Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Love Sacrificially

Because of my "job" I'm privileged to hear from a lot of special people. Just this week I received a note from a dear friend, Jeannie St. John Taylor. She remembered my blog about Enduring Love and had a story she wanted to include. It's one I feel compelled to post. Please read and enjoy.

The Great Man
© Jeannie St. John Taylor

Even as a young child I sensed greatness in my Uncle Eldon. I remember wondering if he used the bathroom like the rest of us; surely he was too great for something so earthy. When I questioned my mother about it, she assured me all humans had to do those things, and Uncle Eldon was human.

As I grew older and viewed him more realistically, I still saw him as a well-respected man who excelled in his profession, but I knew he wasn’t superhuman. In fact he was very human, which his final years clearly revealed. Childless and completely alone after my aunt died, he moved through the halls of his nursing home in a wheel chair and yet, amazingly, his attitude still shone with greatness.

With shaky handwriting, he’d sign his Christmas cards, “Jesus is indescribably wonderful! This might be the most wonderful Christmas season ever! The eternal, almighty, all loving Word became flesh and dwelt among us. What a mystery! What a miracle!” When he broke his hip and could no longer leave his room, he cheerfully proclaimed Jesus’ love to visitors. I never heard a single complaint when I called across the country to chat with him, all he wanted to talk about was Jesus. He told me he prayed for each of my children by name every day, and I knew he spoke truth.

So when he passed away at age ninety-one, I cried and Googled his name: Dr. Eldon R. Fuhrman. Several pages popped up – 5,640 hits in .024 seconds. Most of the sites revealed podcasts of vintage messages, one listed a New Testament commentary my uncle had written and Wikipedia said he’d been elected president of Wesley Biblical Seminary in 1977 and stepped down to teach in 1985.

But it didn’t tell why.

Yet the why of his resignation as seminary president and eventual retirement from teaching while still mentally and physically capable of doing the job he loved tells the story of his greatness.

Just a few years after my uncle resumed teaching in his late sixties, Aunt Blanche began her gradual descent into dementia. Some forms of dementia, though sad, are almost sweet. I knew one woman who sat in her wheelchair swaying from side to side humming hymns. My aunt’s dementia was of the more difficult sort. So even though my uncle still wanted to work, he retired. Aunt Blanche needed him. She was his responsibility and far more important than his job; she was the love of his life. He would be the one to care for her.

He and my aunt left their gracious Mississippi home and occupied a small apartment in an assisted living facility where meals would be prepared for them. For the next fifteen years, Uncle Eldon dedicated every waking moment to my Aunt Blanche. When she grew too ill to continue living in their apartment and had to relocate across the courtyard in the nursing home wing, he rose early every morning and walked across the courtyard to eat breakfast with her.

After feeding her oatmeal and toast he’d take her for a drive. They’d park across the street from the seminary dorm named for him where he’d pray by name for each young man living there. Afterwards, he’d take her with him to his apartment for the rest of the day, returning her to the nursing home just before curfew. The only peace my aunt knew came when Uncle Eldon held her hand; he was her security. She was his treasure.

He fed her every meal. He longed to simply be with her and comfort her; she was distraught when he had to leave for the evening. Long after anyone else saw the elderly woman as attractive, he spoke almost reverently of her. “She is so beautiful,” he once told my mom in an awe-struck voice. “sitting there with her snow white hair and pearls . . . she’s beautiful, just beautiful!” And he meant it. She passed away two Julys before he did, and he never stopped missing and loving her.

Yes, my Uncle Eldon was a great man, but not for the reason you might think. While others may have considered him a man of note because of his educational accomplishments, my uncle achieved true greatness because he loved sacrificially; he overflowed with the love of Jesus.

Thank you, Jeannie, for this beautiful story of an exceptional man.

If you'd like to read more from Jeannie St. John Taylor you might try some of her books, which I've listed below.

Grace and Peace to you from God.


Culture Proof Kids . . . Building Character in Your Children
Am I forgiving
Together Forever
Am I Praying?

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