Wednesday, I was out for a run on Cornbread Road. I was trying to do some speedwork — jog for three telephone poles, pick up the speed for two telephone poles, then go all-out for one telephone pole, and either jog or walk recovery for two telephone poles. I was on a recovery section when on my left, an elderly woman was getting out of her car in her driveway. “That’s what I need to do,” she said, indicating that she could use some exercise, but that she wasn’t sure she had the energy anymore. I made some brief inconsequential response, which was apparently just what she wanted to start a conversation.
“I go to church up here on Cornbread,” she said, pointing east, “at the First Free Will Baptist. We have Sunday School at ten, service at eleven, and Sunday night at six, and service on Wednesday night at seven. Hold on, let me get you a pamphlet.” I almost told her no thank you and continued my run. I was thinking about my heartrate, about getting home and taking a shower, and (honestly) about avoiding conversation. But I thought, no, that’s not what small town folk do. Small town folk stop and chat. So I waited while she used her cane to help her get to me from her car to give me the pamphlet. I met her halfway in her driveway. “Well you go home and tell your Mom and Dad…” (then she looked down and saw my wedding ring) “… or, your family, I guess it would be, that it would be an honor to have you join us.”
“Well, thank you,” I replied. “We actually go to church on Jackson Street.”
“Ohhhh, you do? Well, good for you. That’s just wonderful.” Her smile was genuine, and the white hair that hung to the middle of her back seemed a little bit angelic. “God is so good, isn’t he? He saved me back in 1960. If you think of it, pray for me and my family.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Anne,” she replied.
“I’m Karen,” I told her.
“Karen,” she said wistfully, putting her hand to her heart. “That’s my baby’s name. Karen Anne. I had Karen Anne and Kathleen Sue. Their birthday is tomorrow, but Karen Anne’s with the Lord.” She began to tell me about Kathleen and Karen Anne, who I gathered was either stillborn or died not long after birth. Anne’s husband was killed in an accident a short time later. Anne told me that she herself almost died in childbirth. “I had kidney poisoning but I didn’t know it. And the doctor didn’t give me any medicine.” I wasn’t sure if that was because the doctor didn’t know at the time what was wrong, or if he thought she was already too far gone to save. “I was lost then, so lost,” Anne told me. “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this,” she admitted, tears filling her eyes. “If I’d have died then, I’d have gone straight to hell. But the Lord didn’t let me.” She paused. “He saved me. God is so good.”
“He is,” I agreed.
Anne hugged me, despite my protests that I was sweaty and smelly. “You holler at me whenever you pass by, now.”
And you can be sure I will.