Category Archives: Father Tom Stories

A collection of Father Tom stories that I have written over the past years. New ones will be added regularly. One of my writing instructors used to say write about things you have lived – so I have. The Father Tom stories incorporate experiences I have had over the years as a Presbyterian minister with my love of the pipe. Many of the circumstances and events of the stories as well as the settings are part of the regular story of my life. They are here for your reading pleasure. It is my hope that they will give you a bit of pleasure as you read them. If they do, they have achieved what I imagined for them. Enjoy!

Father Tom – After the prayers have been said

Blog by Steve Laug

Avatar3It has been a long time since I posted a new Father Tom story. I have been fiddling with this one for quite a while now. I think it captures the thoughts that I wanted it to so I am putting it up here for those of you who have enjoyed the earlier stories to read. I am in the process of putting the earlier Father Tom stories into a book. I had hoped that it would be finished by now – but it is not. I may well get it done this summer as I have some time that I can spend writing as my travels for work are less this year. Besides that, I have three or four more Father Tom stories that I am working on that I will post here in the days ahead.

Father Tom closed his prayer book and stood quietly as the last people left the graveside and dwindled away. There were just a few people who had come out to the graveside for the burial service of the older woman he had just committed into the ground and God’s care. She had no family and very few friends in the city. She had outlived most of her peers in her hometown and had only lived in Vancouver for a few years – not a lot of time to gather close friends.Those who had come out were an odd assortment of people from her retirement home. Even the ones that came to the cemetery were mere acquaintances and really they had no fond memories of the deceased. It seemed to Father Tom that funerals always seemed to bring out interesting spectators. He had learned this through the years of his ministry. He waited in silence by the grave as they made their way back to their cars.

It was a sunny afternoon with no wind – an unusual respite from the normal October rains. The grass was dry and the gravel paths through the Mountainview Cemetery were nicely laid out. It would be a great place for some time to walk and think. He had ridden with the funeral director to the graveside and had told him he would walk home. He was looking forward to some time alone without interruptions or demands – just the quiet that only cemeteries offer. He needed the space and time to think and reflect; and God knows that he had lots to think about today. He had received some disturbing news yesterday.

As the backhoe appeared at the graveside to refill the hole he stepped back and reached in his pocket for his pipe and pouch. He opened the pouch and loaded a bowl with some new tobacco that he was trying. It smelled wonderful and the few bowls he had smoked of it already were delightful. It was just what he needed to move him from a place of fretting to quiet. He pinched some tobacco with his fingers and stuffed it into the bowl until it full. He put the pipe in his mouth and checked the draw as he lit the tobacco with his lighter. He tamped it and relit it. The second light took and soon he stood lost in his smoke, oblivious to the sounds of the backhoe.

He mulled over the news that he had received from Doctor Mac aided by the distance that a pipe gave him. The doctor’s office had called about some of the results of his recent physical. The doctor had wanted him to go for a bit of blood work prior to the physical and he had complied. The trouble was that the lab had not sent the results in time for the doctor’s visit. That was no big deal normally. His blood work was usually clear so it had caused him no worries. But the doctor’s office had called and said they wanted him to stop by as there some concerns regarding his blood work. He always found that kind of call unnerving. His mind spun through a list of horrible possibilities. He hated that tendency in himself but that was where he always went. He hoped that the walk home through the quiet cemetery, smoking a bowl or two of tobacco would take his mind off his worries and give him some much needed perspective. The pipe always gave him the ability to look at his concerns from a distance and weigh them objectively. It was one of the reasons he loved his pipe and considered it his favoured companion.

As he walked along the path through the cemetery he was transported from the uncertainty of the doctor’s news to a place of quietude that a good pipe delivers. He was lost in the flavours, the textures of the pipe, the smells that invaded his senses and the cloud of rich smoke that gathered around his head and trailed behind him. His mind was quiet and his scattered and anxious thoughts slipped away with the cadence of puffing his pipe. Slowly he disengaged from his fears and troubles, calmed by the familiar comfort of his pipe. In the quiet space that it created he recited one of his favourite prayers from the AA Big Book – The Third Step Prayer and relaxed. The words like the smoke lifted his thoughts outward. Here are the words he prayed.

The Third Step Prayer
from page 63 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

Praying those words and puffing his pipe he made his way homeward. Finally he was able to have a bit of perspective that enabled him to cease struggling and be still in the midst of the questions that had earlier plagued him. He would face tomorrow as tomorrow came. He had well learned the lesson that each day had trouble enough in its own right to have to borrow more from tomorrow. He finished his first bowl as he crossed King Edward and headed down the hill on Fraser toward Kingsway. He paused on the north side of the cross walk and loaded another bowl of tobacco to smoke for the remainder of his walk.

When he arrived at his home, he opened the gate and climbed the stairs to his porch. Standing at his front door he found himself wondering about what to do for dinner. He had given Mrs. Conti the day off so he was on his own. He put his keys back in his pocket and sat on a chair while he surveyed the options from the comfort of his porch. He continued smoking his pipe without a thought of the concerns that had captured him in the cemetery. With his mind made up he went down the stairs, out the gate and headed up the street to his favourite Chinese noodle house. A chicken hot pot with some spring rolls on the side would do him well. He could sip some nice Oolong tea and enjoy the quiet space while he waited for his dinner. Besides that, Eva, the waitress there knew him well and knew how to keep him on his toes.

With his pipe still in his mouth he pushed open the door of the Noodle House, greeted Eva, the waitress he had come to know from years of eating in the same establishment and went to his normal booth. Eva brought him a glass of hot tea, and without a comment regarding his pipe laid a menu down in front of him. Both Eva and Tom knew he did not need the menu but it was part of their ritual. He took his pipe from his mouth and laid it down, picked up the menu and thumbed through its pages. Eva chuckled as he finished and ordered his usual. He sipped the tea and turned the pipe over in his hands while he waited for the hot pot to arrive. Once again his mind began to worry at the impending doctor’s visit but quietly repeated the prayer he had prayed earlier in the afternoon. Just as he finished Eva brought the clay pot of chicken and vegetables. She gave her standard warning as she placed in front of him, “Be careful, very hot, very hot”.

She turned and left Tom to his own devices. She had long ago learned that he liked to at least pretend he knew how to use chopsticks and the soup spoon. He picked the tools up and opened the lid of the hot pot. The aromas of the baked mixture rose to his nose and he began to navigate the bowl. He ate in silence and savoured the meal. It was always good to eat a hot pot at the Noodle House. It satisfied his hunger and left him feeling satisfied. When he finished he tamped the tobacco in his pipe, put it in his mouth and went to the counter to pay his bill. He stood inside the door and lit the pipe, waved to Eva and headed home.

