, Edwin tried to crystalize the characteristics of the man he worked with.
“For almost seven decades, Isaac lived in this small frame house. It was the home he and Tess had bought to raise their family in, and he had no desire to ever leave it. My friend could have bought mansions, a private jet, a yacht, or a fleet of luxury cars – but, instead, he chose to invest in people’s lives. Because of that decision, he led what looked like, from all outward appearances, an unremarkable life.
“The only thing he was known for was his hobby. He loved growing flowers. He would spend hours in the early mornings and late afternoons caring for the plants that made his simple home into a showplace. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t know if Isaac even owned a single suit. He always wore coveralls that were permanently stained from kneeling in the dirt. Which reminds me, in all the years I knew him, he never once bought a new vehicle, always preferring to drive used pickup trucks. He was forever hauling dirt, peat moss, and mulch. He didn’t care for traveling so he never had any desire for a car. When Isaac finally stopped driving at the age of eighty-seven, he had a twelve-year-old Ford F-150. Naturally, instead of trying to sell it, he gave the truck away to charity.”
Still trying to grasp what all of this meant, Kimberly said, “And no one knew what he was doing – except you.”
“Not a single soul. At no time did his neighbors ever suspect that they were living on the same street with a person who was a millionaire hundreds of times over. He was just Isaac. A gentle and kind man, soft-spoken, and self-effacing who dealt with his physical challenges with dignity and grace.”
Kimberly looked down at her shirt and absentmindedly picked at the dried ketchup stain. Sadly, she was struggling with what she was being told. Looking up at Edwin, she said softly, “I want to believe this story. I need to believe this story. But if I’m not completely convinced it’s true, how can I possibly convince the average reader?”
“Please, just give me a little more time.”
Kimberly liked Edwin, and she wanted to be respectful. “Okay, but I’ve got to say, I’m not going to be easy to persuade.”
“I’m not worried in the least. I understand how difficult it is to accept that an individual possessing such enviable characteristics lived quietly among us, seeking neither attention nor acknowledgment.”
She made a face and massaged her neck.
Edwin was undaunted. “Isaac’s greatest personal quality was his refusal to judge others. No matter how events conspired to create a situation of despair, he was only interested in giving someone what they needed to assist them in getting back on their feet. He had an innate ability to see the good in people – even when they couldn’t see it in themselves.”
Kimberly was at a loss. “My God, I don’t know what to say. When I pulled into the driveway today, I had no idea I was going to hear something like this…… But somehow, I’ve got to have evidence, or none of this will be believable.”
Edwin smiled. “There is evidence. It’s all around you.”
Exasperated, Kimberly asked, “What are you talking about, Edwin?”
“You will be relieved to know that we have now arrived at the point where I discuss the boxes.”
“However, there is a catch.”
“I knew it! There’s always a catch.” Kimberly instantly regretted her sarcasm and apologized. “I’m sorry, Edwin. You have been nothing but kind, and I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No problem. But we have reached the moment of truth. Before I’m allowed to give out any information about what is contained in the boxes, it has to be determined whether or not you will accept the offer of writing a book about Isaac’s life. I’m sorry, but I must know before we go any further. If you say yes, we will proceed. If, however, you decline, we must stop at this point. If you need to time think it over, maybe a few days or a week, that’s fine. But of course, whatever your decision, you signed the NDA so you cannot legally disseminate anything that you’ve heard so far. But where the boxes are concerned, Isaac instructed me not to give out any other information until I have your firm commitment to writing his story.”
“And you can assure me that you have tangible proof of everything that Isaac did?”
Kimberly did not hesitate. “Yes! I will write the book. Give me the contract, and I will sign it right now.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your word is good enough.”
Kimberly couldn’t believe it. “Edwin, I am a complete stranger to you. You don’t know whether or not I can be trusted. I am more than willing to sign a legal agreement spelling out exactly what I can and cannot reveal.”
“You are not a stranger to me. I know you very well through your writing. I have studied your face and your reactions as our meeting unfolded. There is no doubt that you are a person of integrity, and that is all I need to know. Every part of this story revolves around integrity – including yours.”
