I had the privilege and blessing of being in the “right place and time” this week. I was working at my church, helping prepare for vacation Bible School. A church member called in and asked the secretary if she knew of anyone who could help them out in a pinch. The caregiver for his 88 year-old mother was unable to continue, so they needed someone immediately to care for her, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week–either on a permanent basis, or at the very least until they could find someone to hire. I spoke up and volunteered. I wasn’t sure I wanted to; not even sure I’d be able to provide the level of care they needed. But somehow the Lord was standing right behind me, and kept pushing me, or so it felt. I couldn’t say no.
So I went home and packed a bag and my laptop, and drove the 35 miles to Geneva’s house. I found a beautiful brick home, timely and classic, well cared for, and orderly, just like the lady I came to meet. I was greeted at the door by the most horrific din, all produced by a mini-hurricane of a Yorkie, all 2 ½ lbs of him livid that I would dare to enter his domain and endanger the safety of his mistress. I knew this would be a challenge, but I also knew that there was a great deal of love powering that tiny beast. And I knew that when he understood that I came to help, we would be friends.
Amid the barking and growls, while protecting my ankles I met a delicate, lucid, beautiful woman, her silver hair a graceful halo about her face. It didn’t take me long to surmise that she’s reached that stage where—like my Mom said when she was there, “you feel like you have to test the ground every time you take a step.” Her body may be failing her, but her spirit is as lively, as strong, as powerfully in love with her Lord as it was when she met Jesus and was baptized at eight years old.
Geneva has her favorite stories and loves the finer memories, although the ones that have faded are a bit of a worry to her. Yet that’s one of the prices that age demands of most of us. And as we proceeded to get to know each other, she shared some of her favorite memories with me. I treasure every one of them, and wanted to share them with you here.
She loves to speak of her sister Beulah, 17 months younger, a lady she’s very fond of and very close to. (Beulah called this morning and spoke with her, just checking up on her). Geneva told me about the time these two sisters would play outside together in the sunshine. They had the best time mixing up their gooey concoctions, fashioning mud pies and decorating them with sticks and pebbles. Then they searched for some unsuspecting customers they could serve their treats to. She said, “I loved my Mama and Daddy so much, they just cared so much about us, they would come home after working hard all day and after dinner they would come out and sit outside and let us serve them our delicious mud pies!”
“We kids had to work hard, we had the task of shocking oats. Do you know what shocking is? You know, after they run the binder, until they thrash the oats, we put the oats together in shocks. My poor sister Beulah resisted. She just didn’t want to do it, and Mama and Daddy really got onto her—everybody had to help. But what they didn’t know was that she was coming down with something awful, and she was sick in the bed for eight long months. But they didn’t realize she was sick.”
“When she was bedridden for all that time, I felt so sorry for her. I had to go with Mama and Daddy to shock some grain, and some people had a puppy there. When I first saw that puppy, I thought of Beulah. I begged my Daddy for the puppy, and he let me keep it. I held it close and it kept licking my face. So they let me take it home to Beulah. That puppy helped keep her happy while she was sick. Beulah and I was always close. Now she’s my age, just 17 months younger than me, and she’s caring for her son who’s been so sick. I admire her, it’s so sad. It’s gotten so he can hardly walk. But she takes really good care of him.”
I could just see the strong shoulders, the head held high, the God-fearing, powerful woman that Geneva described to me. It moved her so that tears ran down her papery cheeks when she explained,
“You know, people that missed out on meeting my mother really missed it. When Mama started praying, it was so powerful. When she prayed, her feet just about left the floor. You’d think she was going right up into heaven. It was amazing. I knew one other sweet lady in our church that prayed really well, but nothing like my mother. Whenever the preachers held a revival, the deacons in the church would always come and get my mother and take Mama around with them to visit people on account of her powerful way with prayer. She was amazing, the Lord just blessed her something terrible, how He blessed her!”
“Mama and Daddy had five of us girls, and no brothers. We had a cousin who lived with us for a while; he was a good boy. Daddy always loved us so much, he would tell us he didn’t want no boys, that he was just happy with what he had. We knew he was pretending, every man wants sons, but that’s what he said.”
“Daddy was kind of short and Mama was tall. Whenever someone wanted to take their picture, Mama would make sure that he was standing up on something so he was taller than her….it tickled me.”
“I remember a troubled man in our community that people had prayed for a long, long time. When he came finally forward in church one day and he was saved and baptized, I can still see the look on his face.” Geneva teared up here; she told it to me several times over several days; each time she repeated it, she would tear up again. That man’s expression was so heavenly and it touched her deeply. She didn’t know it, but the look on her face was pretty special at that moment as well. I could tell that this was a very powerful memory for her.
“It was beautiful, and when he told everyone his testimony, it was so wonderful. I can still see the smile on his face.” She questioned me more than once, why it is that we retain some memories so clearly while others fade into obscurity?
In my “know-it-all” way, I said that those that have meant the most to our hearts are the ones etched the deepest. She thought about that, and just smiled at me.
Geneva gazes at the portrait on the fireplace of that beautiful couple, her husband Don and his beautiful wife. She mentions him often, and tells me again how much she loves and misses him. Upon reflection at one point, she said,
“When Don and I first married, we lived in Oklahoma City and he worked at the airplane plant down at Tinker Air Force Base there. But he had always wanted to return to the farm so eventually we came back here. So together we milked cows and ran a dairy.”
“You know, every one of us five girls married good men, and lived with them for about the same length of time.” Looking at the fireplace again, at all the other photos of her children and grandchildren, she added,
“If I remember right, all my children, all my grandchildren, and all my great grandchildren are Christians. And you know, (her heart in her eyes) it just makes you feel good to know that they are.” We listened to a worship service on TV this afternoon, and I expected her to listen for a few moments and then nod off. Instead Geneva was riveted to the screen, listening to every word—I finally realized she could hear little of the television with the volume at normal range, so we cranked it up almost to the max, and she seemed to really enjoy the whole service. At the end of the show, they sang “I’ll Fly Away”. Those now familiar tears brimmed her eyes as she smiled at me. We sang it together, following the words the closed-captioning was printing across the screen, my alto complementing her sweet, resonant soprano. At the end of it, her eyes twinkled when she noted,
“I remember Mama singing I’ll Fly Away.”
Funny, when you look back, how often we actually FIGHT the draw of the Spirit to get us to do things He wants us to do. And when you go through the steps He wants you to take, the blessing is so pronounced, so powerful that it’s just overwhelming. My only question is, why do we fight it so? My never-ending need to be in control? My spirit wants desperately to be Spirit-controlled; but my brain just doesn’t think anyone else knows better than it does. This is going to be a life-changing week.