He hesitated on his front porch, not wanting to go inside and have to start thinking again. So he sat on a chair and finished his bowl of tobacco and enjoyed the end of a good bowl. He tapped out his ashes over the edge of the railing and went to the front door. He turned the key in the lock and went into his home. He hung his hat and jacket on the hall tree and went to change into his comfortable clothes. He shed the collar and black priestly uniform and put on his favourite flannel shirt, cardigan and jeans. He slipped on his moccasins and headed out to the parlour. It was time to have a sip or two of good bourbon and enjoy another pipe while he read for a while. No one knocked on the door, the phone did not ring and as the pipe went out he soon fell asleep in his chair. In the morning when Mrs. Conti came in to make breakfast she found him fast asleep in his chair. He still clasped the pipe in his hand and the empty bourbon glass sat on the table next to him.

“Poor man. It must have been a hard day with the funeral and such. Not an easy job for any human being. Hmmph”, she said as she made her way to the kitchen. She went about her morning ablutions of creating Father Tom’s standard fare. She knew what he liked and as a creature of habit rarely if ever veered from his normal pattern. She made a pot of fresh coffee that brewed while she fried the bacon. She sliced some of her home made marble rye bread and prepared it for toast. She laid out the table for the breakfast and waited to cook the eggs until the good Father finished his morning ritual. She had worked for him long enough to know his routine. She knew that very soon he would make his way to the kitchen. She waited to hear him rouse and then would pour a cup of coffee and have it in hand when he came through the kitchen door.

The smell of coffee and bacon soon roused Father Tom and he sat up with a start. It took him a few moments to orient himself to where he was. He rubbed his eyes and took in the parlour and had to chuckle at himself when he realized that he had slept in his chair. He emptied the pipe that he had in his hand and refilled the bowl to smoke with his coffee. He lit the pipe and once he had a good burn on the tobacco he got up and stumbled to the kitchen for the cup of coffee. When he came through the door Mrs. Conti held out the cup of coffee to him and he took it with a nod of his head. Not a word came from his mouth. The smoke billowed from his pipe as he stood there with cup in hand. He took his first sip and sighed with contentment. Mrs. Conti had long ago learned that he did not communicate until he had had that coffee. He sipped the first cup of coffee as he made his way to the shower and finished it as he adjusted the water. He stood under the water for a long time just letting the spray wash over him; slowly but surely he began to wake up and his mind began to recognize his world.

He turned off the water and dried himself off. He brushed his teeth and then reached into the tin of tobacco that sat on the counter top. One of his habits was to leave a tin in almost every room. That way no matter what room he was in he could load a bowl. He filled the pipe, packed it and drew on it. It was perfect so he lit it with the lighter in his pocket. He ran a comb through his hair and adjusted the clothes he had on and made his way to the table. As he passed through the kitchen he could see the eggs were frying in the pan. He poured himself a refill of coffee and took a pull on the pipe. He savoured the good taste of the tobacco and sipped his second mug of coffee. He felt almost human. He finally was able to say good morning to Mrs. Conti and made his way to the breakfast table.

The place had been set; he laid down his coffee mug and took a sip of the orange juice that was waiting. He set his pipe on the table and took a deep breath. Mrs. Conti brought him a plate of bacon and eggs with a side of toast and jam. He settled into the morning ritual of breakfast. There was comfort for him in repeated patterns. He repeated the prayer from the day before and finished his breakfast. He pushed back his chair and sat for a while finishing his pipe. He was quiet and thoughtful this morning – no harm in that. He thought about getting dressed for the day and then walking to his doctor’s office. All would be okay with the impending doctor’s visit today. He would move ahead a day at a time and see what awaited him.

Before he left the table he refilled his pipe and lit it. He sat quietly for a few more minutes until he had the pipe smoldering well. He sipped on the smoke and let the cares of the day ahead fall off him. It never ceased to amaze him how the smoke of a pipe seemed to slow down his mind and give him the ability to cast off his cares. It seemed that there was something sacramental almost in the very act of smoking a pipe. Whatever it was it had the ability to lift a pipeman above his troubles and give the space needed to refocus his thoughts. He dressed and went back to the kitchen to tell Mrs. Conti he would see her later. He closed the front door behind him and headed out the gate for the walk to the appointment. The distance to the office would give him time to enjoy a bowl or maybe two and prepare for whatever news that awaited him there.


Father Tom – A Serendipitous Encounter in Frankfurt

Father Tom heard the announcement over the intercom at Heathrow that his plane was now boarding so he hurriedly left the smoking cage and made straight for the gate for his flight to Budapest. He knew that he would change planes in Frankfurt on the way and was hoping to get the chance to pick up some pipe tobacco from the Duty Free on the layover there. He also hoped that Jack Spratt and his wife from the Vancouver/London flight would not be on the same plane.  He was weary of obnoxious passengers. He wanted to have a little quiet down time to read over his notes for the conference in Budapest. His pipe still hung unconsciously in his mouth, though the tobacco was long since burned away and the dottle disposed of in the cage. He absentmindedly touched the pipe at different points in his walk to the gate. People would glare at him as he walked along oblivious to their stares and pointed comments about not smoking. If he had noticed he would likely have had some witty repartee to give back to them.

By the time he boarded the Frankfurt bound plane he had returned the pipe to his jacket pocket without much intention, so he had no further problems. It seemed too fortunate to be true that his troublesome travel companions were not on this plane, as he was used to a bit of hassle on his flights. He settled into his seat on the aisle so that his right leg could straighten out in the aisle once they were underway. His leg always gave him problems when he sat too long so he had learned to accommodate his aches and pains. The takeoff was uneventful and his seatmates were soon sleeping. While he read through his materials for the seminar in Budapest, he reached in his pocket and stuck his pipe in his mouth and unconsciously gnawed on it. The flight attendant made it a point to remind him of the no smoking rules.  He pointed to the bowl showing that it was empty and commented that it was his soother and would keep him quiet on the flight. As an afterthought he said, “You wouldn’t want a cranky old man whinging on this leg of the trip.” With that the flight attendant laughed, shook her head and continued down the aisle.

He settled into his reading and writing, interrupted only by the food and beverage service – some type of dark bread and a strong cheese,served with a thimble sized cup of strong coffee. He missed his mug of fine coffee and grimaced as he sipped the strong, dark, lukewarm brew. He was looking forward to finally landing in Budapest. The conference was scheduled for three days so he had booked several extra days following the conference so that he could do some sightseeing and visit the local tobacconists. He had searched online for and found some pipe shops that looked interesting. As he thought about that he took the pipe from his mouth, held it in his hand and looked out the window. He wondered how soon they would be landing. He was actually looking forward to the layover in Frankfurt – another bowl would be a comfort and maybe he could pick up some stout German lager as well. Within moments of his thoughts the plane began its descent and the announcement came over the speakers that they would be landing soon and should turn of electronic devices… He chuckled and said to himself, “That wish did not take long to be granted.”

