Saturday, July 03, 2004

My Birthday Surprise

(Note: This week when I opened a copy of The Prairie Post I got the surprise of my life. There, in big bold print, was a headline which read: Family Turns Table on Reflections Columnist, Eileen Umbehr, along with a big picture of me! My sister Mary, with the help of my other siblings, decided to write a birthday tribute to me! I was completely caught off guard. As someone who believes that words spoken from the heart are one of life's greatest gifts, I'd like to thank Mary and all my family for my birthday surprise and for all the love expressed in these words. Now the pressure is on to live up to them!)

Dear Reflections Readers,

This article is not written by Eileen Umbehr, but for Eileen Umbehr. She has blessed many of her family and friends with heart warming tributes on their birthdays. We thought she should have a turn.

“As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor]."
I Peter 4:10 (Amp)

Eileen is the youngest girl in our family of nine children, and number seven in line. Maybe because she was always small, she had to learn to hold her own. She was an ‘A’ student, and athlete, matched wits with our older brother (no small feat), and for as long as any of us can remember – a writer. She would write to our Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins. She would write letters, thoughts, prayers, poems. She was – and is – everyone’s cheerleader, literally and figuratively. She organized teams, games, skits and sing-a-longs. She was the “go – to gal”. She would practice her cheers on the lawn for hours. She made the High School squad the year we moved to Singapore. Eileen was so sad. Little did she know that she would meet the love of her life, Keen. Now, she is our cheerleader. Eileen is the best listener, is a passionate supporter of those she loves and causes she believes in. She is the first person we want to call when something happens. She is always there for us. Nothing is too much trouble when someone is in need. She recently volunteered in the women’s prison counseling pregnant inmates. She had nothing but love and acceptance for them – never judgment.

Eileen is a person who just has to give – her time, her talents, her energy. Ninety percent of the time, no one even knows that she did it. She doesn’t want credit. She just wants to bring the love of God to everyone around her. Her son Josh says “Yeah –my Mom can go into a store and come out with a friend – and a good one!”

Eileen’s birthday is July 3rd. Our Mom used to say that she stole the fireworks from the 4th of July. Considering her personality – the saying sure seems to fit. The meaning of her name is ‘Light’ – and that is just what she brings. Eileen is full of laughter, joy and love. She has more life in her than three people put together! She has an uncanny ability to handle many challenging projects at once – and keep all the balls in the air! When she was here in Nevada writing her book, I introduced her as “the ambitious one”. She told me that her dream her whole life was to be a wife and mother. She has achieved that goal beautifully having married the most incredible man I’ve ever met, and raising four amazing gentle men. She now has two daughters and two grandsons to continue the dream.

On a personal note, Eileen came to Nevada when I was expecting twins. Even though I was two weeks over due, the doctor was reluctant to induce me due to implications it may have on him. Because of her strength, my twins were born healthy. My son was born with a knot in his cord, and would have died if he was not delivered at that time. Mind you, Eileen had her four children at home, the youngest a two year old who celebrated his birthday during her stay. Recently, Eileen essentially put her life on hold to help me through the painful process of extricating myself from a twenty-five year abusive marriage. She never tired of what must have been an excruciating process of false hopes, false starts and what Dr. Laura calls ‘stupid forgiveness’. She knew when I needed her and she knew when I didn’t. There is great power in that.

Eileen is truly one in twenty million. There is none quite like her. We feel blessed beyond measure to have her in our lives. I wish you the same. If you ever meet her, you will come away with a new friend – and a good one!

“The measure of love is to love without measure.” ~St. Augustine

Happy Birthday, Sis! We love you!

God Bless ~