Monday, March 9, 2009

Mary Ellen Edmunds

I love this tribute that my mother wrote to introduce one of her good friends, Mary Ellen Edmunds, at a conference in 1990. It manages to say a lot about Mary Ellen and my mother at the same time.

I first met Mary Ellen Edmunds in Hong Kong in 1963. In spite of her hilarious letters welcoming me as a missionary to the Southern Far East Mission, I wasn’t quite prepared for her. My defenses were down. When it came time for me to meet the Mission President for the first time, I was hiding behind a door barefoot, wondering what to do. Sister Edmunds had tied my shoes to the 20 foot ceiling of the mission home. I didn’t have a clue how to get them down. I didn’t come out until my mission president was really irritated. When I finally did come out, he thundered, “Sister Davidson, WHERE are your shoes!!!

The next thing I remember him saying was, “Sister Edmunds, see me in my office after dinner.” She wasn’t scared. She was as much at home with him as she would have been with my little brother. So, that’s one side of Sister Edmunds: she plays mean tricks.

Mary Ellen was prepared early in life for such things. One morning-- just to see what her reaction would be--her own mother threw a pie in her face.

Eventually, we were companions in the Philippine Islands for 9 months. I got to know her well. I learned she doesn’t sleep as much as most people. She kept me up working all night and then made fun of me when I fell asleep on a bus the next day. She said she couldn’t decide whether to hold my legs together or to hold my mouth shut to keep me decent in public. Once she tended a little boy all night in a primitive hospital while I slept in the nurses' quarters.

There are several things Mary Ellen does not like: she can’t stand pessimism, she can’t stand being late, and she doesn’t tolerate dishonesty. I remember a dishonest taxi driver who should have known that before he let her into his cab. Because he guessed we didn’t know the territory and was driving us all over town, she grabbed the back of his neck and shook him. He was glad to stop the cab and let us out without paying his outrageous fee. Mary Ellen has the courage to stand for truth and righteousness under any circumstances. You would want her next to you in a good fight. I have seen her take on a whole gang of ruffians single handed, just because one of them was harrassing me. As a result, she earned the admiration of the whole gang.

Mary Ellen has an elephant-sized heart. That is what drives her to stay up nights, to be a champion of righteousness, and to work with all her might, mind and strength ... literally. She came home from Africa--her 4th mission--in a wheel chair. She loves people. She loves all of us, even though she notices our idiosyncrasies. She is equally at ease with the famous and the infamous, the wealthy and the poor, with the suffering and the dying, with the disfigured and the disabled. All are safe in her presence (except those who are pessimistic, those who are late, and those who are cheating). Her love is irresistible. It takes away all fear. Everywhere she goes she has a following, like the pied piper. Her following includes children and old people, men and women, sick and well. I am one of her followers. I love her and consider it a great privilege to be able to introduce her tonight.

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