Sunday, March 02, 2008

It is Certainly Not About You and Me

Rick Warren deals with a huge question in his book entitled, “The Purpose Driven Life."
The question is a simple one. “What on earth am I here for?”

I was forced to think about the answer to that question as I stood and spoke at the open grave of Ephraim K. Johnson, Jr. this afternoon.

E.K. Johnson, Jr. was born to loving parents, E.K and Corine Tucker Johnson, in May of 1922. E.K. Jr. was very normal and healthy young boy until he had his tonsils removed. Something happened during the surgery and he never was the same afterwards. In fact, he never spoke another word and never gained his mental capacity. His father owned and operated a local store at the time and spent every dime he had in an attempt to get his son proper medical attention. He lost his store and became broke in his quest to help his son. In 1946 E.K. Jr. was admitted to Central State Hospital in Milledgeville. E.K. Sr would die the following year.

In 1959 Corine Johnson, who figured she did not have long to live and had no one to take charge of affairs at her death, paid a visit to my dad at the funeral home to pre-pay the funeral expenses for herself and her incapacitated son. During that conversation she asked my dad if he would look after her son, E.K. Jr., who was a patient at Central State. Of course Daddy promised her he would. When she died four years later, Corine had named my daddy in her will to look after her son. Soon afterwards, daddy became the legal guardian for E.K. Johnson, Jr. About 40 years later and a few months before my dad’s death, he and I drove over to Milledgeville to visit E.K. Johnson. During that drive to Milledgeville, Daddy reminded me of the story of Corine and E.K. Johnson and asked me to continue to look after E.K. after his (my dad’s) death.

A few weeks after Daddy’s death in January 1994, I was appointed as E.K's legal guardian. And I have looked after his affairs for the past 14 years. Today I completed the job and the promise made by my dad to Corine Johnson almost 50 years ago.

Today E.K. Johnson had a proper burial next to his mother in Mt. Olive Cemetery near Reynolds.

There were only ten people in attendance including my wife and me and the undertaker in charge. Three of the people who looked after him in Milledgeville made the drive to Reynolds for the service. (Viola, Zena and Joyce are pictured here with me). And there was a local couple who lived across the street from Corine and used to drive her to Milledgeville to see her son. And there was a distant relative and her friend who was nice enough to drive her to the funeral. I’ve been to smaller funerals but I can count them on one hand.

But the ten of us had a special time considering the question, “What on earth was E.K. here for?” When you consider his life from our perspective it was not much. He spent 61 of his 85 years in a mental institution. He has not spoken a word since his tonsils were removed when he was a young boy. He was diagnosed with severe mental retardation at a young age. On the surface he didn’t have much of a life.

But when you consider the truth that Rick Warren talks about that our life is not about us but about God, E.K’s life may be worth much more than we realize. And when you consider the truth that God never makes a mistake you begin to think about God’s purposes in the life of E.K. Johnson.

I know that our life on earth is only a drop in the bucket when you compare it to eternity. Just maybe God planted E.K. here for “a few minutes” for people like me to be reminded that life is not about how much money we have or the material things we accumulate. But this life may be more about how we treat and take care of people who are put in our lives that cannot take care of themselves.

Jesus said it himself. “I tell you whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”

This afternoon as I considered the life of E.K. Johnson, I was reminded of what on earth WE are here for.

And it is certainly not about you and me.


Judy S said...

You have completed the task that Mr Ed left for you to do and I know that he is so proud of you.Your daddy was a very good man and there is no doubt his son is too.

Love ya,

Anonymous said...

I read this sad story earlier this week and have thought about E.K. ever since. I just re-read it and cried some more! But knowing that E.K. is finally well, and is reunited with his parents (I'm guessing they were Christians), makes me feel much better.

On Dr. McGee's "Thru the Bible" radio program, he once mentioned that those who are the sickest on earth will really 'live it up' when they get to Heaven, so I'm guessing that E.K. is really 'living it up' now!

LL in SC

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Goddard: On behalf of the staff and clients of the Boland Complex, please accept our heartfelt sympathy for the recent death of Mr. Johnson. E.K. was the kind of person who made us glad to come to work. He would brighten an otherwise ordinary day for the staff here at Boland 5 West when we looked into his clear blue eyes, and we knew that he appreciated everything we assisted him in doing to make his day. E.K.'s smile was a pure smile,a smile that came from his heart and let all around him know that he was enjoying what God had given him. The patience and good cheer he always displayed continue to be inpsirational for those who knew him. He was truly one of God's gentlemen. Mr. Goddard, you were the guardian that I wish all the residents here were blessed to have. With your aid, Mr. Johnson did not want for anything. I can truly say that whenever I called you for funds to help meet his needs; he was sure to receive it the very next day. You seemed to have 1st dibs on the U.S. Postal Service (smile).
You are a man of many hats, and you wear them all well. The eulogy you gave at this grave site was heartfelt and uplifting, and the rembrances of those relatives who knew E.K. were enlightening.
Once again, thank you for all you did for Mr. Johnson, and it is our sincere hope that we can stay in touch. The staff and I thank you very much for "A View From a Hearse."


Viola Warren, SST
Social Services Technician
Boland Complex