She died back in 1987. I didn’t remember the date, but I looked it up and she passed away on December 11th. And I couldn’t remember her birthday, either. So, I also looked that up and it was on February 12th, the same date that Abraham Lincoln was born. By the way, she was born in 1907, making her 80 years old when she died six years after we moved to Carmel, Indiana.
Her first name was Alta and her husband, Carl, died in 1956, after having married Mrs. Long back in 1932. She had 2 siblings: Ira, who was born back in 1897 and passed away in 1938, two years after Mrs. Long was married – and Mollie, who lived from 1900-1921, dying as a young woman. So, Mrs. Long was the baby of her family and neither her brother nor her sister lived past the age of 41. Mrs. Long survived them all. Her son only lived to the age of 23 and her daughter, who we knew, passed away in 2011, having been born in 1934. A small grandchild, who lived less than a month, is buried near Mrs. Long, to the south of her grave.
To be honest, I don’t think of Mrs. Long every day – but I remember her every time I pass the cemetery where she is buried along Rangeline Road north of Smokey Row Road – about 10 minutes from our home. I remember her wonderful countenance and how much we loved her. It was an unlikely, happenstance pairing. Two families whose worlds collided, yet blended seamlessly, when we moved to Carmel in 1982.
In the past several years, we have had occasion to be in the cemetery to pay our respects to two others who have more recently passed away. Each of those times, I have been nudged to look for Mrs. Long’s grave, and although we knew the general area, Janet and I haven’t walked the section for a number of years now. But several days ago we pulled in, parked the car near the area we thought she was buried and walked to the place we remembered from almost 32 years ago when we attended her funeral.
Sure enough, with a minute or two, we located her final resting place. It was right where Janet thought it was – in the first section closest to the street, the place generally occupied by those families who have lived in Carmel for generations. And sure enough, we think Mrs. Long’s ancestors are there as well.
Back when we moved here, our family was dedicated to playing tennis. In fact, one of the reasons that we ended up in Carmel was the fact that there was a racquet club here. Throughout the years, the kids all took lessons, Janet and I were both on tennis teams and one year, the four of us (Andrew was still too young to play) met in the club championship for the parent/child competition. It was an all Toussaint final!
It was at this tennis club that we originally saw Mrs. Long’s name on a bulletin board – she was looking for babysitting positions. We were still new to the area and, with no family within three hours of us, we were in need of someone to assist us from time to time. From the outset, we loved Mrs. Long. She was kind and gentle – and the kids went to her home as often as I picked her up to come to ours.
She had an old frame house that she had lived in for many years; her daughter and grandson lived several houses away on the same street. Although all our children liked her, Andrew was the one who really bonded with her. They grew very close and Andrew loved spending time with Mrs. Long. They played games together and she took him to the library. She picked him up from nursery school and they even made small pies together. She was his grandmother figure – especially since our families were so far away.
And then Mrs. Long passed away. While we all mourned her loss, Andrew was devastated. He was only six when it happened and it really impacted him. He missed her terribly and it was a long time before he started to get over her death. I remember her funeral and how the pastor referred to her as a “sparrow” – a term I had never heard used before.
He went on to explain that some people are like eagles – they attract interest and are the center of attention. Sometimes, they’re magnificent and you can’t take your eyes off them. Then, he explained, there are others who blend into our everyday lives and we hardly notice them in the routines that we follow. They are servants, helping others and quietly serving the kingdom of God. They make an impact without all the pomp and circumstance.
That was Mrs. Long. She was never flashy or the center of attention. She didn’t need the accolades or recognition – quietly serving the kingdom and loving our family with every breath. That brings us to our verse for tonight. God remembers all of his children.
The psalmist, in Psalm 84:3 tells us, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.” My encouragement tonight is that God loves all His creation and everyone in it. It doesn’t matter if you are an eagle or a sparrow. My prayer is that we look for the best in each other and appreciate that all God’s people have a wonderful place in His eternal kingdom. And thank you Mrs. Long, for loving our family so well. We will always love and remember you! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace..