Brisk October breezes stirred the red and gold leaves outside my warm kitchen window that year. I was just taking pumpkin pies out of the oven when the phone rang. "Linda!" Dad said, his voice quivering, "It’s your mom. She’s collapsed in the hall and I can’t get her up alone! Please hurry."
In his confusion, Dad neglected to hang up the phone. Since I couldn’t disconnect from his line, I sent my daughter next door to call 911, the emergency number, and request an ambulance. Then I rushed to my father’s side.
Despite all that was done to save her, Mom was gone. We took Dad home from the hospital and tried to determine the necessary events of the days ahead. Neighbors of thirty years and many friends streamed by, offering sympathy and help. It was touching and overwhelming to see so much love and compassion on our behalf.
Among those offering help was Clark Anderson, a highway patrol officer whose wife had served as one of Mom’s counselors in the ward Relief Society presidency. "I’m so sorry, Wilson; how can I help?" Clark asked my father.
Dad responded with thanks but said that really everything had been taken care of. Brother Anderson was emphatic: "You don’t understand. I want to help. What can I do?" He stood there silently as Dad again assured him that he couldn’t think of anything. Then the man said something to my father I’ve never forgotten: "Let me have your shoes." Dad looked surprised.
"What do you want with my shoes, Clark?" he asked.
"You’ll be busy the next few days, and I know how to put a nice shine on your dress shoes. Please let me shine your shoes."
With tears in his eyes, Dad returned from the bedroom with his dress shoes in hand. "You really don’t need to do this, Clark," Dad said, handing the man his shoes.
"Yes, I do," Clark answered.
Within a few hours, Brother Anderson returned with Dad’s shined shoes. Dad chuckled as he thanked him for the favor, almost embarrassed that someone had helped in such a personal way. "Now let me have your other shoes," Brother Anderson said.
Again puzzled, Dad asked, "What for?"
"Well, you’ll need a shine on the others to match this pair."
Reluctantly, Dad brought out his other shoes and gave them to Brother Anderson. The next day, the shoes were returned, so well polished you could see yourself in the reflection.
Over the days and weeks that followed, Brother Anderson faithfully returned and continued to shine Dad’s shoes. Finally one day, Dad said to Brother Anderson, "Clark, if you’re going to insist on shining my shoes, I would like you to teach me how you put such a shine on them." Brother Anderson agreed.
Through that initial act of simple kindness, a friendship grew. Soon the two men were spending their spare time together seeking out bargains at yard sales and thrift stores, sharing a meal out here and there, and just visiting.
Recently, Dad passed away. Again, Brother Anderson came to help. We asked him to speak at Dad’s funeral, and he spoke of friendship and love. My memory of his exact words may fade, but I will long recall the simple, thoughtful service he provided when he polished Dad’s shoes.
(Linda J. Roberds)