She was one of those rare individuals that cross the pages of one’s life, making you and all others who were known by her richer for having been touched by a woman not cut from common cloth as it were but from a fabric both beautiful and resilient and life enriching.
Effie was what we all called her. She was employed by a factory here in Indianapolis until she retired, Link-Belt, after which she moved to Florida for a few years before returning to her home in the Circle City. She was before she moved and after she moved back a member of our church and though we never knew her to drive we likewise never knew her to miss any of our regular church services. She was well past retirement age when I first met her and by then she had become a bit hard of hearing, but we soon found out that her hearing loss was never much of a handicap. She heard what she wanted to hear, and she heard enough to learn the names of all of our children and grandchildren and could recite to anyone interested their birthdates and something of interest about each one. And if a regular member happened to miss more than two services, Effie would make a point to find out why they were absent and whether they were sick. She evidenced a genuine interest in all of our families, but we never knew much of anything about her family; she wanted always to talk about you and not about herself.
She did have a niece that she communicated with regularly and with whom I became acquainted with via the phone, but that’s about the extent of any family members that were a current part of her life. Her family assembled twice every Lord’s Day and midweek for prayer, and no one was more interested in our family than was this seasoned saint.
She loved my wife and often told her so, as well as all of our children and grandchildren. Her residence was a basement one-bedroom apartment across from Manual High School on Indy’s near southside, a very humble dwelling place with a small kitchen and a room that had a couch and chair for any visitor who wanted to sit and talk awhile. She welcomed that. And, though she did not drive, she rode a bus anywhere she wanted to go in our city of a million plus souls. On one occasion one of our church members found her surrounded by a group of teen boys in a part of the city that most people would be a bit concerned to find their aged grandmother navigating solo. The church member stopped and interrupted the conversation Effie was having with the boys to ask if she did not want a ride home, to which our dear old friend promptly replied thanks but no thanks: “I am having a good conversation with these young men.” She did make it home safely on the bus and it was just another day for Effie.
She loved church and I know she loved the preaching of the Word even though her hearing was not the best. She always sat second row from the front. In Wednesday business meetings after a motion had been made and ballots were being passed out, Effie, first to receive a ballot from her almost front row vantage point, could not infrequently be heard from the back of the church asking the usher “WHAT ARE WE VOTING ON?” Knowing Effie as I did, she wanted to make sure she voted on the side of the church leadership whatever the issue might be at hand. As I said, she loved preaching and she loved her preacher. On one occasion, after an evening message I had preached in a service that my parents were attending as they stopped over on their way back to Iowa from wintering in Florida, Effie make a beeline to my mother right after the prayer of dismissal and enthusiastically said, “Don’t you think he’s just about the best preacher you’ve ever heard?” I am sure she was wanting to make a mother feel proud; but my Mom, never too quick to pass out any compliments, very stoically replied, “Well, I don’t know; I’ve heard a lot of good preachers.” The humor of that whole exchange did not escape Effie as she told it to Ellen and to others, just having a good chuckle about how reticent a mother was to brag on her son.
I broke the rules that I always believed were excellent rules for preachers to keep, and often went to pick up Effie for Sunday School or for the evening service, thinking since she was well into her 90’s and I was past middle age myself that if we were seen in the same car together, I might draw a pass. As far as I know it never was a problem, but one Sunday morning cruising down U.S. 31 toward Effie’s apartment on an almost deserted early Sunday morning street, a police car pulled me over and did not ticket me for speeding but for not having my seat belt buckled. One of the few traffic violations I ever received but I never regretted it figuring the Lord’s forgiveness would be quickly forthcoming since it had been a good faith effort on my part to get Effie to Sunday School. I never shared with her the excitement I had on the way to her apartment that Sunday morning.
Effie passed into her long-awaited eternal home at the age of 102. She never would admit to being old, just “older.” She was indeed old in body, but she never ceased being young at heart with a youthful spirit. Her life ended when her body became so weak that doctors determined she needed a pacemaker and with her permission proceeded with the surgery knowing that there would be considerable risk at her age. They lost her on the operating table, but I later heard that she awoke sometime before she passed, while doctors were still struggling to save her and, somehow sensing their dilemma, assured them verbally and emphatically that they should not fret because she would be with Jesus and there was no fear on her part. How privileged were all of us, her family, to have known and to have been loved by such a saint!