The Book of Proverbs is filled with wise tidbits about how to live life to the fullest. Chapter eighteen ends at verse twenty-four about friendships: A man who has friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. We know Jesus is the that friend.
Earlier this year, God gave us some new friends. Eric and Evelyn Mapp had recently relocated to St. Louis from our sister church in Chicago.
Because they attended my cousin’s congregation, I especially wanted to reach out to them with a dinner invitation. We got to know each other over a Super Bowl party. They came to our house for dinner and one morning for breakfast. By June, we waited on each other after service to pick a place to eat.
In this picture, the Mapps and our neighbors helped Kerry and I celebrate our June 33rd wedding anniversary. Funny thing about this dinner is not only did everyone wear blue, except Eric, but it was the same shade. We laughed about him not getting the memo.
When my novel, THE CONFESSION, won Best Inspirational Romance a few months ago, we celebrated by enjoying a buffet after church service. When the Mapps walked into Bristol’s, Evelyn was carrying flowers. Since Eric could be quoted saying, “I love my wife,” I assumed he had bought her flowers. Instead the bouquet was for me in celebration of my win. Wow, I thought. That was something I would do. It was a humbling experience.
As 4th of July rolled around, I asked them if they were going back home to Chicago and said Kerry and I were barbecuing. Evelyn’s response was, “We’re coming to your house.” See, friends don’t wait for an invitation. They invite themselves and show up with a dish. I love it!
It was fun introducing the former Chicago couple to popular eating places in St. Louis, and not so long ago, we enjoyed soul food at OL’ Henrys. Eric said he couldn’t wait to eat there again.
The last Sunday in July, we didn’t meet at a restaurant for dinner after church. Instead, Eric and Evelyn decided to join Kerry and me at a concert in the park on the campus of Washington University. Two days after that outing on August 2, 2016, at 7:30 in the morning, Eric was dead at the age of fifty-six.
My husband and I never cried so hard. Hours earlier, he was still alive. I remember his last words to me on that Sunday night, “See you later sweetie.” We exchanged kisses on the cheeks.
There were two things I can say about Brother Eric Mapp in the short time Kerry and I were able to form a friendship with him. He loved his wife and he was sincere about his Holy Ghost led walk with Christ.
As shocking as his sudden death was, Eric knew weighing more than four hundred pounds was a health risk. So three years earlier, he and Evelyn embarked on a diet plan together to lose hundreds of pounds. If they hadn’t told us, we wouldn’t have believed them. Eric lost the weight, but I guess the damage to his heart was already done.
So now fourteen days after his death, I reflect on the few months God gave us to be friends with Eric down to his last days. Kerry and I will always be thankful that “we showed ourselves friendly.”
Please keep Evelyn in your prayers. Oh, and we will continue to take her out to dinner on Sundays after church.