The plane landed smoothly and taxied to gate. The passengers quickly maneuvered their way off the plane. About mid-stream among the disembarking crowd was Father Tom. His pipe hung from his mouth as he clutched his briefcase in his hand. He had put his flat cap on and he was a man on a mission. Once off the plane he looked for a smoking area where he could fire up his pipe. Seeing none, he asked at the information desk where he might find one. Somehow in his bumbling German he was able to understand where he was being directed…or at least he thought he understood. So he started on his way toward the spot pointed out to him. When he arrived he realized that something had been lost in the translation as he found himself standing in another queue for Security. He was trapped in a line that could not be exited so he moved forward with the crowd. When he arrived at the desk of the Security Officer he was asked to put his bag, coat and shoes on the belt to be scanned. He did as he was told but forgot to take the pipe from his mouth. The officer pointed at the pipe so he looked down to see his pipe in his mouth and placed it in the tray as well.

When he had passed through the scanner he realized that he was still in the gate area of the airport and had actually moved to the sets of gates where his next plane would depart. He went to the information desk and asked again for the smoking area. The attendant had a blank look on her face so he pointed to his pipe and acted out smoking… she nodded. She understood and pointed him to the area. Ah… finally he had accomplished at least a part of his mission. He expected a cage like the one at Heathrow so you can imagine his surprise when he found the newly renovated smoking lounge in Frankfurt airport. It was beautiful and new. He found a comfortable seat in an unoccupied corner of the room and soon was totally oblivious to anyone else in the room, happy to have achieved his mission. He filled his bowl, lit, tamped and relit the pipe and soon he was quietly enjoying the solitude of his smoke. He became almost invisible in a cloud of sweet Virginia smoke. No one sat near him so he could get lost in his thoughts and enjoy himself thoroughly.


Suddenly his quiet repast was interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. He came back to the present and was prepared to give a ready retort to anyone asking him to put out his pipe; but before he could speak the chap at the other end of the hand came into focus.  It was an older gentleman wearing much the same dress as he did that came around the chair to stand in front of him. He even sported a pipe in his mouth. He was saying something and Father Tom had to quickly shake away his surprise and listen. The older gent seemed to guess Tom had not heard him, so with a twinkle in his blue eyes he repeated himself.

“Good day sir. May I join you for a bowl while I am waiting? I have been sitting in this room in the opposite corner smoking a bowl by myself when I saw you come in. I thought to myself it would be a fine thing to have a word or two with a fellow pipeman. Do you mind?” said the old gentleman.

Father Tom shook his head in amazement and said, “I apologize for my speechless surprise a moment ago. I am so used to having to defend my right to smoke my pipe that I was shocked to see a pipe in your mouth. I had no idea there was another pipe smoker in the room. Certainly, it would be great to have you join me for a bowl. What are you smoking? What kind of pipe is that you have?”

And with those questions the agenda for the layover was set. The thought of a pint of lager quickly disappeared from his mind as the good father and the old fellow exchanged names and settled into the kind of conversation pipemen the world over enter into with one another with little effort. The older gent’s name was John and he lived in Oxford, England. He was also heading to Budapest for a business meeting regarding some materials his company was exporting to Hungary. They enjoyed a great hour and a half smoking and talking about pipes they owned or had sold, ones that were on the wish list and old tobaccos that they missed. They heard the intercom announcement for their flight and headed for the plane to Budapest. On the way out the door they tapped out the dottle from their pipes into an ashtray on one of the tables. They chatted on their way to their gate and made arrangements to get together after their meetings and check out the local pipe shops. They both had done some homework and had come up with the same two shops that each of them had on his list to visit – the Pipatorium and Gallwitz Tobacconist. It was likely a curious sight to behold for the other travelers, as the two older men, each with an empty pipe in his mouth, chatting up a storm made their way down the aisle. They were like long lost brothers reunited after years of being apart.  They traded seats with another passenger so they could sit together and soon were lost in an ongoing discussion. The flight to Budapest went quickly and soon they had landed. They left the plane, picked up their luggage and parted company for their respective hotels.

John said, “See you on Wednesday when I am finished and we can spend the evening laying out the plans for our walkabout on Thursday. Who knows we may find a couple other shops to check out as well. I know that Davidoff has a shop here and there is also a Cigar shop shaped like a tube that we can check out near the Vaci Utca. Hope you enjoy your conference.”

Father Tom responded, “Talk to you soon John. I am looking forward to Wednesday evening. We can have some dinner and a bit of Hungarian wine and layout the plan. Good luck on the business meetings.”

They left the plane, nodded to each other as they made their way to meet their rides. As Father Tom waited for his ride he thought to himself, “What a serendipitous turn of events to meet another pipe smoker in Frankfort and to have each booked extra time on their trip to visit some tobacco shops. The trip was going to be a memorable one regardless of the outcome of their individual meetings”. The random events of travel had come together to their mutual favor, for a change from the typical trials both had known.

Steve Laug 03/22/13 Copyright 2013

Father Tom – A Problem of Focus

Father Tom was having a hard time focusing. No matter how hard he tried he could not keep his mind on the work in front of him. That would not have been bad in itself had it not been that the work to be finished was his sermon for the next day. Because of that he did not have the luxury of putting it off to another day. But the deadline did not seem to give him any impetus and his mind kept wandering in a variety of directions – none of which converged on the text of the sermon. He found himself looking at the pipes that were on his desk that needed to have his attention. The older he got the more he found delight in the restoration of pipes that he would pick up on his travels. He loved handling them and trying to listen to their stories. He loved reworking them, cleaning them, refinishing them. But today was not supposed to be about that it was about writing the sermon for Sunday. He had to try to settle down to the work at hand. What was it going to take to get his mind on task? He had the outline that he had written sitting on the desk in front of him… along with about four pipes in need of various repairs, some remnants of sandpaper that he used on them, some tenons and stems… but none of that was getting the sermon finished. Try as he might he could not focus.

Finally he gave up and turned away from trying to work on his sermon text. He knew that eventually he would get back to it but it just was not happening at the moment. He left it on the desk in front of him, just in case he had the urge to get back to it. He rationalized that a good pipe of his favourite Virginia would help him focus. He picked up his old BBB bulldog and packed it with the tobacco of choice and fired it up. As he sipped on the smoke, tamped it a few times, relit the bowl he also picked up an old pipe from the repair pile sitting on his desk. It was a promising looking GBD billiard that he had found at a flea market a few days earlier. It did not appear to need a lot of work so it would not take a lot of time to get it cleaned up. He turned it over in his hands and looked at the rim and bowl. He sniffed the bowl to see if he could identify the tobacco that remained. He looked over the damage to the rim and noted that under the buildup of tars and juices it was still smooth. Ah, he thought to himself this would be a relatively easy cleanup. Without any hesitation he took out his cleaning kit and began to wipe down the rim and bowl with a soft cloth and his special mixture to loosen the grime. He continued to smoke his pipe as he worked on the old timer. Soon he was lost in the task in front of him. All thoughts of other things were pushed to the side as he wondered about what stories this old pipe would tell if only it could speak.

