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Friday, May 6, 2016

A simple, profoundly full life

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I have a friend on the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona who will celebrate her 107th birthday this year.

I met Irene Eskey, affectionately called Grandma, in the 1980s when I was invited to preach a revival at the church she helped to start on the reservation.

She has lived a simple life.

She has lived at a spot on the desert called Black Rock for most of her life. Her home place is surrounded by rocky bluffs, with mesas and mountain tops dotting the horizon as far as you can see.

Grandma has never had electricity or running water in her home, and that has been just fine by her.

She cooks over a wood burning stove, making fry bread, beans and mutton stew, and brewing her guests a pot of coffee.

Grandma has never used a blow dryer or a curling iron. She braids her long hair by herself, and doesn't need the help of a beautician.

She's an artist. She makes the most beautiful rugs, weaving them on the loom that she made. For years she made her own yarn too, from the wool of the sheep that she raised. Now her daughter buys her yarn from a store off the reservation.

When I first preached at Black Rock we used a gas powered generator to add light to the inside of the chapel. We had wonderful worship services in the humblest of surroundings.

The people that came to the revival services traveled from various spots across the reservation. They slept in their trucks or on the floor of the chapel so they could be there for the gospel meetings all week long.

My offering that week was one that adorned my offices for years. I was given two hand woven rugs, one that Grandma made, and another that her daughter had made. They were treasures of love that I cherished.

I didn't get a chance to see Grandma Eskey this year when I was in Arizona. Our schedule didn't allow for it. But, I heard that she was still going strong, even at 106.

I have learned a lot from Irene over the years. She is a woman of very few words, but her life speaks volumes.

She is content to live her simple life.

She is not one to complain, even as her eyesight grows dimmer as she grows older. She doesn't complain as her joints creak and her muscles hurt. She just thanks God for her health and a good, long life.

Grandma was always the first one to come to the altar for prayer.

Over the years, I would see her at the altar in a small chapel, in a desert tabernacle, or in a Gospel tent. She would be kneeling there imploring God to move in the lives of the people who came there to worship, or asking God to bless her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

She always welcomed visitors to her home with open arms. And everyone who visited yearned to return one day.

Grandma Eskey is one of the richest people I know, because she has laid up her treasures in heaven.

In the message of Jesus Christ, in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:19-21) he said, 19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Grandma has lived a simple life, a life of contentment, and she has put her treasures in the right place.

I am thankful for the message she has given me over the years, one from a life well lived.

She's lived a simple life!

Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at dougmdezotell@yahoo.com.

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Doug Dezotell
Memories and Musings
Doug Dezotell is pastor of Cannon United Methodist Church and a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette.