Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Gift

Mention her name and the stories begin; told in affectionate tones, with respect and laughter. Those who didn’t know her before she died five years ago, try to get a sense of who she was. For at such moments there are only two groups; those who knew Evelyn and those who didn’t. And everyone wishes they had.

I wonder; will a mention of my name have this effect five years after I’m gone? It would be nice if it did but I doubt it.

Twice this week her name has come up, and she has been on my mind as well. Perhaps because it’s Christmas, and at Christmas we think of old friends.

So tonight I share an Evelyn story:

It was Christmas Eve—Miah’s first Christmas working at her new job with the agency that supported Evelyn and her housemates with developmental disabilities. Miah loved her job, but on this particular night she was downhearted. At her last job she had worked over Christmas, which would have meant that she got this one off. But she had changed jobs and here she was again, at the bottom of the pecking order; the rookie, working the shift everyone wanted off. To make matters worse, her husband and children had gone to Quebec to visit family, leaving her all alone and feeling very sorry for herself.

Miah was just getting to know the five people who lived in the house. Evelyn was small, and stooped with fine bones and a beautiful face. Her fragile appearance was deceiving though; she was a master at intuitively reading people and would win at any battle of wills.

A hush descended on Evelyn’s home that Christmas Eve; a sense of expectancy. Evelyn said that she wanted to go for a van ride to look at the Christmas lights. It was very cold, so Miah took a blanket along to bundle her up. As they walked to the van, the snow squeaked beneath their feet and their breath hung in the cold night air like streamers.

The streets were deserted; as quiet as that first Christmas Eve must have been before the great host of angels appeared in the night sky.

Miah turned on the radio to listen to carols as they drove. Then, to her surprise, from somewhere within the bundle of blankets in the next seat, came the sound of a thin quavery voice, singing, “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

Miah turned off the radio so that she could listen--she had no idea that Evelyn could sing. Her voice wasn’t exactly beautiful, but it was vulnerable and childlike and she had the song word-perfect.

A dreamy look was in Evelyn’s eyes as she finished singing, but she wasn’t finished. Next, she launched into a welcome to an imaginary congregation: a welcome to the Christmas concert.

Evelyn proceeded to preach a sermon, all about a man and his dog who lived on a farm. The dog barked and barked in the barnyard and when it did, the man would yell at it, but the dog didn't stop barking. One day someone came to the farm and told the man that if only he would be nice to the dog the next time the dog was barking; it would stop.

So the next time the dog barked, the man spoke softly and patted his head, and the dog stopped barking. And that, said Evelyn, is what Jesus teaches us; to be kind to each other.

Miah’s eyes filled with tears. Suddenly she didn’t mind working. In fact, she would not have missed these moments and the opportunity to hear Evelyn’s sermon for the entire world. Evelyn was quiet now, snuggled deep in her blanket. The lights twinkled on lawns and eaves and through the windows. All was still…it was a holy night. Miah wondered if Evelyn was an angel—and indeed she was, for the word angel means "messenger."

Proverbs 15:1 (The Message)
1 A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.


Susan said...

I love that story! And every time you tell it, I love it more.

I'm glad I got to know Evelyn a little before she went home...

Trenna said...

What a lovely story. Sometimes all it takes is one person to make people realize what a blessing we have.

Angcat said...

A beautiful story B., and an apt reminder from the messenger tonight.
Love A