He was puffing on his pipe and talking to himself while working while he worked. The old pipe in his hands had a small wad of tobacco left in the bowl. In fact it was about half full and unlit. It was as if the pipe was being filled when it was set down. It made him wonder what had interrupted the process. Where had the pipeman gone leaving behind the half-filled bowl? Why hadn’t he come back to finish packing the bowl? While mulling these things over Father Tom had finished working on the rim. It was clean so he scraped out the old tobacco onto a paper on his desk – yes onto the sermon notes if you must know. He did not even seem to notice this fact. He took out a pipe reamer and gave the bowl a quick ream to smooth out the cake. Then he took the pipe apart and worked on the inside of the shank and bowl. He used the isopropyl alcohol that also sat on his desk next to the study books – kind of a ready bookend for what he was reading… in preparing his sermon. He ran pipe cleaners through the shank to clean up the tars and dust. He finished and laid the pipe aside then picked up the stem. He was fortunate as it was fairly clean. There was no oxidation to deal with and no tooth marks. He ran pipe cleaners through it as well until they came out clean. He then put the pipe back together and took it out to his buffer.

He kept the buffer in the laundry room so that he could access it quickly from his study. He buffed the pipe and waxed it until it shone. When he was finished he carried it back to his desk. At that moment he noticed the dottle and carbon dust on his sermon, mumbled to himself, shook his head and carried his paper to the waste can next to his desk. He shook the tobacco and carbon into the can and then took a tissue from his desk, wiped off the remaining dust and tried to remove the stains from his papers. He shook his head while mumbling to himself that it did not matter and went back to the desk. He laid down his now finished pipe in the pipe rest and took the jar of tobacco from the corner of the desk. He packed the newly cleaned pipe, tamped it down and fired it up. He spoke his thoughts out loud, “Now to finish that bowl for you.”

As he sat enjoying the smoke, the thoughts of the pipe’s previous owner went through his mind. There was a satisfaction about reclaiming an old pipe and putting it back into service. He wondered again about the original pipeman who had left his bowl half packed. What had happened to him? He shook himself and turned back to work on his sermon. He smoked the “new” pipe contentedly and picked up his pen. He scanned through his notes and made a few corrections to the text. He turned to the carbon stained page and put the final touches to the manuscript. He read through his final draft as he puffed on the pipe. “Not bad, not bad at all”, he said to himself. I have no idea if he was talking about his sermon or the pipe full of Virginia that was smouldering under his nose. I guess we may never know but in fact it does not matter at all. Time to light a bowl of my own and get back to working on the pile of papers on my own desk… now where was I?

Father Tom – an odd bird in the cage

It had been a long flight from Vancouver to London, made longer and harder to endure because of the seatmates around him on the plane, Father Tom was tired.  He had been seated across the aisle from a couple who seemed to have brought a picnic basket stuffed with incredible amounts of food on the plane with them. The man was a Jack Spratt type fellow and his wife was the direct opposite. They made a comical picture for the first part of the flight but the novelty soon wore off. The man sat quietly, almost like he was not present and the woman continuously ate from the moment she took her seat in Vancouver until the plane had touched down in London. You can now imagine the size of her food hamper. The eating would not have been unbearable, but the ongoing smells that kept wafting across the aisle, the cacophony of sound of rustling wrappers and crackling papers as one package after another was opened. Added to that was the visual image of her mouth constantly opening to take in yet another goody, before she was finished chewing what was already in it! On top of that, the man behind him insisted on reading the newspaper with it virtually sitting on top of Father Tom’s head. It seemed that each time he would doze off one or the other passengers would crackle, pop or hit him on the head. The snoring of the person on his right, and the envy of his escape…, you can imagine the frustration from the lack of any rest. Yes indeed it had been a long flight without rest or distraction from the chorus of poor travel companions!

It seemed as if he was never happier than when the rubber tires hit the tarmac of the runway and the plane landed. When the seat belt sign went off he stood and put on his Harris Tweed jacket, his flat cap and took his brief case and quickly headed for the door. Once off the plane, he hung the briefcase by a strap on his shoulder and rummaged through his jacket pocket to find his pipe and tobacco pouch. He packed the bowl with a nice thick Virginia flake as he walked down to corridor of the airport. He remembered that there was a smoking cage in Heathrow near the shoeshine stand at one end of the airport. He set his sights for the cage and the tranquility of being engulfed in a cloud of blue smoke. He had long ago learned that the most ardent cigarette smoker moved away from the blue cloud and he would have space alone.

His bag bumped along against his leg as he walked. Once the pipe was packed he stuck it in his mouth and clenched it as he walked. He was oblivious to the stares of people walking by staring at the aging priest with the pipe in his mouth. I am sure several must have said something about the airport being a non-smoking environment but Father Tom would not have heard that at all. His target was in sight and he was a man on a mission. If you had been close to him you might have heard him humming a song to himself as he walked – or at least you might have thought it was a song. I think though, in reality it was a countdown in terms of steps and paces from the gate to the cage – a series of steps that he had counted before and knew by heart.

He edged his way to the cage, walking in front of several people who seemed intent on blocking his way; oblivious to their words and comments about his person and character. He had made it! He pushed open the door to the cage and entered the smoke filled room. Just inside the door he fumbled for his lighter in his pocket and brought it out to light the pipe. He struck the wheel on BIC lighter and a flamed danced over the surface of the tobacco. The first plume of smoke came out of the pipe. He tamped it with his finger, long ago calloused and impervious to the heat of the burning tobacco. He flicked the lighter and lit the tobacco and drew the smoke into his mouth to savour. Only then did he look in front of him at the crowded room.

The place was packed with a relatively young crowd – at least in comparison to him and how he felt at this time in his life. At that moment they were staring at him – an aging priest with a pipe in his mouth and smoke billowing out around his cap and whiskers. I think that they must have found him comical to look at and were wondering what he was thinking of in his moment of relief. Obviously he was totally immersed in lighting his pipe and savoring the comfort of the moment. Only at that instant did he realize that he was the only one smoking a pipe, the only one over 30, the only one with a coat and collar in the whole room. He edged his way over to a side of the room where there was a ledge on which he could set his briefcase and lean in for the smoke. He nodded to the smokers in the room as he settled in for his retreat.

At that moment he cared not to give one thought to those around him. He did not care what they were thinking or even what they were talking to one another about as he puffed contentedly on his pipe. His eyes were closed and he was lost in thought – nothing profound or philosophical, mind you – just the thought of the long awaited pipeful. He sipped it and settled in comfortably to his corner. The smoke continued to billow out of the pipe and the corners of his mouth. At one moment he blew a couple of smoke rings and probably a soft sigh of contentment.

