Some years ago there lived in an English city a man whom I shall call Fred Armstrong.
He worked in the local post office. He was called 'dead-letter man' because he handled
mail whose addresses were faulty or hard to read. He lived in an old house with his
little wife and even smaller daughter and tiny son.
After supper he liked to sit in his easy chair and tell his children of his
latest exploits in delivering lost letters. He considered himself quite a detective.
There was no cloud on his modest horizon. No cloud... until one sunny morning when
his little boy suddenly fell ill. Within 48 hours the child was dead. In his sorrow, Fred
Armstrong's soul seemed to die. The mother and their little daughter, Marian, struggled
to control their grief, determined to make the best of it. Not so with the father. His life
was now a dead letter with no direction. In the morning,
Fred rose from his bed and went to work like a sleep walker. He never spoke unless
spoken to and he ate his lunch alone. He sat like a statue at the supper table and went
to bed early. Yet, his wife knew that he lay most of the night with his eyes open,
staring at the ceiling. As the months passed, his apathy seemed to deepen. His wife told
him that such despair was unfair to their lost son and unfair to the living. But nothing that
she said seemed to reach him. It was coming close upon Christmas. One bleak afternoon
at work Fred sat on his high stool and moved a new pile of letters under the electric lamp.
On the top of the stack was an envelope that was clearly undeliverable. In crude block
letters were penciled the words: SANTA CLAUS NORTH POLE... Fred started to throw it
away, when some impulse made him pause. He opened the letter and read:
Dear Santa Claus,
We are very sad in our house this year, and I don't want you to bring me anything. My
little brother went to heaven last spring. All I want you to do when you come to our
house is to take Brother's toys to him. I'll leave them in the corner by the kitchen stove;
his hobby horse and train and everything. I know he'll be lost up in heaven without them,
most of all his horse. He always liked riding it so much. So you must take them to him,
please. And, you needn't mind leaving me anything. But, if you could give Daddy something
that would make him like he used to be, and make him tell me stories, I do wish you would.
I heard him say to Mommy once that only eternity could cure him. Could you bring him some
of that and I will be your a good little girl.
That night Fred walked home at a faster gait. In the winter darkness he stood in the dooryard
garden for just a moment. Then, he opened the kitchen door. He hugged his wife and asked
his little daughter if she was ready to hear a story.