Saying Goodbye to Evelyn

We said our earthly goodbyes to a dear friend last week. And, even though this journaling space has been a little quiet as of late, I wanted to come here to process a few thoughts about a precious lady in our lives. 

Several years ago I met Evelyn. She was intriguingly warm and genuine. And honest. Oh how I loved her honesty and spunk. My husband and I were nearly finished with seminary and we found ourselves on an exploratory ministry trip to the pacific northwest. I had met so many people that particular Sunday morning and had forgotten nearly every single name. (I've never been really good at remembering names. Even now, under pressure, I forget names faster than the speed of lightning. It's embarrassing to forget your own child's middle name. How do I know this? Because when Job broke his collarbone this happened to me. The nurse asked his middle name and I panicked. I pretended to have a cough and bought myself some time. And, finally, after convincingly getting through my coughing spat, I patted my chest, cleared my throat and calmly said, "I'm so sorry. It's Job Hudson.") I hurried to a seat at the beginning of the Sunday school hour and landed next to Evelyn. She introduced herself and I took out a piece of paper to begin recording names in hopes of saving myself from afore mentioned embarrassing situations. And, I decided to tell Evelyn about my brilliant plan. The problem was that I hadn't yet written her name down and, by this time, couldn't remember it! At the end of the Sunday school hour Evelyn leaned over and said, with a twinkle in her eye, "and do you remember my name?" (smile) I would never again forget her name.

A few weeks ago I received a call from Cleone, one of Evelyn's best friends, who lives just down the street from us. The news was shocking and grim. Evelyn had been diagnosed with a very progressive stomach cancer and was in the hospital in Portland. My husband and I had a trip to Portland planned the very next day and in a matter of moments we arranged to stop and see her before Stephen's board meeting. I caught sight of her before she saw us coming in. She looked beautiful. So elegant and regal as always, sitting up in the hospital chair and talking with her son and husband. Wren came with us. I hoped that her sweetness would bring a smile to Evelyn's face. And it did. She hadn't met Wren yet and she was so delighted to see her. Here she was, starving from the cancer in her body, able only to swab her mouth with water, yet focused entirely on us and our lives. It felt wrong. This beautiful lady, full of sweetness and spunk, with only weeks left to live. She was thin and she told us it would go quickly. "I can feel the cancer growing. It will be fast." She asked us not to forget Paul. My husband prayed for her, for her family, for Paul. I hugged her and told her I loved her and that I would see her-- "if not here, I'll see you there."

And now she's gone. Life is so precious. Seeing Evelyn that day has reminded me in a very poignant way that life is incredibly precious. People are incredibly precious. I am so thankful for the opportunity my family had of knowing Evelyn Gallaway. Her love for people and for the gospel and how she lived that love out in practical and intentional ways are lessons I hope to carry with me for a very long time. 

It was Evelyn that asked us if we would ever consider moving to a small, country church. "Would you mind if I passed your name on to my friend Cleone?" I am ever so grateful she did.

Evelyn, I love you. I will never forget you.
p.s. Stephen now drinks his coffee black. But he will never forget the time you asked him if he liked a little coffee with his creamer. (wink) 

15 comments:

  1. Such a sweet and teary post. Reminded me of my grandpa that unexpectedly past this year from cancer. How precious and fragile life is. I'd love to meet her when we get to glory some day!

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  2. Beautiful and sad and sweet. I loved reading about Evelyn here.

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  3. Stephen Branine9:46 AM

    Well said.

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  4. Oh the twinkle! I know just what you mean. Joe and I have been remembering Evelyn, especially how sweet she was to a couple of punk kids on her greeting team. I'm touched by this recount of your meeting with her. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Evelyn was one of the kindest and most gracious people I have had the privilege of knowing. Thank you for writing this.

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Thank you so much for reading here and sharing life with me!