“I appreciate your kind words, but –”
Edwin politely cut her off. “We have boxes to talk about.”
Believing he had made his decision, Kimberly gave up. “You said earlier, the boxes are for me.”
“Yes, they will be a critical part of your research.”
Trying to control her impatience, Kimberly asked politely, “Please tell me what is in them.”
Edwin smiled his warmest smile yet and emphasizing each word, he answered, “The boxes are filled with miracles.”
“Miracles?” Kimberly didn’t want to seem insensitive, but she did want to be honest. “Now wait a second. What if I told you I don’t believe in miracles?”
“I would have to say they happen every day – whether we believe in them or not.”
She thought for a second before saying, “You’re not talking about divine miracles, are you.”
“No, I’m not. But please believe me. Human beings can create miracles that are real and life-changing. The boxes in this room are proof of that fact.”
Kimberly sighed in resignation as she looked around the cramped room and mumbled, “And I’m supposed to believe these nondescript packing boxes contain miracles.”
With a light giddiness in voice, Edwin said, “To be precise, they are filled with more than 10,000 miracles.”
Now Kimberly truly was incredulous. “You mean that Isaac helped over 10,000 people just like you in his lifetime?!”
“That is exactly what I mean.”
Despite her stiff neck, Kimberly slumped again in her chair. “Okay, I’ve played along this far, but what you’re asking me to accept as literal fact is beyond reasonable.”
Edwin looked at her doubtful expression and cheerfully offered, “Why don’t you randomly open a box and check it out. You will find they are all essentially the same – they just cover different time periods.”
She instantly perked up. “All right. I would like to get to the bottom of this.” Kimberly went to a nearby box, brought it back, and set it on her chair. The small label read January to July 1996.
Edwin waited as she opened the top and pulled out the first handful of papers. She studied them carefully and saw that there were receipts attached to a sheet giving a detailed accounting of who received the help, the amount of money involved, and how it was spent. The first series of receipts and the corresponding description showed that the total was $175,000. Looking closer, Kimberly read that the money was used for.
Edwin asked, “What is the name on that one?”
Edwin closed his eyes and said. “That was a heartbreaking tragedy where Miss Akers’ six-year-old daughter was shot and killed when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout. She was one of four children, and Ruth was a single mother. Isaac paid for all of the funeral expenses, and I thought that would be the end of it. But my friend was thinking much bigger than that. He also paid all of the tuitions to place her three surviving children into private schools, and he set up a fund so that each of them could one day attend the university of their choice.”
Kimberly couldn’t believe that he had all of the details right. “Do you know everything in every box?”
“Yes, because I personally compiled the information. I was the curator of Isaac’s work.”
“And the boxes contain information on all 10,000 people that Isaac helped?”
“Correct. Your job will be to work your way through all of the material in this room and choose the cases that are most representative of Isaac’s efforts. Compiled together, they will illustrate what he did with his life.”
Kimberly was still wrestling with what she was being told. “But 10,000? That can’t be.”
“It seems like an impossible number until you break it down. Some weeks we helped a couple of people, and other weeks we helped four or five. But averaged out, we assisted about three individuals a week. Believe me, there was never a problem finding men and women who genuinely needed help. Through the years, Isaac spent millions and millions of dollars in the process. I invite you to take a moment and do the calculations yourself.”
Proficiency at math was not a particular skill that Kimberly possessed, but, thank God, her phone had a calculator. She quickly multiplied sixty-five years times fifty-two weeks and got 3,380 weeks. Taking that number and multiplying it by three gave her a total of 10,140. Seeing the numbers forced Kimberly to admit to herself that it was possible that Isaac helped three deserving people each week, but the task seemed unbelievably complex. “Weren’t the logistics a nightmare. Weren’t there endless details to attend to?”
“Yes, but because it was a labor of love it did not seem like work. The most difficult part was keeping it all a secret. Usually, the folks he helped were desperate to know who their benefactor was because they wanted to thank him – but Isaac refused to ever, under any circumstances, take credit for his actions.”
