Eula stayed with her brother for more than a week. She could have come back sooner but just couldn’t bring herself to do it. When the minister found out when she was returning, he had all the plans in place. He prayed that he was doing the right thing.
Eula arrived that Sunday afternoon with her brother. She had to force herself to look over at the now empty space beside her house. All that remained were some stones from the foundation. It was more painful than she imagined. She stood on the sidewalk with her brother who had his arm around her shoulder. They were both tearing up. They hardly noticed at first as one person after another began to come from around the back of her house – her family, friends and church family gathering around her. Mr. Simmons and his boys were there. So was Mr. Kimball and Pastor Bailey. Eula was completely surprised and wondered what all of this meant.
Mr. Kimball walked over to the trailer attached to his truck. It was clear that something was on the trailer but it was covered by a large tarp. He asked Mr. Simmons and his boys to come over and help him. When they had removed the covering, he asked for Eula and the whole family to come closer. Apparently, the family knew about the homecoming for Eula but they did not know anything about this part of it.
From the trailer Mr. Kimball took a picture framed with beautiful wood. He handed it to Eula. She could see that it was her favorite picture of the old home place. “The frame is made from some of the wood taken from your old upstairs bedroom,” he said. He had made one for each family member, all taken from wood from various places in the old house. They all were speechless. Tears were flowing, not just the family.
“We’re not quite finished,” Mr. Kimball announced. He called the minister to come over and together they removed from the trailer sections from every closet of each bedroom that had on them in the handwriting of their parents the measurements of their years. Each one was also framed with wood but this time taken from the floor of the old house. Mr. Kimball explained that it was heart pine and surely must be over 150 years old or more.
Eula tried to say something but the words just wouldn’t come. They all took turns looking at the pictures, touching the frames, and reading the record of each family member, especially teasing Brother that he had been growing a little more out than up lately.
After a time, the minister said, “Well, you know, what’s a family gathering without food?” The church had prepared a picnic right there in Eula’s yard under the elms. Suddenly tables appeared and on them was placed a feast. Before they said the blessing, the pastor noted that even those tables were made from the wood from the old house. The church to this day still uses them.
Over the coming weeks and months, Mr. Kimball made other items as well – benches, tables of various sizes, and even some bookcases. These were first offered to members of Eula’s family and then to anyone in the community who wished them. Eula’s family still has them. They are considered heirlooms to be passed down to each new generation. That old house is still very much with them.
Several years passed. One day Pastor Bailey got a call at church. Eula had died in her sleep. She had left some instructions for him and the family as to what she wanted. She wished to be buried beside her beloved Mick and would also wear around her neck the gold chain with his wedding band on it along now with her own.
During the service at the church to celebrate her life, there were flowers. But the family had found many of the pictures that Eula had told the minister about that had been in the room of that old house where so much living and dying had taken place. Pastor Bailey explained that now those pictures were sitting all around her on small tables. Many of those faces from the past had been there long ago to welcome her into the world. Now they were here to welcome her to a new one.
Pastor Bailey read 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, which begins with these words: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands…”
No one there had to be told what this meant or how it related so well to Eula. After the service, the family gathered around the minister. They handed him a box wrapped as a present. “Open it,” they encouraged him. He sat down with the gift on his lap. He unwrapped it and opened the box. Inside something was wrapped in white linen. He took it out, removing the cloth. There in his hands rested one of the framed pictures of the old house. “It’s Eula’s,” her brother said. “We all agreed that she’d want you to have it. After all, you’re part of the family now, too.”
For once in his life, Pastor Bailey was speechless. When he got back to his study at church that day he hung the picture on the wall. It’s still there.