Today’s post is inspired by the passing of a friend. Her name is Jeanette L.
I learned yesterday that she had actually passed away on January 25th, apparently with no one to mourn. Little is known about her except for what she herself communicated to those of us who visited Lakeland Nursing Home in order to spread a bit of cheer for a few minutes once a month with cookies and punch. She called us “the party-givers.”
Also enjoying the brief respite from their daily routine were some other memorable folks. One was Kenny, with his vacant stare, who once loved singing. Another was Shirley, who on occasion would rise from her wheelchair to dance in place. But Jeanette was always the one who commanded the most attention, with her heavy, cumbersome body and her wispy yellow-white hair, combed as well as possible for the special occasion.
Jeanette adored Elvis Presley. She claimed to have been present at his birth, taught him to read, and then married him as well. During every visit, she insisted on having a group picture taken with us and all her Elvis memorabilia. With trembling hands, a crooked smile and crossed eyes, she would hold up her calendar which she had carefully turned to one of her favorite shots of her “baby.” The photo would be snapped, much to her delight and our amusement.
Jeanette loved to write letters to her friends. She loved to receive writing tablets so that she could stay in touch. Deciphering them was a challenge, as her sprawling handwriting ran together on the page, and her love affair with the comma created much difficulty. Almost four years ago I received one that I decided was worthy of transcribing in order to share it with others. I sat down and typed it out at that time and would love to share it with you now.
Jeanette L. — in her own words:
April 27, year 2,007
My Dearest Jan Hamlett and to your own whole family, as of yours on this new day, as I, do write, you all, today.
Hello. Hello. How, are you, all doing, in town, and in your own home, while I, while I, thought, about you all, before this, new/newest, day, of, April 27, year 2,007?
I do hope you/all have been/well to, in your own, family Being your own, Loved ones, of these, new cold days, like today, on this new, cold day that we are having out here as, I do know while, hoping to, get a new letter, from you my, Jan H.
What have you all been doing lately, OR recently, and have you all, gone shopping, at any, place out in, town or, across the, Red River, in Alex?
I love you, all, still, yet from, out here, very, very much/ as I do, know, you all/ must be really, surprised to be able to hear in your, own newest, mail, from your own friend, as of, over 5 years, since you all, have been coming, to see us out here and, I’m grateful, for, your own god friendship, as of, today, for always, I am well, So I am for now.
Your Friend to
. . . .
I have to confess that as I read those words, I wondered whether I was worthy of the honor that Jeanette had bestowed upon me by calling me her “good friend.” I humbly recalled the familiar words of Jesus: “I have called you friends.” I also thought of what he said in regard to himself and “the least of these.”
Did I deserve the status that Jeanette had given me in calling me her friend? Did I always remember that giving a cookie and a cup of punch to these forgotten folks was the same as offering it to Jesus? How would that have altered my attitude from a sense of duty to an outpouring of love for these friends of His? Would I have been more attentive if I had remembered their position in the kingdom each time we visited?
One day, in Heaven, we will all be there together, in the presence of Jesus, with our new bodies suitable for eternal life. I try to picture not only Jeanette but also our other Lakeland friends as they will be then. No more infection or disease. No more tremors or disfigured limbs. No more dementia or drug-induced tranquility. Kenny will probably be singing. Perhaps Shirley will be dancing. And maybe Jeanette will be posing for a picture with Elvis.
They will be whole and healthy and beautiful in their transfigured forms. They will be smiling and happy and content. Will I even recognize them?
More to the point, will they recognize me? When I approach the throne, will Jesus be heard to say, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”?
And hopefully, if He says “well done,” my friend Jeanette will recognize me. Perhaps then she will shout, “Oh look, everybody . . . here comes another friend of His!”
Here’s to you, Jeanette. I hope you get to see your beloved Elvis and even the Pope, with whom you once enjoyed spaghetti. I feel honored that you called me your friend.