At the apex of his smoke he was rudely awakened to the crowd around him. A young chap was patting his arm and his shoulder, not softly either but almost roughly. He was saying something and Father Tom was brought out of his reverie to find that several sparks of his tobacco were burning holes in his Harris Tweed and not only was he smoking but his jacket was as well. The young chap almost doused him with some water but Father Tom stopped him and squeezed the sparks with his thumb and forefinger and extinguished them. He winked at the chap and thanked him for his kindness and waved off the crowd. To their amazement the pipe never left his mouth through the entire event. He made the comment that this was indeed one of the best smokes he had enjoyed in quite some time and thanks to the watchfulness of the group it had not been hazardous to his health!

With a twinkle in his eye he settled back into his quietude and finished his bowl before heading back out into the hallways of Heathrow to find a pint and some bangers and mash. He had a three hour layover in London before heading on to Budapest, Hungary for the meetings he was attending.


Father Tom – Spring Had Arrived

Springtime had officially arrived in Vancouver. The tulips were ready to burst, while the snow drops were up and the cherry trees were budding and beginning to bloom. Even the rhododendrons were full of buds, waiting for a bit more warmth before opening. It was time, thought Father Tom, to clean off the winter mess from the front porch and get it ready for the spring season and the pleasures of summer smoking outside, for a change.  For him this meant firing up a “work pipe” – one that did not require concern if it fell out of his mouth or was knocked out by an exuberant swing of the broom.  He opened the door to his shop, picked a pipe off the rack of work pipes he kept there.  He filled it with tobacco from the pouch in his shirt pocket, lit it with his Bic, tamped it down with his Czech pipe tool, and relit the pipe. Once done with this ritual, he got his broom and bucket and rags to clean off the porch.

He closed the door to the shop and walked back toward the front of the house and the porch while puffing away.  Moving the chairs, table and planters down to the lawn, he prepared the porch for a good sweeping, still puffing on his pipe.  He knocked down the cob webs and leaves that hung on the hooks for the planters. He swept the floor and the walls to get them ready to be scrubbed. He filled his bucket with hot soapy water and scrubbed down the walls of the porch which turned the water in the bucket a muddy black. He then washed them down with clean hot water, removing the soap scum. Again, he filled the bucket with more soapy water and scrubbed the deck of the porch. He washed down the porch railings and the steps down to the ground, pouring the soiled water on the flower beds below the porch, before refilling the bucket each time.  Once done, he contemplatively puffed on his pipe and discovered that he had to relight it, as the task of scrubbing had caused him to forget to puff. He had found that puffing on a pipe made most things go much more smoothly.

While the deck was drying he went to work on the hanging baskets in the yard. He readied them for the new flowers he had picked up earlier that morning. He emptied the soil from the baskets into his wheel barrow. Then he sat on his chair and mixed in the new soil with the old. Once he had a good blend mixed he filled the baskets with the soil and transplanted the flowers to his hanging baskets. He sat back and took a pull on his pipe and looked them over. They looked promising and would certainly fill out as the summer came on. He looked around at his little patch of Eden – his flower garden. Things were really growing quickly, soon he would need to add more soil and clean out some of the weeds and volunteers. He had planted largely perennials so that came up each year and only needed to be filled in and thinned out a bit. He enjoyed the serenity that came to him in his garden.

By the time the baskets were finished the porch was dry. He brought the baskets up to the porch and hung them on their hooks. He carried up his planter boxes and put them on the railings. Things were looking a lot brighter and more alive. It was time to set up his porch. He went to the basement and got out the straw mat that acted like a rug on the floor of the porch. He carried out the wicker set – a love seat, two high back arm chairs and a table to hold his pipes, tobacco, books and drinks. Once he had it set up he turned on a little music and sat back on love seat with his feet on the table to enjoy his favourite time of the year. He tapped out the remaining dottle in his pipe and reloaded it with some good Virginia – McClelland’s 5100 that had 10 years of age.   He savoured the scent of the tobacco as he loaded his pipe. He had done this for so long that he scarcely needed to look as he filled the bowl. He just sat and enjoyed the warm air, the smell of fresh soil and the flowers that that had begun to give off their fragrance. He put the jar of tobacco on the table in front of him and picked up his Bic lighter and tamper. He puffed on the pipe as he drew the flame into the bowl. The first light and the puff of blue smoke that rolled from the bowl told him it was a good light. He tamped it and relit it another time. Once he saw that it was burning well, then he leaned back to relax.

One of his favourite things to do as he quietly smoked his pipe was to quietly observe what was happening in his neighbourhood. He was sitting up above the street enough that he could watch unobtrusively as life went on around him. In his peripheral vision picked up a squirrel on the fence post busily washing it face and chattering away. In the birdbath on his left two sparrows took turns splashing in the fresh water he had put out. A female robin was in the cherry tree over the bath just waiting until, in her impatience, she chased the sparrows out the bath. In the oak tree overshadowing the porch a pair of crows were cawing and making a ruckus. It was a perfect morning. He was glad that he had started early and now could enjoy the time on the porch. On the sidewalk just outside his gate two little guys went rolling by on their bicycles with training wheels, laughing and racing each other. Behind them came a third boy, who by the looks of him was their brother, careening toward them on his scooter. He knocked the younger of the two boys off his bike. There was an expected uproar with loud crying and yelling. Within seconds their mom appeared from just beyond the hedge on the neighbour’s property. She came and picked up the fallen lad and brushed off the dirt, looked at the battle scars and wiped them off with her hankie. After a quick scolding of the older brother for his carelessness the foursome were off down the street as if nothing had happened.

Silence encircled the porch world once again. Out on the street, across the parking lot, the metro buses came and went, as trucks and cars hurried back and forth. The pleasant smell of jasmine incense wafted in on the breeze from the altars in front of shops owned by Vietnamese Buddhist shopkeepers. Two houses down a group of elderly Chinese women chattered back and forth. His world was truly a global village. He had read that in his neighbourhood alone there lived immigrants from 60 different countries. It was a good place to live and see the world without leaving his porch.

Laying his pipe down, he went inside to get a cup of tea to enjoy with his pipe. He fired up the tea kettle and filled a tea bag with some bulk Earl Grey tea. He put a wee bit of milk in his mug, put the tea bag in and poured the hot water over it to steep. When it was the way he liked it he returned to his seat on the porch. He picked up one of his books off the table and contentedly puffed his pipe while reading, with a pause to sip the Earl Grey.  He could not imagine a better way to enjoy his day off than this sublime repose.

When you want to find Father Tom early or late on a Spring or Summer day, check his porch first. Follow the smells of the tobacco smoke and listen to the music filtering over the garden and you will find him on his porch of tranquility.

