When I was a small child, my parents divorced. Mom had little money and we lived in a tiny house far out in the country. Across the road was a retired farm where a sweet couple lived. They married rather late in life and were never blessed with any children of their own. She was a retired kindergarten teacher and he kept busy with his small garden and his chores.
I was about four when the nice neighbor lady came to visit for the first time. It was the week before Christmas and she brought an armload of presents for me and my siblings. I especially remember the red and blue toy snow shovels that were protruding up over her shoulder as she balanced the rest in her arms.
The visit was the first of many and she eventually invited my mother to a prayer meeting. That night, my mom accepted the Lord and life dramatically changed for us. This couple took us under their wing and adopted us as part of their family. We called them Grandma and Grandpa. In the coming years, we shared holidays, birthdays, and even a few vacations.
Every year, she would take me shopping for school clothes and a hair cut every year and our day always ended with a meal at a nice restaurant. She thought it was important that I learn table manners and how to eat in a nice place. I now smile at the memory and I'm in awe of the love she expressed for me. When was the last time I took an 8 year old out for a nice dinner?
One of my favorite memories is when she took me to purchase a dress for my piano recital. She really liked to shop and we made a day of it. We selected a beautiful dress, my first pair of nylon stockings, new shoes, and a pretty pink rain coat with daisies sewn onto the pocket. After we were finished shopping, I changed into my new dress and she took me to a really fancy place for dinner. There were candles lit on the table and I was amazed when the waitress brought us our own cutting board with a tiny loaf of fresh, warm bread. I'm fairly sure I ordered my usual meal, a cheeseburger, but the whole experience is burned in my memory. It was magical.
I will treasure this couple for the rest of my life. They are both home with the Lord today and I miss them terribly. However, the seed they sowed into my life will forever remain. They didn't just tell me about Jesus, they showed me. They could have written a check or just dropped off a dress, instead they spent time making me feel important and special. They showed me love.
Now, here's the surprise ending I promised. Their names were Fielda and Sherman Hetherley. I now write under the name J. Heather Leigh in their honor. This is a small token to honor them for the integral role they played in my life.