On a brisk autumn day, friends and neighbors gathered at the edge of Warner’s field where food was laid out on planks. Wild game roasted over an open fire and children climbed on low branches and hid from each other behind trunks of the largest oaks. With the country still at war, the mood was somber and the absence of young men obvious. Amos was glad for the folks who came to comfort and bear up those who had heard little or nothing from their loved ones for two years. He was glad for the ones who came to be comforted and reassured.
When Amos stepped forward, every solemn face focused on him, every voiced silenced, except whimpers from someone’s baby. He dug his heel into the ground and cleared his throat. He read again President Lincoln’s proclamation delivered to the nation a few weeks before.
At the end of it, Mr. Warner’s deep voice resounded, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”
Other voices joined in harmony. “Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”
In the hush of the moment after the “amen,” a voice beckoned with strength and boldness. “I have a few words before we take our leave.” Alf Williamson limped forward and gestured to the fire pit. “The aroma will force me to keep this short.”
A few chuckles sounded from the crowd. He leaned hard with his right hand against his walking stick and looked down at trousers that were folded up where a leg once held him steady and tall.
“I am only part of what I used to be.” He gazed beyond the crowd. “Before the war I was whole, strong, hardworking, dedicated to my goals. That strength was taken from me. So were my goals. I came home broken, defeated, without hope and purpose. What good is a man who cannot provide for his family” He paused and scanned the faces. “Yet I stand here to proclaim that I am stronger than before. Why? God took the place of my own strength, my own goals. I am not what I was.” He paused, pressed his lips together. “No …thank God … I am more. The Lord has blessed me with family and friends who would not let me despair—” When he caught Amos’s gaze, his voice broke.
Amos came and stood beside Alf. He bowed his head and began to sing. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Again, the others joined in.
Solemn in his hopes for an end to the war, Amos was convinced of the need for one another.
copyrighted excerpt from “The Stone House”-book two of the Stone’s Hope series by Danyce Gustafson