Father Tom – The Comforting Smell of Smoke – PART 2

Looking Over the Gift

Father Tom arrived home late that evening. It had taken him several trips back and forth from Anna’s bringing home the gifts that William had left him. The warm weather had held out and there still was no sign of rain. On the dining room table were the two cartons of tobacco and a bag with the rack of pipes. Only another pipe smoker will understand the sense of expectancy that vibrated through Father Tom as he hung up his coat and put on his slippers. He picked up one of his favourite pipes from the study and packed a bowl of Virginia to smoke. He could hardly wait to get into the dining room and go through his gifts. He lit his pipe and walked to the dining room. He had cleared the table of everything but the boxes and bag and they were waiting to be opened.

“Now where do I begin,” he said to himself as he looked at the haul. “I think I will look at the tobacco first and see what William has put there.”

He opened the box of English tobacco first. He stacked the tins of Dunhill’s Standard Mixture Full on the table. There were 24 tins of it – all were older stock as seen from the tin design, great tobacco. He also unpacked the tins of Dunhill’s Baby’s Bottom and found that there were 6 tins of that blend. In the bottom of the box were two tins of the older version of Dunhill’s Night Cap and two of Dunhill’s Royal Yacht. What a haul! These were blends he never would have had the opportunity to smoke and now thanks to William he had a good supply of them. The Night Cap and Royal Yacht were bonus as well.

“William, William, you have taken good care of me my friend. It’s amazing to sit and look at these stacked tins of tobacco. What a gift. Thank you my friend, I am at a loss for words and cannot thank you enough,” he said aloud

Tom turned each tin over in his hands to see what date William had put on the tins. Each was marked with his characteristic scrawl noting the purchase date – all were old. He was salivating as he thought of the good smokes that awaited him in these tins of tobacco. He was so preoccupied with the tins that his own pipe had gone out, which was probably just as well. He would have been chuffing on it by this time.

He carried the tins back to his study and put them in his tobacco cupboard. They filled the better part of one of the shelves. He went back to the dining room and carried out the remaining tins. He would be well stocked in aged tobacco. After arranging them on the shelf he returned to the dining room to open the second box of tobacco.

He felt like a child at Christmas. He was so excited to open the box and see its contents that he had forgotten that it also contained the tamper collection and a letter from William. As soon as he saw them he took them out of the box and laid them aside. They created an immediate dilemma for him – dilemma may be the wrong word for the discomfort he was feeling but it was nonetheless real. Should he stop and read the letter or unpack the tobacco? What should he do? The child in him won out and Father Tom turned to the box of Virginia tobaccos. He lifted out the contents a stack at a time. The first two stacks (12 tins) were Dunhill’s Elizabethan Mixture (a favourite of his). Next there were two stacks (12 tins) of Copes Escudo – the old original version in the round tins. This was his all time favourite. Next were 6 tins of the original Scottish Rattrays Old Gowrie and 6 tins of Bell’s Three Nuns – unbelievable! All of these were favourites. He had newer versions of each of them but now he had the older ones as well. These were also dated on the underside in William’s inimitable way. He took a deep breath. His pipe was all but forgotten and laying on its side on the table.

“Unbelievable, William. You certainly knew what I like tobacco wise. This is an incredible legacy to pass on to me my friend. What can I say to you?” he said softly.

He sat quietly for some time as the enormity of the gift overwhelmed him. It was an amazing thing that William had done for him with these gifts. Tom knew that William had set these aside to be given to him long before he had died. William was never a big Virginia smoker so each of these tobaccos represented a carefully chosen present for Father Tom. William had paid attention to every detail of what his friend smoked and stock piled the tobaccos that made up this second box. It was as if William were saying, “Tom, the first box, the English blends is for you to remember me. The second box, the Virginias is my way of remembering you. Smoke in health my friend. Or as you have often been fond of saying, do this in remembrance of me.” Tom wept in thankfulness and missed the physical presence of his old friend.

It was at that point he remembered the letter. He picked up his pipe and relit it as he reached for the letter and carefully opened the envelope. He took out the folded pages that smelled of pipe tobacco. William had written this to him a pipe in hand. He unfolded the pages and read:

Dear Tom

If you are reading this it means that I have left this life and arrived at my reward! It also means that Anna has given you my gift. I want you to know what you have meant to me throughout the time I have known you – what has it been some 20 years or more now? I am a man of few words and entirely unsentimental as you know, so enough of that.

You have probably guessed that the first box – if you opened them as I predicted you would has many tins of my favourite smoke. If you don’t like it too bad!! My only stipulation on this gift is that you cannot give it away – that is unless you make a gift of it to someone as I have done for you on your way out! There are also some tins of Baby’s Bottom – Anna and I got a kick out of that when we bought it on one of our London trips. It is a great smoke and one you won’t be able to smoke without hearing me laughing in your ear. All of those tins are for you to smoke in remembrance of me as you used to say! There are also a few other odds and ends for you to smoke.

The other box has some Virginia tobacs that I have been stock piling since we became  friends. I kept an eye open at what you smoked and picked these for you so that you would know that I paid attention. I figure this way when you smoke these aged Virginias you will remember that I thought of you. There you have it. The tobaccos are for times that you want to get together with me and spend a smoke remembering. If you are half the man I think you are then you will not have any trouble conjuring up our discussions. You can always reach for one of those books of yours and go from there.

I asked Anna to pass on a few pipes to you as well as my tamper collection, what it is! She should also have given you my Old Boy lighter. I know you always coveted that finicky thing. Well now it’s yours! Hope you can keep it in working order! Oh as for the pipes – they have been cleaned and made ready for your use. They have all been buffed and polished. I would have done them myself but with my shaky hands these past months I figured I would send them out and have them done correctly. They are ready for you to smoke whatever you like in them. The Dunhill’s are all patent era pipes, in my opinion the best years that Dunhill made pipes. The blasts are all gnarly deep blasts – Shells they called them. They have to be my favourites. The smooth pipes are Root Briars and Bruyeres. I like the finishes on those. The two Charatans I picked up in England from the factory. I was a lot younger then and they were a lot cheaper than you will find them these days. Enjoy them all Tom.

One last thing my friend. I also wanted you to pick through the remaining pipes and give them out to young pipe smokers who are starting out and need some good smoking pipes. I don’t care how you distribute them just make sure they get to some needy pipers.

I guess that about does it my friend. I will miss you and look forward to seeing you when you get here! Take care of my pipes. Give my love to Anna when you see her next. I am sure she already knows what is in this letter but share it with her if you want!

Warmest Regards

William 😉

PS – Check the bottom of the box – there is a pouch of some aged Virginia for you to smoke in one of these “new” pipes!

