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Shared Wisdom: Resurrection

At Easter I am always reminded of a very special “resurrection” or “new life” story.  This story is one of several writings that we had available as Team Members to read to the participants of the CREDO Personal Growth Retreats.  I always tried to be the one to read this particular piece because I found it to be so meaningful and moving.  (Unless Chaplain Bruce was on the team, then he got first dibs and I would read my second favorite – a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjorie Williams.

Jeremy’s Egg

Jeremy was born with a twisted body, a slow mind and a chronic terminal illness that had been slowly killing him all his young life. Still, his parents had tried to give him as normal a life as possible and had sent him to St. Theresa’s Elementary School.

At the age of 12, Jeremy was only in second grade, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool and make grunting noises. At other times, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain. Most of the time, however, Jeremy irritated his teacher.

One day, she called his parents and asked them to come to St. Theresa’s for a consultation. As the Forresters sat quietly in the empty classrooms, Doris said to them, "Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why there is a five-year gap between his age and that of the other students!"

Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue while her husband spoke, "Miss Miller," he said, "there is no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know that he really likes it here."

Doris sat for a long time after they left, staring at the snow outside of the window. It’s coldness seems to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach and Jeremy was a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read or write. Why waste any more time trying?

As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. "Oh God," she said aloud, "here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared with that poor family! Please help me to be more patient with Jeremy." From that day on, she tried hard to ignore Jeremy’s noises and his blank stares. Then one day he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him. "I love you, Miss Miller," he exclaimed, loudly enough for the whole class to hear. The other children snickered, and Doris’ face turned red. She stammered, "Wh-Why, that’s very nice, Jeremy. Now please take your seat."

Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. "Now," she said to them, "I want you take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Miss Miller!" the children responded enthusiastically – all except for Jeremy. He just listened intently, his eyes never left her face. He did not even make his usual noises. Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’ death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment? Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them. That evening, Doris’ kitchen sink stopped up. She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and unclog it. After that, she still had to shop for groceries, iron a blouse and prepare a vocabulary test for the next day. She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy’s parents.

The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk.

After they completed their Math lesson, it was time to open the eggs. In the first egg, Doris found a flower. "Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life," she said. "When plants peek through the ground we know that spring is here."

A small girl in the first row waved her arms. "That’s my egg, Miss Miller," she called out. The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. "We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes that is new life, too."

Little Judy smiled proudly and said, "Miss Miller, that one is mine." Next Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that the moss, too, showed new life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom. "My daddy helped me!" he beamed.

Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty! Surely it must be Jeremy’s, she thought, and, of course, he did not understand her instructions. If she only had not forgotten to phone his parents. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another. Suddenly Jeremy spoke up. "Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?" Flustered, Doris replied, "But Jeremy your egg is empty!" He looked into her eyes and said softly, "Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty too!"

Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, "Do you know why the tomb was empty?" "Oh yes!" Jeremy exclaimed. "Jesus was killed and put in there. Then his Father raised him up!"

The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the school yard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away. Three months later Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the mortuary were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his casket, all of them empty!

Jeremy’s Egg by Ida Mae Kempel

Musings: Freedom

Since yesterday I have been enjoying a very special freedom.  I was sick for the last two weeks.  Some horrible bug of an influenza/bronchitis type just took hold of my body and shook it right down to its roots.  I was knocked off my feet and spent about seven or eight days in bed followed by five or six days of tentatively, slowly getting back to “normal”.  During that period I made three trips to the doctor. 

I had no desire whatsoever to talk to people or to think about what I might be doing with my day.  I had no desire to be doing anything with my day other than migrating from the bed to the couch and back again.  I was totally worn out from terrible coughing spasms that wracked my body and made me wonder if I was about to cough my insides outside!!

It was only in the last couple of days, as I began to feel a small level of strength and a vague sense of wellness returning to my body, that I was able to admit to feeling a little annoyed about the disruption to my “normal” life, and the “waste of time”.  It didn’t help to know that my husband was missing my misery as he travelled to – guess where?  My beloved Italy!!

There was only one good thing about this period of sickness.  For the first time ever I did not fight the bug.  I was aware almost immediately that something bad had got me and instead of doing my usual heroics and resisting it and trying to carry on as usual, I let it have its way with me.  I knew that whatever it was needed to take its course, so as soon as I realized it wasn’t going away after 48 hours, I got a doctor’s evaluation, medication, and took myself to bed.

I did all the right things.  I stayed indoors neither exposing myself to other germs nor others to mine.  As I said I spent over a week between bed and the couch.  I drank gallons of liquid; water, juices, and lots of herbal teas duly sweetened with honey.  I really took care of me and in doing so took care of others by non-contamination. I prayed a lot and asked God to heal me in His time.

I eventually went outside to run a small errand around day nine.  Then I kept a doctor’s appointment and ran an errand on day ten.  I ventured to the library, one more doctor appointment,  and ran another errand on day eleven.  I did not go wild and try and catch up on everything that I had had to let go of when I was struck down.  By day twelve I felt almost back to “normal” and, joy of joy, I was able to take a wonderful motorcycle ride with my husband yesterday – day thirteen.

As I rode the back of the Harley on a gorgeous sun-filled, warm, day under a beautiful blue sky, I was filled with joy.  My heart overflowed as I enjoyed my new-found freedom from sickness.  I was free of the bug, I was free of being imprisoned in my home, confined to the bed and the couch.  I was free to be outside in God’s glorious creation.  I raised my hands to the skies and shouted “Thank you God, thank you, thank you!!”

I have learned a new appreciation through this experience.  I have a whole new respect for the long-term sick person who is confined to bed, whether at home or in hospital.  The sense of freedom that I enjoyed yesterday as we rode to Daytona has opened my eyes and my heart to what they must suffer on top of whatever health issue is keeping them imprisoned.  So today I have a renewed awareness and heightened level of gratitude for the freedom that good health grants me.           

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