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Remembrance of a song and dance man: A life lesson in seeking the joy of the Lord

Chris Elkins serves as Brand Director for Denison Forum. He joined the staff in 2016 after several years serving on the staffs of local churches and denominational agencies. He earned a Master’s degree in organizational communication from the University of Southern Mississippi and is a published author. He is married to Minni Elkins, one of the original Denison Forum employees. They have two children and five grandchildren and live in the Dallas metroplex.

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Inside a dark tunnel, a man leaps into the air and clicks his heels while balancing on a closed umbrella
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I remember the day when Martha first told me about Eddie’s diagnosis.

It just didn’t seem possible that her husband could experience the ravages of frontotemporal degeneration (FTD, sometimes referred to as Pick’s Disease).  

I’d worked for many years with Martha and had gotten to know her husband through social occasions. They became good friends of ours. We’ve known the couple for more than twenty years.

Eddie and Martha were flipsides of the same coin, different in many ways. Yet, they were bound together by more than fifty years of love and commitment, anchored in their relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Eddie was sharp, healthy, and resilient. But by the time we took a trip together to the mountains of North Carolina with some other friends a few months later, FTD was beginning to take its toll. 

Eddie was more withdrawn; Martha was more attentive.

Fast-forward to today: sadly, through tears of grief and joy, we celebrated Eddie’s life last weekend. 

I spoke at his funeral a few days ago. 

This is what I shared.

What happens when you’re squeezed? 

If you’re anything like me, you’re more than a little worried about what might spill out of you if or when you lose control of your faculties. Challenges don’t necessarily create new problems, but they almost always reveal ones already there. 

When any of us gets “squeezed” by a difficult diagnosis or challenging days, what we’re made of often comes out. It’s not always pretty. 

During that trip to North Carolina, I noticed something. 

Occasionally, Eddie would just break into song. And he fancied himself a singer on par with Frank Sinatra, no less. We’d be walking down the street or sitting in a restaurant, and he’d just begin to sing—sometimes loudly.

I didn’t always recognize the tune. But his joy was unmistakable. 

An indelible memory

One of the last times I was with Eddie, several of us had gone out to eat at a local eatery well known for its outstanding “home cooking.” The atmosphere was lively, and wonderful aromas laced the crowded dining room. 

But Eddie’s dementia symptoms had grown noticeably worse. 

He suddenly stood up at our table and not only started singing, he started dancing in the middle of the room. 

He’d put on his full “Fred Astaire.” 

Now, Martha, while never a shy person, was not about to be his “Ginger Rogers.” 

But, to my utter amazement, the restaurant patrons began to cheer Eddie on. The waiters stopped their hurried tasks and began to clap. Spontaneous joy filled the room. 

Eddie loved it. 

Martha handled it surprisingly well. This was not her first live “show.” 

Eddie had lost all his inhibition. Martha had found some of hers. But, as good as the food was that evening, it was not the most memorable part.

Eddie was. 

“A foretaste of glory divine”

When Eddie got “squeezed” by FTD, song and dance came out. He was filled with joy. 

Now, I’m sure that was not always the case then or especially in the latter stages of this awful malady. But as long as FTD would allow, the joy of the Lord flowed out of Eddie. 

Please, Lord, let something like that come out of me when I get “squeezed.” 

Allow me to let you in on a little insight I have now. I believe that Eddie was giving us a foretaste of heaven. 

You see, there’ll be a lot of singing and dancing there. 

Inhibition will be gone, too. 

Joy will rule in everyone who enters the pearly gates. 

In that heavenly venue, those of us who know Jesus as savior, like Eddie does, will sing and dance—maybe to tunes and lyrics like: 

  • “I will sing the wondrous story of the Christ who died for me”
  • “Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing / Standing on the promises of God”
  • “This is my story, this is my song / Praising my savior all the day long” (emphases added)

Will you get to sing a heavenly concert? 

Are you ready to take the stage for the “big dance”?

I know Eddie would want me to ask you that because he’d love you to be there too. 

So, thank you Eddie, for being my friend and giving us all a momentary glimpse of glory divine.

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