“We are gathered here today to remember our dear friend, Eula…” My husband stands before a crowded congregation in his best black suit. A Kleenex box makes its way down the aisle behind me as reality strikes a somber chord with another family member.
An hour later, I am not the only one smiling through tears as Eula’s positive impact on our loosely knit community is realized. One after another, folks stand up to share fond memories of the thin woman with the longest, strongest hugs. Bear hugs. Sneak-up-behind-and-scare-you hugs. Neck hugs. Squeeze-the-daylights-out-of-you hugs. Messy hugs that mussed our hair and rearranged our breakfasts.
“I thought I was the only one she hugged like that.”
“I thought it was only me she quizzed when I missed a week of church.”
“She was my friend.”
Over and over, we hear similar words from people of all ages and walks of life. She was no respecter of persons. Her hugs were freely given to all, with no expectation of anything in return.
“She will be missed.”
“I’m going to miss her.”
“Church won’t be the same without her.”
“I’m gonna miss those hugs.”
Eula was a simple woman. A childhood fall from a tree house affected her for life. That didn’t stop her love or lesson her impact. What she could do, she did with all her might. She could smile. She could hug. She could remember who was absent from church for a week or two and make it a point to ask them about it and let them know they were missed.
“I’m guilty,” I said, standing before the gathering at her memorial service. “I’m often guilty of being task-oriented rather than people-oriented. I’m usually on some kind of mission, too busy to take the time to hug everyone I see. Eula didn’t have that problem. We were her mission.”
My Honey and I limped home after that service, our toes smarting from being stepped on by a woman who took her last step (and her last breath) last Monday.
“Now I know who the real pastor of this church was. It hasn’t been me. It’s been Eula.” He smiled as he spoke those words. “She has been busy loving the people, while I’ve been tending to all the tasks that hit me as soon as I walk onto our campus.”
What if we were all a little more like Eula, taking time to notice one another? Taking time to hug a person, to miss someone when they aren’t around, and to let them know that we missed them?
Each of us leaves a footprint on this planet. We leave footprints on the lives around us. Are we stomping through life with cleats on, leaving scars on the turf of someone’s spirit? Are we zipping around so fast in our running shoes that we don’t have time to pause for the people around us? Are we high-heeling our way through our days, walking too tall to stoop into someone else’s valley?
Eula was a penny loafer Christian – sturdy, practical, dependable. She made each one feel as if we were the only one. She was never too busy, too preoccupied, too self-absorbed or too needy to notice someone else. You could find her anywhere. Or she would find you. And hug you. And miss you. And let you know you were important.
That reminds me of my favorite lines from Tate Taylor’s 2011 film The Help, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Yes, that’s how Eula made us all feel. I have a hunch that’s what she will hear her heavenly Father say, right along with “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Well done.”
I’m going to miss Eula. But I know that I will see her again. I will hug her in heaven. If I’m not there, she will wonder why. She will miss me. Jesus, let it not be because I was too busy to love.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35 (KJV)