Saturday, July 17, 2010

Miss Beulah

Family responsibilities this week have overwhelmed me leaving little writing time. Some weeks in the summer can be like that, so I'm posting a piece I wrote some time back.

I first met Miss Beulah years ago when my mother was admitted to a local rehab center after she suffered a fall. Miss Beulah occupied the other bed in the room she and my mother would share. “Met” is probably not the word I should use to describe my first encounter with Miss Beulah. She could not speak, but simply moved her mouth in a sort of imitation speech. She had no knowledge of my name or why I would be in her room. I learned later that she’d suffered a stroke, which accounted for her lack of speech and confinement to bed.

As I made visits to my mother, I’d also visit with Miss Beulah, who sometimes opened her eyes and gave me one of the sweetest smiles. It’s a peculiar thing to come to know someone in the waning days of his or her life. I had such a strong desire to know Miss Beulah more fully--what and who she loved--what defined her life. She seemed to be a woman used to presiding over something, because she reigned over her space with a sort of benevolent queenly air. My feeling was she had been a school teacher. Sure enough she had, for thirty-nine years.

One of the attendees in Miss Beulah’s Court was a devoted niece, Helen, who came every day, sometimes several times. Her son, Bill, traveled a long distance to spend days sitting by her bedside waiting for her to simply open her eyes and give him one of those wonderful smiles. I learned Miss Beulah had always loved well. In addition to her teaching, for more than fifty years, she’d also cared for a daughter with a disability.

Miss Beulah’s name had special meaning for me. I’d been a church musician for many years, but I still remembered the first song I played on the piano at ten years old in our little church back home—“Dwelling in Beulah Land,” number ninety-five in the Cokesbury hymnal. “Beulah” means to live with God as in a marriage from Isaiah 62:4. I love that. What a wonderful name to have.

As the days went on, Miss Beulah began to slip away. In the evenings when I visited my mother, I would sing the old hymns of the church to Miss Beulah and pray for her. One night as I entered her room, her breathing was shallow. I visited with my mom awhile then excused myself to pray for Miss Beulah. I sang “Jesus Loves Me” to her and told her God had a beautiful place prepared for her. As I removed my hand from her shoulder I sensed I would not see her again on this earth. Within the hour she died.

It’s been many years now since I spent time with Miss Beulah, but I’ll never forget her. Though she never said one word to me, we somehow communicated in our spirits, and I’ve been made richer even though I only knew her in those last precious days of her life. It confirms to me the truth that our lives continue to have value and purpose even when age and sickeness encroach.

The best of all is I have a peace in my heart Miss Beulah is now living the meaning of her name with God for all eternity.

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