I’ve been thinking back on the life of my aunt, Evelyn Beggs, and it has allowed me to renew and relive in my mind an assortment of images and memories. From her presence at family reunions, to her participation in Vacation Bible School, or to time spent together on the family farm in Ozone, Arkansas, there is simply no way to recollect Evelyn as anything but a genuinely nice person. Today, I would like to recall three images of Aunt Evie, images which I feel represent the person so many knew and loved: she was someone who always knew how to laugh and smile, was a keeper of the family lore, and a woman of deep, unwavering faith.
In my collection of family photos of Evie, I cherish one above all others. It’s a silly photo that I know she loved too because we laughed together about it as late as this past April. Picture it. It was either the fall of 1980 or in the spring that following year. Uncle Bob was doing a home lawn project. Evie and I were talking, and laughing. Now I can’t say who came up with the idea precisely, but there we were, in front of her Hancock home, when Evie decided to lie down on the centerline of County Trunk KK. Sprawled out with her arms and legs extended, ready for her picture to be taken. Over the years we laughed and laughed about the day. But why does that photo, in my estimation, speak so much as to who Evie was?
Some years ago, during one of our phone chats, I mentioned how the neighborhood kids in Madison have such different experiences growing up from those of us who had rural childhoods. She agreed that people have no idea what it was like decades ago to grow up in the country. What this photo speaks to are the simple pleasures that Evie knew life to have at every turn. She saw the road was empty of traffic and that I had a camera—so why not lie down in the middle of road and get a picture?! She loved to smile, and even on an ordinary routine afternoon at home, could spot a bit of fun. From watching the wild turkeys in the fields to telling me on the phone–with excitement–when deer would be standing serenely on the front lawn of my parent’s home. Evie never stopped smiling and talking about the things that so many others take for granted.
Many people will miss their phone calls with Evie. Those chats were a way for Evie not to feel alone during the long days while Bob was out on the road, and to converse about the world that she heard about on the news. Evie was also, through these calls, a fantastic resource for the family stories, which she loved to tell. From stories of her mother picking cotton in Texas or her dad, Herman, helping to construct the rock wall at the Ozone farm, Evie knew it was important to pass the family stories along. Just this past month she was informing me of things I had not known. She spoke of how her parents loved to listen to the comedy radio show Beulah. When I told this to Lorene, she added that their dad would at times alter his barn chores schedule to make sure he heard the broadcast.
In the years when medical matters seemed always to be present, Evie showed a steady determination to live life the best she could. A few years ago, James and I hoped to have Thanksgiving dinner at our home for Bob and Evie, along with Aunt Lorene and Uncle Don. I asked Evie about the holiday idea and she told me over the phone with emphasis, “Well, I will be there.” And she was! That holiday was very special as we served the meal in honor of the ‘Schwarz girls’ on the dishes that were their sister, Geneva’s, wedding china.
Evie never dwelt on her medical issues. When on the phone she would offer an update about a past doctor appointment, or one that was planned down the road. But then she would take conversations off in a new direction. As Aunt Lois described it, you had to learn to pause and let Evie sneak in one of her usual catchphrases: “I just have to tell you…”.
Then 15 minutes later she would say, “Before I forget did you know…”
Which was followed in another ten minutes with, “I have wanted to ask you…”.
Several years ago, I called Evie in the middle of the afternoon and asked if she had 20 seconds for a fast phone call. She said yes, but added she was just then trying to figure out what to make for supper when Bob came home. Forty minutes later we had talked about many a subject, which might include forest fires out West, or severe weather in the South. On such occasions, Evie would remind me how fortunate we were not to live in the tornado belt or where earthquakes took place. But when those topics were covered she quickly added “but I still do not have any idea about what to make for supper!”
And with that Evie was again laughing. Poor Bob! I am not sure if he ever did get his supper that night!
It should be noted that those who called her also had a penchant for long phone conversations. Lorene called each day—usually in the morning and they would talk and talk and it was asked by Uncle Dale “what do the two of you find to talk about?”
Aunt Evie was a woman of unwavering faith: She had faith in God, and faith in others. After open-heart surgery, over 12 years of dialysis, and countless medical procedures, I never once heard Evie say, “Woe is me”.
I never heard her ask “Why me?”
Her outlook on life, even in hardship brings to mind for a moment Grandma. I recall when Evie’s mom, Anna, was dealing with failing eyesight. Seated in a chair near the kitchen at Bob and Evie’s home, where the two of them took care of Grandma in those later years, Grandma told me, “I am not sure the reason for my not seeing but God knows and has a plan.” That faithful sentiment was very much a part of Evie’s perspective on life, too. Evie trusted, above all, that God had a plan for her.
What allowed Evie to come and go, be it for fun outings or far more common, medical trips, brings us to a second definition of the word faith–that being a complete trust or confidence in someone. In her world, that was Bob. Let me paint the image in your mind of how this faith was demonstrated.
Over time Evie had grown weaker, her legs less strong, and therefore walking was more of a problem. A few weeks ago, as Evie was about to leave Lorene’s home, I stood outside holding open the screen door. Slowly Evie came towards the doorframe with Lorene holding Evie’s right hand and arm, as Evie guided herself with her left hand on a railing and wall. Bob was outside and reached out to take her left hand. With the touch of her hand in his, I saw a look of reassurance take over her face. There were still more steps to take before she was in the vehicle, but with his hand and support she knew with confidence nothing would happen to her.
She, like we, had complete faith in that Bob was with her for every step she took right up to the end. He was, without doubt, a constant source of strength and tenderness for her every need.
Let me leave you with one last image of Evie as I close out my thoughts. This past Easter, as Evie departed down the driveway at Lorene’s, seated in the front of their vehicle, Evie said to me, “See you in a few days,” knowing that James and I were planning an afternoon trip to their home. She was waving goodbye out the open passenger window, on that warm, sunny, and cloudless day as they drove away. One could almost imagine the little toddler version of Evie that Lois recalled recently—that little Evelyn in the Easter coat and bonnet that her mother had bought for her, her little dark curls visible from underneath, as she pranced down the sidewalk like a walking doll. But here is the important part to know as we gather together for this Homecoming as Evie steps out of time and into Eternity.
That day was Easter. And with the promise of Easter in mind, I think it appropriate to now use Evie’s words in response. Though these days are sad we know with assurance the line she would have found much faith in hearing–We do not say goodbye. We say, rather, “We will meet again!”