Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Her actions spoke volumes about her spirit

original run date December 20, 2011
Chariton Valley News Press

I know all my neighbors think I’m a sandwich or two short of a full picnic basket. I would think the same thing after seeing some of the antics that our closest neighbor (Mrs. Laura Kaye West) and I have pulled on each other.
 But the last few weeks, we have put all antics aside and efforts have been wrapped up in praying for Laura Kaye’s mom – Grace Eberlein.  Sadly, last Monday morning, Larry, Jake and I joined her family to say goodbye to Grace. She was an amazing and beautiful woman with a smile that lifted my spirits each and every time I saw her.
Grace wasn’t originally a member of the neighborhood when the West family first moved to our neck of the woods but she was always part of the fun.  When they were getting everything ready for their new home, the shrieks and screams upon finding all the snakes in the old well reached far and wide.  After we checked to make sure no one was seriously hurt across the road, Grace and I got quite a chuckle out of picking on Laura Kaye.
When Jeana died, Laura Kaye and Grace became the “traffic control” at our home. They greeted family and friends, took care of food and supplies, and made sure anything we needed was there before we even knew we were going to need it.  Grace made sure to write down everything that came through the door so we would know later where all the food and supplies came from. I still have those pages and pages with her detailed accounts stored in a scrapbook for safekeeping. Little did we know at the time that she was also about to undergo trials herself for the remaining years of her life.
The next month we found ourselves back at University Hospital as Grace underwent surgery for cancer. She made the choice to battle the disease even though it cost her the ability to talk with her family. The lack of verbal communication didn’t keep her from letting everyone know where she stood though. Whether she gave you the thumbs up or thumbs down, a smile that lit up the room, or that warning look that said you might have just stepped over the line - she never lost the ability to communicate her feelings to those around her.
Grace officially became our neighbor when she moved in with the West family that fall. She and Laura Kaye would drive by the house and we could see Grace smiling and waving even if it was dark outside. Her smile and graciousness always warmed my heart even on those dark and gloomy days when being personable was not something I wanted to be. How could I possibly be gloomy with her positive spirit in the face of everything she was dealing with?
Grace enjoyed our neighborly antics and I knew I had one-upped Laura Kaye the day I got not only a double-thumbs up, but saw her slap her legs in motions of laughter. Even though the sound of laughter did not ring across my front yard, I could still hear it in the background as Grace realized what I had done.
Our antics started out pretty innocent. As I was driving past the West’s driveway, I saw Grace’s car at the end and slowed down enough to wave wildly at Grace sitting in the passenger seat. She smiled that smile and waved back just as happily. Then I heard it – apparently Laura Kaye was at the mailbox getting the mail and I totally missed waving at her.
Grace laughed at the two of us as we exchanged good-hearted crazy talk about the incident. I mean really – if a car is in the driveway, who looks across the road for somebody to wave at? The conversation somehow led to the big round hay bales across the road from my house “waving” at Laura Kaye and Grace the next morning as they headed into town. Much to my surprise that evening, the hay bale had grown a very large smiley face sticking it’s tongue out at me every time I looked out my living room window.
The antics escalated. I thought a “mooning” scarecrow with a personal message to Laura Kaye would be a fun way to decorate my front yard. The look on Grace’s face as she realized the heart tattoo on his backside had her daughter’s initials will forever be a memory I hold dear. The thumbs up and wink while Laura Kaye wasn’t looking made me burst out in laughter.  The look of innocence on her face when Laura Kaye turned around was even funnier.  It didn’t matter which one of us got the last laugh, Grace always laughed the longest and “loudest”.
As my mind was meandering through my memories of Grace the other night, a sudden fear struck me. As much as Grace enjoyed the neighborhood antics, I can only wonder what is in store for Shelby Avenue. I know for a couple of years after Jeana died, things would happen at our house that made all of us look at each other and say “what the ?”. Now that Grace and Jeana can join forces – the whole neighborhood may be under attack. Pairing Grace’s sense of humor and experience with Jeana’s spirit and spunk – I’m afraid the neighbors may choose to have us committed if crazy things start happening we can’t logically explain. I just don’t know how we will be able to tell our side of the story without the men with the white coats thinking the neighbors are right.
My thoughts and prayers will remain with Grace’s family as well as all families who have lost a loved one this year. The holidays seem to intensify that void left in our lives after losing a loved one. It has taken me a lot of years to realize that the Christmas season should do just the opposite. The Christmas gift we all received over 2000 years ago is the reason I have faith in life after death. As long as we keep Jesus as the center of the Christmas season, that void will fill with the faith of seeing Grace, Jeana, and all our loved ones again.

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