Pastor Bailey, the new minister, parked in front of the house of a parishioner, an elderly widow who had been feeling poorly. As he walked up to her house, he noticed on the lot beside her house a really old house. He was sure that it had to be the oldest one in the community, but he didn’t think much more about it that day.
Her name was Eula. She was one of the oldest members of their church and also the eldest of her family. Her husband, “Mick,” had died several years earlier of a heart attack. They never had any children of their own. It was clear to the minister that she was still very much grieving Mick’s death. Mick came up frequently in their first conversation and in every one after that. Around her neck she wore a gold necklace he had given to her and on it hung his wedding band, “So that he will always be near my heart,” she said.
Over time Eula and the minister became friends. On another visit he asked her about that old house next door. “Oh, it is becoming an eyesore, isn’t it?” she replied. “Not so much,” he told a little white lie.
She went in the kitchen and came back with a glass of sweet tea for the minister. “The house is mine,” she continued. “It’s the old home place. My brother and sisters didn’t want it, so Mick and I bought it some years ago, you know, to keep it and the land in the family.” She stopped for a moment and looked out the window at the old house.
Finally she said, “Lots of memories there.” The minister sipped his tea and said, “Well, share some with me.”
Eula smiled. “I’ll do better than that,” she replied. “How about a guided tour?” She was out of her chair before he could even answer or finish his tea, which was very good and really sweet. He had discovered earlier that if you ever asked for unsweetened tea in that area people would look at you like you were from a different country.
Now the minister wasn’t all that excited about the prospects of touring that old house. It looked like it might collapse any moment. But he went along anyway as this seemed important to his friend.
They walked over to it and up onto the front porch, which creaked and groaned beneath them. He was certain one or both of them were about to disappear to only God’s knows where, never to be heard from again. But somehow the aged planks held up.
Eula reached into the pocket of her sweater and pulled out a key that looked like something from the Middle Ages. She fumbled with it for a few moments when finally there was a click and the large wooden door creaked open. For some reason the minister thought about a movie he had recently seen starring Don Knotts, “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.” He had no question who the chicken was in this version of the movie – him – nor of the possibility that one or more ghosts just might be awaiting for him inside.
That old house was a creepy place alright. But it had an entirely different impact on Eula. She walked right inside and began to look around. It was as if every part of it held some treasured memory for her. The minister silently prayed that this would be a very short tour. That prayer would not be answered.