John Todd was born in Rutledge, Vermont, into a family of several children. They later moved to the village of Killingsworth back in the early 1800s. At a very young age, both John’s parents died. The relatives wondered what they would do with so many children, how they could parcel them out to other friends and relatives. One dear and loving aunt said she would take little John. The aunt sent a horse and a slave to get John, who was only six at the time. The slave, Caesar, came and put the little boy on the back of the horse. On the way back an endearing conversation took place:
John: “Will she be there?” Caesar: “Oh, yes, she’ll be there waiting up for you.” John: “Will I like living with her?” Caesar: “My son, you fall into good hands.” John: “Will she love me?” Caesar: “Ah, she has a big heart.” John: “Will I have my own room? Will she let me have a puppy?” Caesar: “She’s got everything all set, son. I think she has some surprises, too.” John: “Do you think she’ll go to bed before we get there?” Caesar: “Oh, no! She’ll be sure to wait up for you. You’ll see when we get out of these woods. You’ll see her candle shining in the window.”
When they got to the clearing, sure enough, there was a candle in the window and she was standing in the doorway. She reached down, kissed him, and said “Welcome home!” She fed him supper, took him to his room, and waited until he fell asleep.
John Todd grew up to be a great minister of the gospel. But it was there at his aunt’s, his new mother, that he grew up. It was always a place of enchantment because of his aunt. It awed him that she had given him a second home. She had become a second mother to him.
Years later, long after he had moved away, his aunt wrote to tell him of her impending death. Her health was failing and she wondered what was to become of her. This is what John Todd wrote her:
“My Dear Aunt, Years ago I left a house of death not knowing where I was to go, whether anyone cared, whether it was the end of me. The ride was long but the slave encouraged me. Finally, he pointed out your candle to me, and there we were in the yard and you embraced me and took me by
the hand into my own room that you had made up. After all these years I still can’t believe it – how you did all that for me! I was expected; I felt safe in that room–so welcomed. It was my room.
Now it’s your turn to go, and as one who has tried it out, I’m writing to let you know that Someone is waiting up. Your room is all ready, the light is on, the door is open, and as you ride into the yard – don’t worry, Auntie. You’re expected! I know. I once saw God standing in your doorway – long ago!”