What Was Left
John stood in the driveway, looking at the old house he knew so well. He’d hung the shutters, retiled the roof, repaired the windows, and fixed dozens of other things during his time there.
He couldn’t believe it was now his. He unlocked the door and walked inside. But when he saw what she had left on the table, he couldn’t contain his tears.
89-year-old Judith Almodovar had lived in rural Alaska all her life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She loved the wide-open spaces and deep quiet, far away from the city. Although life here was simple, it had been good to her.
She had married the love of her life 69 years ago, given him two children, and now she was content to sit with him on the porch as they grew old together. But then, tragedy struck.
Judith’s husband Willie suddenly fell ill. After a few days in the hospital, he lost his battle with pneumonia and passed away unexpectedly. Judith was devastated.
Despite their advanced age, she had never really thought about what she’d do if Willie passed away before her. She just couldn’t come to grips with the fact that he was gone. She didn’t know how to live without him.
Unfortunately, Judith’s children had never shared her love for rural Alaska. They had packed up and left for Washington State as soon as they were old enough to leave home.
Now that Judith was all alone, her daughters offered to take her in if she was willing to move, but she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her home. She had deep roots in Alaska – for reasons that nobody but Willie would understand.
Judith had moved to Alaska with her parents when she was just five years old. She had met her future husband on the first day of school, and they eventually married.
Willie built a one-bedroom cottage on a family member’s ranch with his own two hands so they would have somewhere to live. But what was meant to be a temporary solution turned into an ongoing problem.
By the time Willie passed away, it felt like the little house he’d built had been repaired a thousand times. It was a sore point for Judith’s daughters, too.
They kept telling her that she should demolish it once and for all, pack up her things, and come to live in Washington. But Judith couldn’t bring herself to do it. But how would she keep up with all the repairs now that she was alone?
Luckily, Judith was friends with her neighbors who lived on the next ranch, so they offered to lend her a helping hand.
However, they were also getting on in years and weren’t able to do the constant manual labor required to keep the house in a livable condition. Besides, they had problems of their own.
The Turleys had a 25-year-old son named John. He had recently moved back in with his parents after struggling with homelessness for years. But John hadn’t found the small Alaskan town to be as welcoming as he had hoped.
Although John hated having to rely on his parents, he wasn’t able to find steady employment to make it on his own. Could John be the solution to Judith’s problem?
John was young and strong, so he volunteered to help Judith with the house. He repaired the leaky roof, added more insulation, fixed the shutters, and did dozens of other odd jobs to make Judith’s life more comfortable.
Although Judith tried to pay him for his work, he always refused. After all, he owed her a huge debt.
Living With A Stigma
When John had first arrived in town, word spread through the tight-knit community like wildfire. Everyone knew he’d been homeless. And everywhere he went, people stared and whispered. He’d been called a bum, a leech, and worse. Worst of all? Nobody would employ him.
But Judith and Willie had always been kind to him. They told him he was welcome for dinner in their home any time. John wanted to repay their kindness, so he vowed to take care of Judith any way he could. But he couldn’t have known what fate had in store.
A Special Bond
John kept his word and took care of Judith. He picked up her groceries, cleaned up her house, and kept up with all the repairs. Judith loved his company, and their bond grew stronger.
Although John wouldn’t take Judith’s money, she tried to repay him in other ways. She’d knit him scarves, repair his clothes, and cook him dinner every night. But not everyone was pleased with the arrangement.
John’s parents were not happy when they found out that he’d been working for Judith for free. They wanted him to find gainful employment so he could start contributing to the household bills – after all, they had been supporting him for years now.
They were furious when they found out that he couldn’t look for a job because he was spending so much time at Judith’s house. Something had to give.
John’s parents decided enough was enough. They gave him an ultimatum: find a job or get out.
While John understood their dilemma, he was shocked to learn that they did not approve of him helping Judith. Judith was well-loved in the community, and she’d always go out of her way to help anybody else. He was faced with an impossible decision.
John had made his decision. He packed his bags to go and live on the street again. Of course, his parents didn’t want to see their son homeless again, but they weren’t willing to support him either.
There were no opportunities in rural Alaska for a man like him, so he decided to go back to the city and leave everything behind. But what about Judith?
Trying To Get By
Without John, Judith struggled to get by. Her daughters kept insisting that she should leave it all behind and move to Washington, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it.
She had so many happy memories in this old house – it was all she had left. If she left, she would be leaving Willie and a part of herself, too. But, after just three weeks, something happened that made the decision for her.