Soon the minister and Eula found themselves on the second floor. Much less light had been able to find its way here.
There were a number of rooms, mostly used as bedrooms. She led him to the first one on the right. There were not as many items stored up there. “Going up and down those stairs gets pretty tiring,” she explained, “especially carrying things.” But the minister noted that he was more out of breath than she was.
“This was my brother’s room,” she said. “Come, look at this.” She led him to a small closet and opened the door. “See what’s on the back wall?”
The minister couldn’t see much of anything but did just make out something on it. He looked a little closer and found himself saying, “Is that what I think it is?”
Smiling, she nodded. “Daddy and momma from time to time, as you can see, stood Brother up against that wall, marked his height with a pencil, and placed the measurement and date beside each one. Here’s a record of how much he had grown.” They both stood there looking at it for a while a bit overcome that those marks on the wall represented a lot of time now passed forever. The minister could almost see that little boy stretching each time he was measured to be just a little taller.
Eula next took him through all the other rooms as well. Sure enough, in each closet there was a similar record etched on the back wall for each child. The minister was beginning to understand why this old house meant so much to her. The walls literally spoke. It held many stories from a lot of living…and some dying…but mostly living. Although it still felt just a little spooky and there were some more strange sounds, he was warming up to the old place. If there were ghosts here he felt they were friendly ones. But he wasn’t too sad that the tour was soon ended.
A couple of years passed. That old house was looking older than ever. One day Eula confided to the minister, “I’ve…we’ve made a decision.” But she could not continue. “It’s okay, Eula,” he said. “Take your time.”
She reached for a tissue and wiped her eyes. “It’s time…it’s time, Pastor, that we did something about the house. We’ve decided to have it torn down. The roof is leaking like crazy. Each morning I’m afraid when I look out that it has fallen down overnight. It’s not safe anymore. So the family is going to go through everything, keep what we want and maybe donate anything that might be of use to someone else. You know Mr. Simmons and his boys?” she asked. He nodded. “They’re going to do it for us and haul everything away.”
Eula and the minister sat quietly for a few moments. Even he felt sad so he knew it was so much greater for her. Finally, she said, “But I can’t bear to see it. I’m going to spend a few days with Brother until it’s done. No one else in the family wants to be here. It’s just too…” and her words stopped as the tears started again.
The pastor didn’t know what to say or do. But he always found that prayer was helpful. “Can we pray?” he asked her. She nodded. He began: “Loving God, you give us so many gifts. Today we give you thanks for this old but much beloved house. What joys you have showered upon it and those within it over these many years. You have also been present with them through the times of sorrow, and we know you are here even now. Thank you for the trees that gave so much for every beam and board. Thank you for the skills and labor of loving hands. Thank you for all the years it gave shelter, protection and comfort through many storms. It was and will always be a place of love and precious memories. Thank you most of all for being our true home, now and always, surrounding us with your loving presence. Amen.”
After the prayer, Pastor Bailey had a thought. “Eula, would you mind if I took some of the wood from the house?” he asked hesitantly. “I mean, probably much of it can’t be used but maybe some can for… other purposes. You know Jim Kimball in our church. He’s a pretty good carpenter. I’m certain he would love to have some of it.”
She thought about it for a moment and then smiled. “I don’t think any of us would mind that at all, Pastor. That’s a good idea and a comforting one, too, to know at least a part of it will continue on if in a different way.”
As the pastor left that day, the seed of another idea began to grow in his thoughts.It took Mr. Simmons and his sons three days to take down that old house. The minister had talked with them about salvaging as much of it as they could, which they were happy to do. He also told Mr. Kimball that soon he would have some very special materials for him.