Kimberly was beginning to feel overwhelmed. “There is so much I would like to examine. What is the deadline? How long do I have to do this?”
“As long as you need. I realize you’ll be facing an avalanche of information, therefore, I’d like to offer you my assistance in your research. My sole interest is in being as helpful as I can in telling Isaac’s story. It’s the last thing I can do for my friend.”
The thought of having Edwin’s help was a great relief to Kimberly. In her mind, the book couldn’t just be a list of names with numbers. She wanted to get to the compassion involved and the way that lives were changed, and she knew he was the only person who could supply that kind of information.
Edwin broke her train of thought. “Before we go on, I want to stress again that I was the only person to ever know that Isaac was responsible for the assistance. None of the people you will be reading about ever found out who helped them. It took considerable effort on our part to keep the gifts anonymous, but that was the way Isaac wanted it. So, names will need to be changed and some details blurred so that we can maintain the privacy of everyone involved.
“I also want to make it clear that after helping me, Isaac never gave money to anyone else. Just throwing money at a person was not what this was about.”
Confused, Kimberly asked, “So how did he change so many lives?”
“Isaac always said he preferred to give a person the gift of opportunity because that translated into dignity and respect. What he was talking about was giving them the chance to help themselves, in some cases to rebuild their lives, and in other cases to literally save their lives.
“Sometimes the act of giving was small. I remember a working mother of three small children was taking college courses at night. Isaac arranged for her to have in-home child care for as long as it was required. Although a relatively small gesture, it was exactly what the woman needed to allow her to get her degree. Other times it was startling to witness how much he would spend to assist someone. I could never fully comprehend the lengths he would go to in the effort to improve someone’s life. Just when I thought he had done what was necessary – he would do more.”
“Can you give me some quick examples just off the top of your head?”
“Certainly. A single mother was laid off, and Isaac made a deal with a pharmacy to supply her child with insulin but to charge him. On multiple occasions, he paid for a child’s surgery to allow them to walk. But, of course, not every little boy or girl could be made to walk – so, over the years, he bought countless electric wheelchairs. A family lost their home in a flood. Insurance would not cover their loss, so Isaac rebuilt their house, complete with furnishings.
“He bought wardrobes for people so they could go to work interviews. He bought cars for people who needed basic transportation to hold down their jobs. He paid rent for people going through hard times. He paid off entire mortgages for people who could no longer work. He paid off millions in medical bills that otherwise would have destroyed families, and he put countless people through college, usually, individuals majoring in a field that would make a significant difference in life.
“But, of course, as you saw with Ruth Aker, the need that always touched his heart the most was when someone lost a child. The pain he experienced when his family was killed never completely left him, and he understood all too well how devastating it was to try to go on after your heart had been torn apart.
“Over the years, I watched Isaac weep countless times when he heard about parents losing their son or daughter to an accident or illness. As you do your research, you will discover that the tragic death of a child garnered more of Isaac’s attention and, therefore, more of his resources than any other type of situation. It always drove him to do more and more.”
Kimberly shook her head. “To suffer the loss that Isaac did and turn around and use his pain to ease the suffering of others is the miracle I want to convey. I mean it’s awful to lose your spouse, but losing a child is unbearable.” Not wanting to be too personal, she hesitated before asking, “Edwin, do you have children?”
As his face lit up, he declared joyfully, “Yes, I do! I have three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. What about you? Do you have children?”
“No, not yet. But someday, I would love to be a mom.”
“I hope that happens for you. I think you would be a terrific mother.”
They sat in silence for a moment and then Kimberly asked about what could’ve been a potential issue in the two men’s relationship. “Did you ever question any of Isaac’s decisions regarding who he chose to help?”
