E. C. Sheehan was headed for a successful career in pro ball when he tried to negotiate his first kiss from the beautiful young lady with blue eyes. "If I hit a home run tonight will you give me a kiss?" He hit the home run and rounded the bases, looked up in the stands and she was gone. He later laughed and said, "I didn't get a kiss until we married... but that wasn't my fault."
We could count on one good lively "spar" between them every time we were together. They were a team and as iron sharpens iron, they refined one another. He would begin to tell one of his stories, "It was September 1946...."
She would interrupt, "It was not September; it was July and it was 1945."
He insisted, "No Louise. It was September 1946."
My children's eyes bulged as the tension built.
She wouldn't give in. "Clennon (Clinton) I know it was 1945 and it was July."
He dug in his heels: " Louise, you are prevaricating."
"I am not prevaricating, it was July 1945 and this is why...."
(The first time this happened, I searched Webster for "prevaricate" after they left.) Then suddenly the momentum of the discourse would slow into a loud silence as we waited....
And very slowly, the first evidence of surrender would start with a twinkle in Doc's eyes... that spilled onto to his cheeks where a grin would start to swell like an ocean wave until the words rolled over his tongue and tumbled from his lips,
"You're right, Louise; it was July 1945."
We never knew who was really right about the date and in the end it never seemed relevant to the story as he told it 50 plus years later! But they kept each other sharp and oh, how we loved them.
They became family to us. Vacations and often the holidays, they were with us. We laughed a lot. Cried a little. Fought occasionally. Prayed. Forgave and laughed some more. If I reprimanded Ben for running in the house, it was almost always Doc who was chasing him.
I recall winning only one argument with Doc. It happened a few months after Mama Sheehan's death. We took him to the lake for seafood and it was late when we returned to Carlyle Place (a senior living community) but he wanted us to stay and visit. When we left, Al usually got the car and pulled it up to the door and Doc always wanted to go out and open my car door. That night the doors to assisted living were locked. I was not going to leave him outside trying to find a way to get back in and he was not going to stay inside and let me take 10 steps to the car where Al was waiting. Neither of us would give in and we were playing tug-of-war with the door and I could tell by his steel-blue eyes we were at an impasse. In desperation I said, "Clennon," trying to sound like his beloved sweetheart when the two of them were in a disagreement. He immediately let go of the door, threw his arms around my neck and wrapped me in a big hug, laughing loudly, big tears streaming down his cheeks. After a goodnight kiss on the cheek I headed out the door - alone. Al opened my car door and as we pulled away I looked back to see Doc and a nurse still laughing and wiping away the tears. It is the only dispute I recall ever winning with him.
Always eager to share the gospel, he posed the question to waiters, strangers on the beach, anyone who would listen: "Do you know my best friend?" He preached the message that today we call "grace." He knew it as "the exchanged life." Our life in exchange for the life of Christ living in us. He had not come to an understanding of these truths until he literally came to the end of himself and that is where he found me in 1990.
The losses were stacking up after months sick in bed and everything that had previously defined me was either drastically changed or gone. Doc kept saying, "Let go and simply let God be God in your life." I didn't know how to let go. Our children were ages three and ten; they needed me and Al needed me. I told him, "I can't let go. If I let go, I'll drown. What about Al and my kids? I need to be caring for them." Using my analogy he answered, "Roll over and float." Those words changed my life. Suddenly, the life of rest in Christ became real and over twenty years later, I immediately know whether I'm swimming or floating...resting in Christ.
In August 2011, Doc’s son, Kirby, gave us one of Doc’s Bibles; Doc had written the sweetest note to us on the inside cover. The next day I wrote in my prayer journal:
I was just reading his (Doc’s) Bible and recognized the scent I’m so familiar with when he hugs me or kisses me on the cheek. The scent of his body and his cologne is on the pages of his Bible! Oh, if it could be said of me that I loved Your Word so much that the scent of my hands touching the pages was throughout my Bible ….
We shared many precious times together, up until the end.....
I think it was Oswald Chambers who asked: Have you ever witnessed someone doing something and it forever changed the way you saw that simple act?
It was June 28, 2012 and Kirby, Tuffy, Al and I went to see Doc, just out of the hospital. He was in bed, a rarity that early. Kirby's adult daughter, Sandi, requested to hear her grandfather sing "Jesus Loves Me" to her over the phone. To hear a 97-year-old man, flat on his back sing "Jesus Loves Me" with tears filling his eyes and with such deliberate intent, still passionate in his love for Christ... Jesus Loves Me will never be a simple children’s hymn to me, ever again.
Journal Entry regarding last visit with Doc Wednesday night, Sept 12, 2012:
We found him in his wheelchair in front of the nurses’ station. He was extremely weak and couldn’t look up at us. The aid and Al put him in his bed and that gave him some relief and allowed us to see each other. I started talking... and he said, “Hello Darling.” He’s never called me that but I thought I had heard him call his daughter, "Darling." (I chose not to tell him I was not Jackie.) .... I told him how much I love him and how precious he is to me. I told him that God had kept him here to get his last kid raised and he had done a good job ... I would miss him terribly but I would be ok... his ministry would continue through me and thousands of others he’d influenced. He was crying and smiling weakly... When I stopped he looked me in the eyes and (very clearly) said, “God bless you. I love you Sweet Girl.” He often called me that. It was one of his pet names for me and (the one he most often used) ... he knew it was me. (We prayed with him.) Al and I sat beside his bed until we knew he was sleeping soundly.
Friday morning I was babysitting our grandson. He loves music. I put his bouncy seat in front of my piano and sang and played "Jesus Loves Me" as he clapped and jumped and laughed. My tears were flowing and I was laughing at the same time as I shared God's love with our sweet baby.
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