Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Meeting Eunice

Some people are just special, and you can see it and feel it in those who are!
by Charlie Leck

I went along to a Christmas gathering with my wife the other night.

I didn’t know the crowd, but my wife works with the hostess and was thrilled to be invited. It turned out that most of the people there were family members and I began to feel a little bit like a misplaced person. That is, until Eunice showed up.

Eunice brightened everything up. She made everyone smile and feel glad they were alive. Once we got her talking about herself and her own life, I was so wishing I had a tape recorder hidden in my pocket so I could capture some of the extraordinary stories and meanderings of this lovely woman.

It turned out that Eunice is the grand-dam of the family. She’s 94 years old but still filled with vim and vigor. (Geez, I’ve never used that – “vim and vigor” – in any of my writing before. What the heck is “vim” anyway?)

Eunice had 6 kids of her own and then was blessed with a dozen or so grandkids and a couple dozen great-grandkids.

Sitting next to Eunice all evening was her 64 year old son, Jimmy. He didn’t say anything much because he can’t. One might be inclined to call him a vegetable; however, you certainly won’t do that once you hear him humming “Jingle Bells” or see him looking over at you, smiling and working to point a finger as if trying to greet and welcome you to the family gathering.

Every few minutes, Eunice would reach over and lovingly pat Jimmy on the arm, letting him know she was there and that she loved him then and forever.

Jimmy lives at home, with Eunice, in the same house they owned when Jimmy came into their lives. Some birthing problems, which would be easily solved in today’s hospitals, caused severe and permanent damage to Jimmy and everyone soon learned that he’d be confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life and wouldn’t be able to talk or do much to care for himself.

It was no big deal to Eunice. Jimmy was her boy and she’d just make sure she was always there for him. It’s clear that the brothers and sisters feel the same way. Watching each of them greet Jimmy, as they arrived, with hugs and kisses or a rough, boy-like rubbing of his hair and head, made the outsider’s heart just leap with happiness and delight. It’s wonderful to watch people loving each other right before your eyes.

If you express that wonder to any of them, they look at you as if you’re strange for saying it. What else? Of course we’ll love him forever and do everything we can to make his life meaningful! Of course! What else?

The siblings take their turns going to the old family house to make sure Jimmy gets bathed and tended to – stuff that is too heavy or awkward for Eunice to do anymore.

When Jimmy arrived at the party the other night, I watched Mary, one of his sisters, so expertly lift him from his wheel chair and set him comfortably on one of the soft, cushy chairs in the living room. Jimmy is not a little man. Mary understood weight and leverage so perfectly and used them to her advantage. I guess a life time helping to care for the boy, grown into a man, would do that. Yet, it was more than just the physical routine of lifting him and moving him. There was such love and tenderness in the act that I was pretty overwhelmed as I witnessed it.

And, I was spellbound listening to Eunice talk about her life. I kept encouraging her with questions. I wondered how a 94 year old could be so young, alert, strong and vigorous. It was as if she knew she had no choice. She had to stay that way because there was always Jimmy in her life. He needed her to be tough and active. He needed her love and he deserved it, too.

Lordsy, every once in a while you meet someone who confirms for you your hope that people are really good and confident and loving.

My, oh my! Eunice made my Christmas for me! She made me hear the angels singing; and she made the great star, leading us toward the birth place of a little child, grow brighter and brighter.

I looked at Jimmy and I saw the little lord who was born in a manger. I looked over at Eunice and I saw the purity and wonder of the woman who gave life to him and loved him with a never fading intensity.

The Lord once promised us that we would meet him in the strangest places, when we were unprepared for the encounter, and when we would least suspect that it was he.

Could it be?

Have a joyous Christmas filled with love and loyalty!

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