“No, I didn’t. First of all, it was his money, not mine. Secondly, because his motives were pure, it seemed to lead us to the right people. But when I talk about Isaac’s money, I want to emphasize that these were not handouts. It was clearly stipulated that the recipient had to do whatever they could, within their means, to help others. Whether it be volunteering their time or sharing their talents, they were encouraged to make the world, at least their part of it, a kinder more tolerant place. And I’m pleased to report that through the years most of them did return his generosity by paying it forward. Sometimes in dramatic fashion. Isaac understood that in this way whatever he did became more powerful and far-reaching. Each time he assisted someone and they did the same, the kindness was multiplied and even more lives were affected.”
“This seems like it was an enormous undertaking. Other than having your assistance, did Isaac have a foundation or something to assist him?”
“He did not. No banks, institutions, organizations, or government agencies were ever involved. No charities, nonprofits, or foundations were ever part of the equation. Isaac found joy in helping one person at a time in a direct fashion. It was just him and the individual. It could not have been more simple – or more beautiful.”
Kimberly shook her head. “It is beautiful, but I’m still worried about whether or not people will really believe all of this.”
“With your skill, they will believe. Isaac chose you because of the humanity you are able to bring to your subjects. I think you will find it quite easy to impress readers with the humanity of both Isaac and his recipients.”
“And you, as well, Edwin.”
“You are very kind.”
Kimberly picked up her pen and legal pad. “Aside from his incredible generosity, What was Isaac like as a person. What can you say about him as a man?”
Edwin thought about his answer before responding, “Although he never got over losing his wife and child, Isaac was at peace with the world. Giving to others brought him the most immense pleasure imaginable. Too often individuals choose to publicize their good deeds. They want credit for what they’ve done. And, in fact, that is sometimes their only motivation for doing the right thing, but my friend was the complete opposite.
“His humility and humbleness were beyond compare. His intense desire to remain unknown symbolized his altruistic nature. It was enough for him to know that he had changed someone’s life. There was no need for him to receive recognition or praise for doing it. The joy was in the giving – not in the acknowledgment of the gift.
“After everything he’d been through, Isaac could have given up on life – but instead, he embraced it. One day I just came out and asked him why he was able to be so positive.”
“And what was his answer?”
“He said that his happiness came from finding one thing that meant more to him than anything else. In his case, it was helping others. However, he made it clear that it was something different for every person. To be truly fulfilled, Isaac thought it was important to be engaged in something that you believed in, that inspired you, and that, ultimately, not only made the world a better place but made you a better person…… I hope you don’t mind me saying, but I believe that is exactly what you do with your writing.”
“Thank you, Edwin. But there are just no comparisons that can be made when it comes to Isaac. I’ve never heard of anyone who was so – saintly.”
Edwin agreed. “Even though I knew him better than anyone else, I was continually surprised by his generosity. And that is what I believe you will show people. I was the first recipient of Isaac’s kindness, and you are his last – but what happened in between is the story you will tell.”
“I’ll do my best, but I still have one question. When these wonderful things happened to people there had to be some explanation for them. You don’t just suddenly discover that tuition for your children to attend a private school has been mysteriously paid.”
“That is an excellent question, and I am pleased to show you the answer.” Edwin reached over and picked up the same folder from earlier. He opened it and pulled out a sheet of paper.
Holding it up, Edwin said, “Every individual or family received a personalized version of this letter. Attached to it was another page detailing exactly what was being done to assist them with no mention of the financial details. No monetary value was ever given.
He handed Kimberly the letter, and she began to read.
I am reaching out to you today in the hope that I might offer some relief from the circumstances you are currently facing.
It is my sincerest wish that the action I am taking on your behalf will make a positive difference in your life. But I want to stress that your particular needs are being addressed, not out of pity or a sense of charity, but because of my desire for you to have whatever it is you need at this time to make your situation better.
Let me assure you that I know what it is like to have your life disrupted by events that are beyond your control. I know what it’s like to struggle to get by under harsh conditions. I was once in your position, and I also received assistance from a stranger. It is because of that life-changing generosity that I am able to assist you today and to bear witness to the difference that kindness can make in our lives.
However, let me make it clear that I am not here to solve your problems for you – but rather to give you the tools you need to solve them yourself. My desire is to help you now so that you, in turn, can someday help others.
