Max And Audrey

Posted: October 3, 2020 in Meditations

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”

Philippians 4:8,9

Max bent over the coffin to kiss his Audrey one last time. The lid closed. I heard a groan, the pained gasp of love separated, it was Max. I wept openly. I couldn’t bear the audible agony of my hero, Max Ephraim. It was tough enough saying goodbye to a woman who loved me like a son. The kindness, the gentleness, the generosity of these two giants in the kingdom of God never dims in my heart. How I loved them, words fail to describe the eternal benefit of their love to me. Their example buttresses my devotion to Christ, how I conduct my life.

Max and Audrey had nine children. I fell for number eight, a vivacious spitfire named Lois, Teddy to her friends. I’m sure the discerning eye of both fell on this invading rooster but I never felt it. It’s hard to describe the siblings. Each one lived bigger than life: brilliant, ebullient, ridiculously accepting. I never received a curt word from anyone except Lois. Isn’t that how it goes? After dating for eighteen months, the dating relationship ended. I’m from Wisconsin, the Ephraims from Illinois. Normally, that ends the story, but normal never described the Ephraims.

I felt the acute pain of love lost—she broke up with me, just the worst on so many levels. But life moves on and so did I. I worked every summer for my Uncle Richard who owned investment properties throughout the state of Wisconsin. I worked a project in Wittenburg when the phone rang, it was Audrey Ephraim. Her sixteen year old son was going through a difficult time. She asked, “If you have work for my son, would you consider taking him on for the summer?” The answer, “Yes, I would love to have James work with us.” James worked hard, a real joy; for me it was a blessing to return a small portion of the love Max and Audrey poured into me. That summer cemented my place in the Ephraim extended family for the rest of their lives.

Audrey never forgot that summer with her son James. Their interest in my life never abated. I remember my last encounter with Max and Audrey over a supper. Audrey hugged me and said, “The boy I wished was my son.” Those words meant everything to me. This godly woman, mother of nine, loved me.

Max, perhaps the most amazing man I ever met, went on to glory a few years later. I drove two hundred miles to pay my respects to a great man. Memories, so many memories swept over me. I remembered a moment at Maranatha Chapel in Evergreen Park. I just finished a lengthy discussion with a remorseful alcoholic man at the altar after church. Everybody but Max had gone home. Max put his hands on my shoulders and said, “Phil, that same man may come to the altar a hundred times and on the hundred and first time, the miracle will happen.” In short, Max taught me, “Never give up on anyone. With God, all things are possible.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever you have learned or received from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. Max and Audrey, your legacy lives on in me. Until my dying breath, I will do my best to pass on the love and wisdom you invested in me.

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