"He knew that I was living in loss, that the baby had been born into loss. He knew, if anybody did, that there was nothing that could be done about it, nothing certainly that he could do, and yet he came."Oh, Uncle Jack Beechum. You are responsible for the first tears I shed in this book. And you took me by surprise! And I love you for it.
And I love Wendell for writing this section of Chapter Seven so tenderly. Here we have an old man, a retired farmer, living alone in a hotel in Port William making regular house-calls on a young widow and her baby because he could and because he wanted to.
I love that his visits come at odd times and sometimes exasperate Mrs. Feltner. Oh, Mrs. Feltner, I know just how you feel. Making room in your day for the important thing, when the important thing so often feels like an intrusion and an inconvenience is not easy, is it?
Learning to welcome that intrusion with grace and generosity into my day is a life-long pursuit for me. I love that Hannah looks back on those visits with such gratitude. The fact that Mrs. Feltner allowed it, is also a gift.
"He brought me presents--little sacks of penny candy with their necks twisted shut, or little bouquets from neighbors' flower beds to which he helped himself.
But he himself, though he would not have thought it, was the best present...He came to offer himself, to be with us in Virgil's absence, to love us without hope or help, as he had to do. This was a baby that needed to be stood by, and he stood by her."
I am struck by the beauty of this picture of "coming alongside" and just being present in someone's life. There's no agenda, no plan, no schedule, just a visit. It's the gift of pleasant company when solitude means pain and heartache.
That Hannah and Uncle Jack give and receive the same gift makes this scene all the more profound for me. It's God's economy, I think. A spent, old man, with no social graces offers himself, just as he is, and it turns out to be more than enough. A widow and an orphan allow themselves to be blessed and end up being a blessing.
Have you cried yet?
Do you have a Jack Beechum in your life?
If I were a real blogger and if this were my full-time job I'd take a few moments and figure out how to put all the great links that have been left in the comments up on a sidebar for all to see. Since I'm not going to do that, I want to encourage you to read through the comments and follow the links that have been suggested by fellow readers.
I especially enjoyed the one on thrift.
If you can, I recommend having Blogger send you an email when there's a new comment. If I weren't getting those I'd have missed Carol mentioning sex and I'd have missed Diane's long-awaited arrival. (Her husband, John, is reading the book right now and I'd love it if he'd join the conversation here. Wouldn't that be fun?)
See you in the comments,