The story I'm about to share with you is one that's very close to my heart. And, since I'm not a believer in coincidences, I know the events that played out a few years ago were orchestrated by God, as He brought two individuals together who formed a very precious (and healing) friendship.
If you've ever considered writing a book, people will advise you to write about what you know. That being said, I had the privilege of knowing Ms. Oleta B. Greer-Simmons, and this elderly woman was a ray of sunshine during an otherwise dark period in my life. In fact, I was so impressed with her zest for life and beautiful spirit, her name is mentioned in two of my books. Here's an excerpt from 30-Love:
Charlie rested her head on the steering wheel. "I'm sorry, Drake. This is just odd to me," she confessed. "I feel like I'm being disloyal to Jack. When you called and invited me to lunch, I thought it'd be the four of us."
"And, you told me your middle name was Spontaneous," he reminded Charlie, fixing her with a brilliant smile as she turned and raised her head to him.
"Well, for the record, my middle name is actually Oleta," she told Drake tartly.
"Oleta," he repeated the name softly. "Interesting. What does it mean, Charlie?"
"Small winged one," she answered with a chuckle. "It's Latin—I believe."
Quick commercial - if you've not yet snagged your copy of 30-Love, it's available on Amazon and also BarnesandNoble.com:
And, here's the book trailer:
So, getting back to the story of Oleta and me, my son Jacob was looking for a location to shoot a music video for his song, Afraid of Me. When he told me what he had in mind, I knew I had the perfect setting.
"There's an abandoned old homestead I walk past off Simmons Road," I told him. "It's pretty dilapidated, but I think it might be what you're looking for."
I'll cut to the chase here and tell you that a couple of days later I knocked on the storm door of the more modern home in the adjacent lot to see if I could find out who owned the property. I waited several minutes and was about to walk away when the front door slowly creaked open.
Looking down, I saw a tiny, wrinkled old woman staring up at me. "Hello," she said with a shy smile. "My name is Oleta Greer and I'm ninety-eight years old."
We spoke through the door for a few minutes while I explained the nature of my visit. Oleta might have been ninety-eight, but she was sharp as a tack. After inviting me inside, she told me that she'd been born in the house next door in 1914. "In the summers, when it got too hot, us kids would grab our pillows and sleep in the front yard under the stars," she told me with a grin. "We didn't have air conditioning back then so it was a lot cooler than being inside."
I was immediately at ease with Oleta as she motioned for me to take a seat at her kitchen table, I mentioned something I'd noticed on one of my frequent walks down her street. "The mailbox in front of the house on the other side of yours has the name James Simmons on it. My husband gets a kick out of that since it's also his name. We've even received a couple of phone calls from people who were trying to reach your next-door neighbor."
Oleta chuckled but I noticed a slight shadow sweep across her sweet face. "Yes, I knew him. James was my younger brother," she explained. "You see, Simmons is my maiden name. James passed away in September. We were very close. In fact, my late husband and James and his wife Hermalee owned and operated Barr and Simmons Grocery. Of course, that was before they put Grapevine Lake in."
I remember thinking how different things must have been back then. I couldn't imagine the area I lived in not having Grapevine Lake. I encouraged her to tell me more about their store and how they'd gone into farming after they'd sold it over thirty years later. Oleta was animated when she spoke of her brother and I could see that she was still grieving the loss of her beloved sibling. "Now it's just me," she said sadly."All my brothers and sisters have passed."
I shared that I'd also lost someone precious to that year. "I lost my mom this past January," I said. "I understand how hard it is to move forward."
Oleta patted my hand kindly and said, "Well, maybe it's no accident you showed up on my doorstep today. I don't know why the good Lord has kept me on this earth as long as He has. But I believe there's a reason." She paused for a moment then added, "Now, tell me more about what you want to do at the old house."
A Special Connection
Spending time with Oleta was always special. I talked with her about my mom Franny and she told me more about her brother James and their adventures together. She took great delight in whatever small gift or meal I'd bring to her and I never tired of hearing her talk about her fascinating history. One of my favorite stories was about her father taking the family to the Flower Mound Presbyterian Church in a horse-drawn wagon. "All of us would be so excited to go to church," she exclaimed. "No matter what the weather, we never missed a Sunday service."
