The Christmas season is homecoming time for a lot of people – either driving across town or to another state, or perhaps flying several hours to loved ones. We did the latter to spend the holidays with our youngest son and his family – not exactly a “homecoming” in the ordinary sense, but I sure feel at home anyway!
My sister-in-law experienced her own homecoming this holiday season. She flew to her final home a few days ago – one she didn’t finance or decorate, and one she won’t have to clean or continually fix up. Her mansion was lovingly constructed by none other than the Master and Creator of the universe, Jesus Christ himself. She must be joyful beyond our human comprehension!
My first memory of Emma Leen was when I was a five-year-old, watching solemnly as she and my older brother were married in our living room. Or maybe they married somewhere else, and stood around in our living room for a few minutes before leaving for a honeymoon. Memories from that far back are rather dim nowadays.
They lived with our family for a short time when I was 6 or 7 – incredible that we stuffed five adults and one little kid into a two-bedroom house around 700 square feet. And that’s probably a generous guess.
As the years passed, they frequently lived out of state as Thomas pipelined in several different places. To hear that they were traveling home to visit was better than Christmas as far as I was concerned! I missed them so much.
Emma was a superb cook – ordinary food, nothing gourmet – but turned out luscious pies, cornbread, dressing, fried chicken, etc., as well as wonderful produce from Thomas’s yearly garden. I used to love sitting at the tiny table in her kitchen, listening to her tell about the kids, grans, neighbors and so on, all the while cooking, never missing a beat. She didn’t use a timer, but just knew when something or other was done baking, frying, or stewing.
Her sewing machines must have buzzed over a million miles in the years she busily clothed her family and many others. Dresses, blouses, shorts, wedding/bridesmaids’ dresses, jackets, even training bloomers for the babies churned out in a never-ending stream. And that’s a miniscule description of the items she fashioned with her foot on the treadle of her Singer. I remember receiving a red dress with matching scarf after I was married and we were living on a skinny income. I wore it for years.
So many snap-shot memories over the years: Emma emptying out the ice cube trays into a huge bowl and crunching every single one – nightly - when pregnant with her third baby. Putting a generous dollop of butter into the middle of fluffy mashed potatoes piled high in a bowl; building a quilt box all by herself; eternally changing furniture around (maybe that’s where I got the affliction); and smothering her kids and grandkids with kisses. She even gave one of them a booty kiss when he or she was fresh of the bath – I, a kid myself watching, made gagging sounds. She laughed. Once when they were visiting our house in winter, my dad stoked up the fire in the stove by sloshing a little gasoline in the door. Toddler Tommy happened to be standing nearby as the flames whooshed out; Emma promptly fainted, sure that her baby was sizzled. He wasn’t hurt, thank the Lord. My daddy got a tongue-lashing from my mother, by the way.
She should have been a nurse. Well, in a way, she was anyway – Emma had a natural skill for ministering to anyone who was ill, or who experienced any kind of upset. She simply knew what to do. And did it. Emma’s many attributes shone brightly - she used her talents very well indeed.
Yeah, she was flawed, just as the rest of us are. If we all were perfect we wouldn’t desperately need God’s grace, now would we?
Farewell, my sis-in-law, I’ll see you again.