Thomas Foster

Music and lyrics: M.L. Hammond

This song is true: there is a beautiful little building in Ontario called the Foster Memorial, built in the 1930s and considered by some the finest example of its kind in North America. It’s also true that I first saw it during a very dark time when I was grieving the loss of my parents and sister. I hadn’t written a song in years, but I went home that night, “picked up my guitar,” and wrote the first draft of this song.

In the north of Uxbridge township
amid fields of oats and rye
a temple rises like some mirage
against a blue Ontario sky

Thomas Foster grew up ’round here
his family hadn’t much
so he went to the city where all he tried
turned golden at his touch

But his only child Ruby dies at nine
and then he loses his wife
he prays and he works and his fortune grows
but grief still haunts his life

So Thomas travels around the world
and in India there he sees
The Taj Mahal, and he’s struck with awe
it almost brings him to his knees

And he’s so moved by its tale of love and loss
that now he has a goal
he will call on Art and Beauty
to remember his wife and Ruby
and to fill his days and soothe his mournful soul

So he plans a fine memorial
a little Christian Taj Mahal
he summons architects and craftsmen
and he hires them one and all

And the costs pile up and the bills pour in
Thomas grumbles but he pays
and Beauty like a siren leads him
through those weary, wondrous days

Oh Thomas I think I understand
though we never could have met
I too lost the ones that I loved most
and I’ve not stopped grieving yet

And I too called on Art and Beauty
but was not as blessed as you
for the muses all forsook me
and it very nearly broke me
for I had no other faith to see me through

Then I stumbled on your temple
when I was lost one autumn day
I entered through the great bronze doors
and it took my breath away

The bright mosaics glitter
and the stained glass windows glow
the arches curve and the columns soar
the way you dreamed them long ago

And you sleep in a bed of marble
next to Ruby and your wife
together now forever
as you never could be in life

And I read the dates carved on the tombs
felt sorrow rising from the past
but surrounded by that splendour
I could not resist the wonder
and I stayed there though the day was fading fast

And then I found my way back home
by the light of the evening star
and for the first time in seven years
I picked up my guitar