The God Squad: A card from Tommy delivered by a homeless angel
I got a holiday card from Tommy this week.
Father Tom Hartman, my partner and pal, has been dead since Feb. 16. 2016, but the card came last week. It was mailed two days before Christmas this year to the wrong address by the people (also angels) at the Holy Apostles soup kitchen on 296 Ninth Ave, New York, NY 10001 (Yes, you can send them a contribution). The letter finally made its way back and forth across America and finally made it to my home here in Florida. The letter was a thank you card.
Wendy Shepherd from the soup kitchen staff wrote a note to me on the outside of the envelope that held the thank you card: “Good Day, the enclosed card was misaddressed by one of our guests. I am pleased to send it on properly.” On the outside, the card had a drawing of a vase with pink and yellow flowers and the words, “Thanks So Much…” On the inside were the printed words, “… I couldn’t have managed without you!” There was also a handwritten note from a woman named V. “Dear Rabbi Gellman, every week I look forward to reading your articles. You have been a coach to me for about 30 years. I wish you have a very wonderful holiday.” I cried for a long time. I cried for V’s humility and kindness. I cried for my unabated grief at Tommy’s death. I cried because of the enduring brokenness of our world. I cried because that card from V is not just a paper thing. It is a holy thing.
I do not know if V is homeless but she is certainly very poor. I do know that she needs the people at the Holy Apostles soup kitchen to provide her with a hot meal or a sandwich or a bottle of water and an apple or what the prophet Isaiah called, “A shelter in the storm.”
I do know that V has more to complain about than any of us and yet she found the time and the money to buy a card with a picture of flowers and a stamp and then she took the time to write to me words of thanks and encouragement and blessing. I do know that V is an angel who, with or without Tommy’s help, gave me the confidence to know that my words are sometimes heard by people who need to hear them and that makes all of the words worthwhile.
The reason I suspect Tommy’s hand behind V’s note is that 30 years is not the length of time I have been writing this column, so it could not have been the time I was “coaching” V. However, 30 years is just about the time I have known Tommy and loved him from the deep place in my heart. So, I suspect that Tommy put her up to this one way or another. It was one of his signs to me that he is fine and that we are still connected. We spent lots of time in soup kitchens serving food with angels. It was a belated Hanukkah card from my best friend sent through a hungry angel. The truth is that Tommy coached me more than I ever coached him.
Next week, on Tuesday, we will mourn the fifth year since Tommy’s death. I remember how I asked him to send me signs from Heaven when he had the time just to let me know that his soul was thriving in the light of God.
The card was perfect and so was our love. May he rest in peace. I couldn’t have managed without him.
Q: Why do we continue to pray for those who are departed from earth? During my morning prayer I have started talking to my deceased wife in the same manner that I talked to God. I later had an experience like you described in a previous column in which Tommy told you about a dream where he was to inform you about one of your departed friends. In my heart I now know that she is with God and I should pray to her not for her, but much like Catholics pray to the saints asking them to intercede for them with God. I mostly ask for wisdom to know when a member of our large family needs help and how I might be able to assist them now that she is no longer with us. I also know that I will continue to miss her as long as I live, but much of my grief is now joy knowing that she is with God. -- J in NC
A: Your talking is your praying. May God receive her soul and comfort you, and may God introduce her to Tommy!
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)
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