He could hear William speaking to him as he read the letter out loud. Several times he had to lay it down as his eyes filled with tears. At other points he was laughing so hard the letter shook. William never changed even in this final letter. Anna would get a kick out of it the next time he visited her. He stopped and quietly fingered the letter. William’s friendship meant a lot to him and he had often taken it for granted. Obviously William had not! He took a deep breath and sat quietly for some time just mulling over the relationship they had over the past 20+ years.

Finally he picked up the small wooden box that he had set aside on the table top when he took out the letter. It was a plain box with dovetailed corners. The bottom was covered in a green felt. He opened it and fingered through the tamper collection. William had kept a dozen tampers. Each was unique in itself. There were 2 acrylic ones made by Bill D. and 3 wooden ones with brass feet. There were 2 Dunhill Tampers in ebony and brass and even a Czech pipe tool. Besides that there were 4 pewter figurine tampers of characters from the works of Charles Dickens. They were clean and well cared for – just like William’s pipes. These would be great to use when he was smoking in his study. He had a bad habit of misplacing tampers so most of the time he carried an aluminum pipe nail. They were cheap so a loss was no big deal. He would not want to lose these though! He closed the box and set it aside.

He drew the bag closer to him and lifted the rack out so that he could examine it. It was a dark cherry wood rack made to hold the pipes in profile and display them to their best advantage. The upper slots were padded with dark felt to prevent damage to the stems. The bottom of the rack was cupped and lined with felt to provide a secure base. He lifted out the pipes and laid them on the table in the order they were arranged on the rack. He looked first at the Dunhill Shell Briars. There were six of them, all straight pipes – three long shanked Canadians and three billiards. He looked at the date stamps on each of them and noted that there was one from each year from 1920-1925. They had a craggy, gnarly appearance to them. The deep blasts were very tactile and he could imagine how they would feel with the heat radiating from them. The stems were in perfect shape, no bite marks or scratches. The fit and finish of each was impeccable. Only William would have a collection like this.

The other four Dunhill pipes included two Root Briars and two Bruyeres. These pipes were all from the 1930’s and represented different years. The Root Briars included an apple and a billiard. The Bruyeres included a prince and billiard. This was a beautiful collection of early Dunhill pipes. He had never seen them all together before now. William had kept his collection private. So to see them together was astonishing and to think that all of them were in stellar condition. He would take good care of them. The last two pipes in the rack were Charatan pipes one a Supreme and the other a Selected. These were beautiful pipes – the first a classic Charatan Dublin shape and the other a straight grained billiard. This was a stunning collection and it raised the quality of his collection of pipes. William had left him some amazing pieces of pipe history.

He sat for a long time just staring at the pipes. He carefully placed them back in their respective slots in the rack. He then picked one of the Shell Briars the 1920, a Canadian, to smoke. He stood up to go and get some tobacco and remembered the PS in William’s letter. In the bottom of the box was a bulging leather Dunhill tobacco pouch. He opened it and inhaled – Three Nuns. He would not forget that smell ever! He packed it in the old Shell Briar, lit it with the Old Boy lighter and sat back in his chair at the dining room table and smoked the bowl. By the time he had finished it was late.

He was overwhelmed with the magnitude of William’s gift to him. He would call Anna in the morning to pass on his thanks. She would laugh at his tale of the unpacking process and be thrilled that he was enjoying it already.

He raised his pipe and said, “Thank you again my dear friend. I am sure you know the depth of gratitude I feel toward you. I miss you William. Until we meet again”.

I am certain dear reader that William winked at Father Tom from the beyond and chuckled to himself as he drew in on the best smoke that he had ever tasted! His collection was in the right hands.


Father Tom – The Comforting Smell of Smoke – PART 1

The Comforting Smell of Smoke

Father Tom got up from his desk and looked out the window. The rain had finally stopped, it had been a steady rain since he had started working at his desk around 5:30am. The early spring was a tough time in Vancouver as everyone had grown weary of the grey skies and the rain. Even the soggy landscape was tired of it. Sprouts of green had pushed through the soil as if checking to see if it was time to break out. Today was a respite for everything – even the birds seemed to sing more loudly. Trees seemed to stand up straighter and lift bud- laden branches toward the sun. Father Tom knew that “sun worshipping” Vancouverites had already filled the outside tables at every coffee shop and restaurant and the benches in the parks.

That afternoon, Father Tom had arranged a visit with Anna, the widow of one of his old parishioners and a dear friend. She lived within walking distance so he lit a pipe and began the walk. He enjoyed walking as it gave him time to reflect. Today was no exception; he took the time to think about Anna’s husband William. He was a classic old gentleman always dressed in a suit and tie. When home he removed his coat, but not the tie, and put on the same old cardigan each time. There was always a pipe in his mouth and he loved smoking aged English tobaccos. His favourite blend was Dunhill’s Standard Mixture Full. It was a blend that was no longer available but William had many tins of it in his cellar. Odds were that they were probably still there in his study in the credenza by the window where he kept his tobacco and pipes. Father Tom’s memory was filled with visions of William and him deep in discussion with pipes smouldering, sitting comfortably in the old leather wing back chairs in the study. The smell of the rich tobacco was tantalizingly present in his thoughts. William had been a fine man. This afternoon would be a good visit. It would be a pleasure to sit with Anna and share stories and memories of William.

Father Tom was so deeply engrossed in thought that he almost walked passed Anna’s house. It was a lovely cottage style house located across the street from a park. The front yard was still a well manicured English garden. Anna maintained it with the help of a neighbourhood gardener. He opened the gate and walked up the path to the steps. He put his pipe in a pocket of his Harris Tweed jacket. As he came to the front door he removed his cap and knocked. It only took Anna a minute to answer the door. She was one of those women who had become more beautiful with age and retained her charm and grace in a wizened visage crowned by white hair drawn up in a bun.

“Hello Father,” she said “Do come in. I have the tea and biscuits ready. I thought that we would sit in William’s study. I haven’t changed a thing in and it is a comfort for me to sit there and feel his presence.”

“Anna it is good to see you. I think that William’s study would be a great place to sit and visit”, replied Tom.

Anna stepped aside and Father Tom entered the home. Anna closed the door and led the way to the study, even though Tom had been there many times before. They passed the parlour on the right and a bedroom on the left. The stairway to the upstairs was just past the living room and the study stood across the hall from them. The study door was open and inviting as they came to it. The comforting smell of pipe tobacco and smoke came from the room. It was clear to Father Tom that since William’s death, Anna had kept the room’s door and windows closed to preserve the tenuous aura of William’s pipe.

“Anna this place smells just as it did when William was alive. I almost expect to walk in and hear him call out from his chair. Everything looks exactly as it did the last time William and I sat here and enjoyed a pipe,” said Father Tom.

Anna chuckled quietly. She had expected this response from Father Tom. She knew that he had loved William and they had enjoyed many evenings in this study smoking their pipes while discussing books and history. They were alike in so many ways. “Father,” she said “he would indeed have called out to you when he heard the knock. He couldn’t be bothered getting up and opening the door but he would have called out and then I would have answered it.”

