She preferred to be called Mrs. Edwards so that is what I called her. She was not very tall but what she lacked in height she made up in girth. I have no idea how old she was. I suppose she could have been anywhere from late fifties to early eighties. She had bright sparkly eyes, longish grey hair and always wore the reddest lipstick I had ever seen. She just showed up at church one Sunday morning, “To give us a try,” as she said. She liked what she saw and she became a regular part of the Church Body. She lived just a few blocks from the church and no matter the weather made the trek across Broadwater Ave. She came mostly on her own but on rare occasions her grown daughter would come with her. I liked Mrs. Edwards and I think we became friends although it was hard to tell sometimes. It wasn’t as if she was rude or anything like that she just didn’t talk much but her smile was quick and often I would see her nod with approval as I preached.
We had scheduled a Baptism service for an upcoming Sunday evening. She approached me after the morning service and said that she wanted to be baptized. We talked and yes, she understood what it meant and so forth. I did not think to ask her if she had been baptized before. That evening she entered the water and I dutifully immersed her in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She came up out of the water with her eyes wide open and looked me in the face. “Pastor Ken”, she said in a loud voice, “that is the thirteenth time I have been baptized and I think it took this time.” I was at a loss for words and mumbled something like, “well I hope so.”
Life progressed and one day she called me and politely asked if I would meet her for coffee in a local café because she wanted to share something with me. She was there when I arrived and as I sat down she placed a fat cigar in front of me.
“Today is my father’s birthday and every year I smoke a cigar in his memory. I wonder if you would join me and we could smoke together.”
Now as a pastor I have been asked to do many thing but never to smoke a cigar. I probably had smoked maybe two cigars in my whole life. Obviously this was a great honor and to turn her down…well I just didn’t have the heart. She lit me up and I dutifully took a few puffs which I immediately regretted. I managed to fake my way through it while she talked about her father and shared childhood memories, all the while puffing away on her own stogie. I am surprised that the proprietor didn’t ask us to leave.
One day the word came to me that Mrs. Edwards had had a massive heart attack and was on life support at Deaconess Hospital in Billings. I rushed over there but it was obvious even to my untrained eye that she was gone. The only thing keeping her alive was the life support equipment. Mrs. Edwards had two sons as well as her daughter. They were pretty rough characters with tough reputations. As I sat down with them they vowed to keep her on life support for as long as it took to “…bring her back.” No amount of explanation seemed to make a difference in their understanding. Then the business manager for the hospital showed up and explained to them what it would cost. They had her disconnected in fifteen minutes and the body of Mrs. Edwards was allowed to die peacefully.
We talked about a service but they had their own plans. It seemed that years ago Mrs. Edwards and her husband owned a business. Then one day the husband ran off with the secretary. He had passed on and they decided to have their mother cremated then they were going to sneak into the Laurel Cemetery and bury her ashes on top of his grave so she “…could torment him for the rest of eternity.” Whatever, I thought to myself. Mrs. Edwards knew the Lord Jesus as her Savior and she is more alive today than she has ever been. Tormenting anybody is the farthest thing from her mind.
A few days later the lovely Mrs. Stuckey and myself were watching the late news on the local channel. At the end of the broadcast, after the agricultural report and weather forecasts, the announcer informed us that an urn of unclaimed ashes had been found at a grave site at the Laurel Cemetery and if anyone had knowledge would they please contact the authorities. Ging and I exchanged looks, “Bet that is Mrs. Edwards! They must have gotten spooked off before they could do the deed."