There is no doubt that each one of us has it within ourselves, no matter what our means or station in life, to make this world a better place. Therefore, we have a responsibility to take action on behalf of those around us who are facing challenges. Every act of thoughtfulness, consideration, and compassion adds to the greater good, improving all of our lives.
That is the beauty of giving.
Please believe me when I tell you that the joy you feel from receiving this gift will be surpassed by the even greater joy you’ll experience if you choose to help others.
You have my best wishes for the future.
Kimberly looked up. “This letter needs to be in the book.”
“I’ll leave that to your discretion.”
It had been a long afternoon, and she now had enough information to start piecing together a general outline. “I guess the only question I have left is when can I get started?”
Edwin was surprised. “Don’t you want to discuss how much you’ll be paid?”
Kimberly smiled. “I’ll leave my pay to your discretion.”
Edwin laughed softly. “While I appreciate your trust, Isaac, of course, planned ahead and had a contract prepared.” Taking that document from the folder, he handed it to her. “Please check it over and see if the terms are suitable.”
She gave him a look to show how unnecessary this was, but she didn’t want to offend him, so she began to read. A few seconds later she gasped. “Edwin, this is far too generous. We have no idea whether the project will be successful or not. I mean it’s an amazing story, but I might not be able to do it justice.”
“I have complete faith in you. But even if it does not interest the public, you will have fulfilled your part of the agreement, and Isaac wanted to make sure that he reciprocated by compensating you for your efforts.”
“But it’s too much money!”
Her protest only confirmed Edwin’s opinion of her character and basic decency. “Please think of it this way, Kimberly. After only getting to spend a few years with Tess and Joel, Isaac knew that the most precious thing in life is not money, it’s time. You will be committing a significant amount of your time to this effort, and he wanted you to know that he values that sacrifice.”
Realizing that she was not going to win this battle, Kimberly slumped back in her chair. They had now established the business side of their relationship, but before she left, she wanted to know how Edwin had dealt with his physical challenges over the years. Since they each had characteristics that other people believed made them different, she could not help but wonder how he had been treated by the public after his accident.
Kimberly looked at the man who had been through so much physical pain, and she assumed there must have been a serious mental and emotional toll as well. “Let’s be completely honest with each other. What was your worst experience with other people after you were injured?”
Edwin took a deep breath. This was not something he usually talked about, but he was sure that Kimberly had faced her own challenges with acceptance, so he answered truthfully. “I can remember the incident as if it happened an hour ago. It was the first time a small child saw my face and became hysterical with fear. His mother was furious at me for going out in public and frightening people – but I had to go to the grocery store just like anyone else. I had to have food. But it was just the first of many encounters I’ve had through the years where individuals recoiled at the sight of me. But I will never forget that particular day. It was the first time anyone described me as a monster – and it hurt so much.”
“Did it ever get easier?”
“Yes and no. It only got easier in the sense that I was no longer surprised by people’s reactions. I just knew that some individuals were going to have a negative response to my appearance – but there was nothing I could do about their behavior, so I just decided to live my life without worrying about what other people thought.”
Kimberly was impressed by his answer. She felt exactly the same way. “I know what you mean. There is always going to be a percentage of people who are so uncomfortable when I speak that they make the situation unpleasant for everyone. When I was younger, I did everything I could to hide my stutter. I avoided certain words and phrases, but I didn’t fool anyone – especially myself. However, as I got older, I decided to live my life the way I wanted, and if it bothered people to hear me speak, it was their issue, not mine. I know when I did the TV interview about my article on bullying, the station got complaints for having me on. The viewers said the challenges with my speech made them uneasy, so they changed the channel.”
“How much did that bother you?”
“Not as much as it used to…… My worst experience was in high school. A girl who I thought was my best friend picked a time when I was upset about something and secretly recorded me. When I become anxious or get angry my stuttering sometimes intensifies. She knew that, and she made the recording of me trying to express myself about a subject that was really important to me. My stammering and blocks made it difficult to understand what I was trying to say. Hearing it played back would have been embarrassing under any circumstances, but she chose a moment that made it particularly painful.”