They laughed together as they pictured it. Tom imagined William shouting from his chair, pipe in hand and book on his lap. It seemed as if that had been just yesterday. It was hard to accept that William had been gone for over six months. They made their way to the chairs that he and William had shared. The coffee table in front of the chairs held a tea pot with two cups and a plate of biscuits – Digestives. Anna was prepared. She sat in the chair that Father Tom had always occupied in the past and gestured that he should sit in William’s chair. She poured a bit of milk in the cups and then the tea. She handed the cup and saucer to Tom and offered him a biscuit. He took one and settled back quietly into the depths of the wing back chair. Anna picked up her cup and saucer and did the same. They sat quietly with their tea.

Anna broke the silence that surrounded them. Her voice brought the good Father back to the present. He had been gazing at the side table to his left and was reflecting on the half smoked pipe that sat in its rest with a book next to it – Elie Wiesel’s “All Rivers Run to the Sea”. The book mark showed that it was half read.

Father Tom turned back to Anna and said, “I am sorry Anna; I was lost in memories and did not hear you. I guess I am not much good as visitor today.”

Anna laughed and said, “Not a problem Father. I often find myself sitting in that very chair doing the same thing. I was saying that I have a few things I want to talk with you about. I am going through William’s things and I have a proposition for you. But first what kind of hostess would I be if I didn’t ask you to light up your pipe. Would you like a bit of William’s tobacco to smoke? Yes? Here let me get it for you.” And with that she walked to the credenza and picked up a jar of Dunhill’s Standard Mixture Full. It was the same tobacco that he and William smoked when they were together.

She handed the jar to Tom and he opened it. He raised it to his nose and inhaled deeply, breathing in the rich aromas. He took his pipe from his pocket and loaded a bowl. He was about to reach for his lighter when he saw William’s Old Boy lighter on the table next to him. He took it and lit his pipe. He drew in deeply as he lit the pipe and exhaled the smoke. He watched Anna as he lit the pipe. She had her eyes closed and was quietly enjoying the rich room note of the tobacco.

“So many memories in that smoke Father. I cannot tell you how often I come to this room to sit and enjoy the smells of William’s pipes and tobacco. Thank you for bringing fresh smoke to the room.”

“Anna, smoking this tobacco brings to mind time spent here with William. The last time I was here we were discussing that Wiesel book on the table. William was taken with Wiesel and was reading as many of his books as he could find. He was intrigued with Wiesel’s concept of suffering and the human spirit.”

For the next hour as Tom puffed on the tobacco, he and Anna exchanged memories of William. Story after story was told. They laughed and cried and sipped their tea. They were encircled by a wreath of rich tobacco smoke and Anna was in no hurry to talk about the subject of her request to Father Tom. Time stood still for these two old friends.

As the bowl came to its end Anna quietly broached the topic of her proposition. “Father,” she said “I would like you to have some of William’s pipes and a good portion of his tobacco. I would give it all to you but I still enjoy the lingering smell of smoked pipes and tobacco that are part of my memories of William.”

“Anna, I’d be honoured to have some of William’s pipes and tobacco. Are you sure you want to do this?”

“William and I spoke often of this before he died Father and he wanted you to have his best pipes. He even set aside the ones that he wanted you to have. I remember him laughing and saying he would not give you his knock around pipes as you already had too many of those. He put them on a rack inside the credenza. They have your name on them. He also wanted you to take any others that you wish and give them to fellow pipe smokers. His only request was that you keep those on the rack for yourself. Let’s have a look.”

They walked to the credenza. Anna opened the door and lifted out the rack that William had labelled for Father Tom. There, in his shaky handwriting was Father Tom’s name. He had also scrawled his stylized wink behind Tom’s name. There were twelve pipes in the slotted profile rack, equally divided between sand blasted and smooth pipes. He took each one out and looked it over. They were beautiful not only in their making but in their memories. Each had been one of William’s special pipes – smoked only in this study.

Anna spoke as Tom handled each pipe. “Father, he also set aside another one for you. This was one of his favourites, an Andreas Bauer smooth meerschaum with an amber stem. It has some beautiful colour to it now – I remember when we bought that one. We were on holiday in Vienna and as usual William insisted that we stop at all the pipe shops. When he saw that pipe he could not take his eyes off of it. He picked it up and never put it down. He carried it around the store with him as he took in the sights and smells.  He insisted that you have it to keep its story going and add your own memories to it.” She handed the meer to him and said, “While you are looking at it I will go and warm our tea.”

Anna left the study and Tom turned back to the rack of pipes. Ten of them were older patent era Dunhill pipes while the other two were smooth straight grain Charatans. He would go over them more thoroughly when he got home. He was astonished at the thoughtfulness of his old friend. These pipes were in perfect shape, clean inside and out. He would not have to do anything to them, they were ready to smoke.

“William, my old friend these are amazing. Thank you so much for your kindness,” he said out loud.

Anna walked in the room with the fresh pot of tea and placed it on the table. She startled him as she said, “Father, I am so glad that you like the pipes. William was insistent that you have them. Forgive me for not giving them to you sooner but I was not ready to part with them until now.”

“No problem Anna… your timing is perfect! What better time than this while we are talking of William together.”

“There is a bit more Father, I am afraid I am not finished yet. Did you notice the two cartons to the left of the credenza?  I know your penchant for Virginia tobacco so you will find that one of the cartons contains nothing but that. The other contains William’s favourite tobacco – Dunhill’s Standard Mixture Full. I packed those for you as well as several hand packed tins of Baby’s Bottom that he picked up at the London Dunhill Store the last time we were there. We laughed together at that name. I am afraid there are just a few of those left. There is still quite a bit more tobacco that I will pack for another visit. You will have to come back anyway to look through the rest of the pipes. Now let’s have another cup of tea. Pack a bowl of that tobacco on the table and light your pipe. I am looking forward to enjoying the smells and memories of another bowl.”

Father Tom carefully put the rack of pipes back on the credenza. He was stunned with the kindness of his old friend. He sat down and picked his pipe up from the table where he had left it next to William’s half smoked one and loaded another bowl. He used the Old Boy lighter to fire the tobacco and raised his pipe, “Thank you Anna and I lift my pipe to you William. I could not wish for a better remembrance of you my friend. You will always be with me as I smoke these.”

Anna wiped a tear from her eye and smiled at Father Tom. “Here is your tea Father. Now where were we…? Oh yes, that Old Boy lighter you have been using is also yours. I put William’s tamper collection in the box of Virginia’s for you. There is also a letter that William wanted you to have. You can read it when you get home.”

With that Father Tom and Anna sat for the remainder of the afternoon enjoying the visit and the smoke. I am sure dear reader that William was smiling as he watched them; knowing that his well cared for pipes had been placed in the right hands.