An avid sports fan, she adored the Dallas Cowboys as well as the Mavericks. I recall marveling at her recall of all the player's names and their stats. Oleta had many friends and was loved by all. Those who knew her knew not to call or visit during one of her beloved football or basketball games. "You can always come and watch one with me," she told me. "But, I'm pretty focused when they're on."
Oleta was very excited about turning one hundred years old. "I never smoked or drank," she told me once. "I've heard bacon is supposed to be bad for you, but I've eaten it for years and I'm still here."
One evening, I was in her kitchen, straightening up when I noticed Oleta staring out her dining room window. "I used to be known for baking the best pecan pies," she shared. "When I was a kid, we'd gather pecans and my mom taught me how to make pies. I can close my eyes and remember the smell of those pies baking. It's one of my best memories."
Touched by this, I asked, "Do you want to bake some pecan pies together, Oleta? I can pick up all the ingredients."
Although she declined my offer (I was sort-of happy for this as her oven hadn't been used in many years!), Oleta wasn't unhappy. "No," she said. "I was just thinking about pecan pies." She paused for a moment and quietly called me over to see some deer grazing in her backyard.
"Aren't they beautiful, Monica?" she asked, staring outside with childlike wonder. "I never grow tired of watching them."
I put my arm around my angel friend who'd helped me through so much. "I totally agree," I said. "How about I bring you a pecan pie tomorrow?"
"That'd be great if you could. But please don't go to any trouble," she said with that sweet little smile which always melted my heart.
I knew there was no way I was showing up at her house again without a homemade pecan pie!
Oleta died peacefully at home at one hundred and five years old. This remarkable, unassuming woman, was an inspiration to many and though she never had children of her own, her story lives on through those who knew her. Whenever I think of Oleta, I'm reminded of Hebrews 13:2:
"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Oleta once told me that God put me into her life right when she needed me. There's no doubt in my mind that I needed this wise old soul much more than she needed me. I'm forever grateful for the gift of this special friendship, and will always treasure my memories of Oleta, the small winged one.
Closet ClotheSure Challenge 2020 Week 30 Update:
Monday - Here we go with a New York & Company top and matching long skirt with a fun side slit. This one is a goner. Actually, I thought I might hang onto it for a bit, but if you look closely, you'll see the amazing turquoise stone cuff bracelet on my right wrist. Well, that same bracelet (now also gone), snagged the living daylights out of the top, causing irreparable damage. So, suffice it to say, this is an outfit I'm shedding!
Tuesday - Another New York & Company ensemble. I'm pretty sure the long tunic top is actually a dress, but on me, it's definitely a shirt! Keeper!
Wednesday - Interestingly enough, this third outfit received a lot of negative feedback on social media. Sorry all, but I still dig it and will be hanging onto it. Love the color and also the POCKETS! (you know how I love pockets!) Someone suggested I wear different shoes with it. Perhaps I'll take that under advisement for later wear.
Thursday - Full disclosure, it's been more than seven years since I last wore this purply-pink fitted dress from White House Black Market. It's one of the dreaded size 6's in my closet and has teetered on the chopping block for some time now. I suppose it's time to finally wave goodbye to it, even though I have the perfect matching Guess pumps!
Two Out of Four Ain't Bad!
From The Garden -
Here's something interesting:
Sunflowers Are Onto Something Good!
Did you know that sunflowers turn according to the position of the sun? In other words, they “chase the light.”
This may seem like a logical (and impressive) action for these tall, tough plants to take. But, it might make you wonder what happens on cloudy or rainy days when the sun is completely covered? Do you think sunflowers wither or turn their magnificent yellow heads toward the ground?
No! When there’s no sunshine, they turn to each other for energy!
My prayer is that we turn first to God and then to one another for strength today and every day! Please remember my friends - God is in control and hope is on the move!