Edwin could sense Kimberly’s discomfort about the memory. “There’s no need to say more. I don’t want you to have to relive something that was upsetting.”
“Surprisingly, it feels good to talk with someone who knows what it’s like to be disrespected.…… It turned out the girl was jealous because the boy she had a crush on had asked me to the prom. During the evening they had what was called a spotlight dance. Just one couple dancing to a slow song. She waited until we got to the middle of the floor, and just before the music started, she gave her friend a signal, and he began to play the recording of me crying and stuttering through the sound system. I absolutely wanted to die. I was completely humiliated, but what hurt the most was the fact that I had trusted her. I had confided in her because I thought she was my friend. But she hurt me by ridiculing something I couldn’t help. Something I had no control over. Standing there while hundreds of people laughed at me was horrifying.” She shook her head in disgust and concluded by saying, “Kids and teenagers can be so cruel.”
Edwin added, “So can adults.”
Kimberly knew he was right, and she also knew she had found a kindred spirit. This man had endured the same stares and whispers that she had faced. She could not help but admire him for living life on his terms.
Edwin felt the same admiration for her, and he wanted to make sure that Kimberly knew what she meant to his late friend. “You are Isaac’s final recipient. It was his last wish to help one more person, and of all the worthy candidates, he chose you. He knew what this would do for your career. Your life will never be the same. You will forever be linked to one of the most beautiful stories of our time. He wanted that for you. He wanted you to receive critical acclaim for writing your book.”
“Our book.” Kimberly corrected. “Your role in this endeavor will be just as important as mine – if not more.”
“I am honored to participate.”
Kimberly stood up and reached for her briefcase. “This is by far the most unusual day of my professional life. I’ve got to be honest, when I arrived here, I thought this meeting was going to be a waste of time. I just didn’t think it would lead to anything, but I could not have been more wrong.”
Edwin understood. “We can never know for sure how things are going to turn out. What was certainly the worst moment of my life became the gateway to all of this. I’m forever reminded that on any given day something so profound can happen that we are no longer the same person we were the day before.”
Kimberly agreed. “I believe that has happened to me. Meeting you and hearing Isaac’s story has made me a different person than I was when I walked in here.” Then with an amused look, she said, “For one thing, I now believe in miracles.”
They walked slowly back through the house to the front door. Stepping out on the porch, Kimberly asked Edwin one last question. “May I give you a hug?”
A wide smile spread across his face, and he held out his arms. They embraced, and Kimberly knew that this was, indeed, a day that had changed her life.
After saying their goodbyes, Edwin went back inside. As Kimberly walked to her car, she stopped and took a moment to enjoy Isaac’s glorious flowerbeds. Taking in the spectacular sights and smells, Kimberly marveled that one person had been able to create so much beauty and love in the world – and now, even more incredibly, his compassion had been extended to her.
Over the next six months, Kimberly and Edwin worked five days a week, side by side, going over every act of kindness that Isaac had performed. The magnitude of what he had done for others was breathtaking.
Once all of the boxes had been emptied, Kimberly secluded herself in her apartment, and with her little terrier, Gracie by her side poured her heart into a story that she felt privileged to be a part of. The words effortlessly came to her as she captured the joyful relationship between one man and thousands of people who were vulnerable and in need.
When her manuscript was completed, she only allowed one person to read it before it went to the editors. When he finished the last page, Edwin Ferguson cried. Even though he’d believed in Kimberly, he had not anticipated that the work would turn out so perfect. She had not only captured the essence of what Isaac had done, but also the lifetime of friendship between the two men. She had created magic, and it was a joy to read.
Some months later, the book was published, and even without promotion or fanfare, history was made. Just as Isaac had predicted, people were immediately drawn to the universal message of hope.
However, the story not only caught the attention of the nation, its popularity soon spread around the world. Individuals from all walks of life could scarcely believe what they read, but it touched their hearts because it was true. Kimberly had created a work of stunning beauty and flawless narrative, and because people were so eager to hear about good news, the book quickly became the bestselling biography of the last quarter-century.
