By Bruce Stambaugh
Alice always made me smile. Oh, she could be annoying. Even when I’d kindly caution her to keep her voice down, that didn’t stop Alice from being Alice. Nor did that stop me from liking her.
I got to know Alice at our little church in Millersburg, Ohio. I can’t even remember how long I’d had the privilege of being Alice’s friend. She was a friend to many, to whomever she met really. Alice just had that kind of outgoing, unabashed personality.
Nothing held Alice back. If she wanted something or wanted you to know something that she knew, she’d share, any place, any time. Tact and appropriateness of timing were never part of Alice’s arsenal. Ironically, consideration of others most certainly was. It’s what motivated her, drove her, caused her to fearlessly blurt out her innermost feelings with no compunction.
Alice could be a pill, even a pest. If she had your number, especially your phone number, Alice would find any old excuse to call you. Alice often rambled on and on if you would let her. That’s how much she loved you.
Alice attended church whenever possible. Other good folks went out of their way to provide transportation for her.
Alice loved Helen Steiner Rice poems. She’d read them aloud every chance she got in church, often in honor of someone’s birthday. Of course, Alice did so long after other announcements had already been made. Spitfire that she was, Alice didn’t need a microphone. She would just shout out her comments, prayer requests, and recitations as the spirit moved.
Alice could pull this off because everyone knew her situation. It wasn’t toleration mind you. It was admiration for her unequivocal love for others and her fierce desire to share whatever was on her mind. Nearly 99 percent of the time, her thoughts and concerns were for others, not herself.
As Alice did her readings or made her proclamations, knowing smiles radiated from all around the congregation. Every worship leader graciously acknowledged her comments and the service continued without a hitch.
In addition to poems, Alice loved a good joke and prank. Though often silly and uncomplicated, Alice laughed her wicked laugh as she told and retold the punch lines. Once when our infant granddaughter squeezed Alice’s index finger and wouldn’t let go, Alice was in heaven. She joyously reminded me of that incident whenever she could. That was Alice.
Several years ago, I escorted Alice to Texas to visit her only living brother, whose health was failing. People thought I was crazy to take on that formidable task.
Though dependent on a wheelchair, Alice traveled with no problems. The further we got from Millersburg, the quieter she got. The return trip proved just the opposite.
Alice listened to my every instruction. Deep down, she and I both knew just how much this journey, paid for anonymously, meant to her. Witnessing Alice embrace her brother Floyd was one of my lifetime thrills.
Quixotic as she was, Alice married late in life on the most romantic day of the year, Valentines Day, Feb. 14, 1970. She and her husband Charlie lived right behind our church. In recent months, Alice was confined to a nursing home, substantially reducing her mobility. Alice recently died there at age 95.
Alice’s unbridled love for life was an excellent gift to us all. In her memory and in her honor, I hope that same devotion becomes an exemplary measure of living out our own lives.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2018