It’s success made Kimberly Jude a celebrity, and, true to her nature, she chose to use her position in the public eye to support men, women, and children with a wide range of communication challenges. The fact that she wasted no time in fulfilling Isaac’s request that she pay it forward did not surprise Edwin, whose assistance had proved invaluable in helping her reveal miracle after miracle.
Exactly one month after the publication date, Edwin called Kimberly and asked if she had time to meet him at Isaac’s house to sign some final papers.
Forty-five minutes later, she pulled in the driveway and was surprised by a large crowd gathered in the street. It turned out that Isaac’s home had become quite the tourist attraction, and when Kimberly stepped out of her car, she was immediately recognized. Surprised by her notoriety, she happily spent several minutes politely signing autographs and taking pictures.
Once inside, the thrill of seeing her friend again brought back wonderful memories of the months they spent working together, and it reminded her of how grateful she was that he had entered her life. They talked at length, and she filled him in on how crazy her life had been over the past four weeks.
After an hour of catching up, Edwin said, “I have one more document for you. There are multiple places for you to sign and initial.” He handed Kimberly a thick stack of papers that were tightly bound together.
Edwin shrugged. “It’s just a standard financial statement. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
Kimberly had learned her lesson. “Ha! When it comes to you and Isaac, there is no such thing as ordinary.”
Edwin smiled. “If you’ll just look at the cover sheet it will explain the document.”
Kimberly started to read, and within seconds, tears began to stream down her face. She looked up at Edwin and said, “This can’t be right.”
“I’m afraid it is.”
“No. No. There is no way!” Kimberly looked at the paper again and suddenly realized that her hands were shaking. “Edwin, this has to be a mistake.”
“It was decided before I even met you.”
Kimberly sat back in the chair and tried to catch her breath. Her heart was pounding, and she felt light-headed. She looked at the paper one more time, thinking that it could not be possible, but there it was, clearly spelled out in bold print.
Isaac Tindallson had made Kimberly the sole heir to his fortune of $425,000,000.
She dropped the paper into her lap and covered her face as she began to sob.
Edwin waited patiently until she began to recover from her shock. “Just think. From this moment on, anytime you get a ketchup stain on a shirt you can just throw it away and buy a new one.”
Laughing through her tears she said, “Wow!! Talk about luxury!”
Edwin reached over and patted her hand. “Let me explain, Kimberly. Throughout the years, Isaac carefully invested the money, so he would never run short of funds, and he could continue to do what he loved. However, since his death, the investments have doubled in value. After –”
Kimberly interrupted. “But I don’t deserve the money!”
“I’m sorry, but his decision is final. After reading your work, Isaac decided that you would inherit his wealth if you consented to write his story. The moment you agreed to do that – you sealed your fate. The money was yours.”
Still struggling with her emotions, Kimberly said, “But Edwin, this money should go to you. You’re the one who deserves it. The two of you worked together for more than sixty years.”
Edwin shook his head. “Isaac was always generous to a fault in compensating me. I will never want for anything. But he and I had many heartfelt talks at the end, and we agreed that you should receive the money. So now, being in my eighties and with my dear friend gone, I’m going to step out of the picture and spend my remaining years relaxing with my family and appreciating what an extraordinary life I have been allowed to live. However, you have your entire life ahead of you. With your talent, there is no telling what you’ll accomplish – but now you have an additional gift given to you by someone who believed in you and understood some of what you’ve been through.”
Kimberly looked down at the papers and considered how her life had changed since the day she first met Edwin. At times it seemed as if she was living in a dream that was too fantastic to be true, and she knew that must have been the way people felt when Isaac reached out and touched their lives.
But as thrilling as it was to be given a fortune, her overwhelming joy wasn’t for the money itself – it was for all the good she would be able to do with it. And for the first time, Kimberly believed she truly understood why she’d been chosen by Isaac. It was because, through her, he was ensuring that his compassion would live on for decades to come.