SURPRISED BY JOHN
Mildred was laughing when she called us with the surprising news that she and Easy were expecting a baby in September, 1953. She was thrilled but surprised. Buzz was all set to be an only child, and now this. That summer they stopped by to visit on the way home from time in Florida with Mildred’s parents. She was tanned and happy, and Arley (who was in a wheelchair following a stroke the year before) was glad another grandchild was coming.
Arley died on August 12 and John Arlie Eaves II was born on September 29 in Ashland, Kentucky. There weren’t many in person interactions during the next years. With Arley gone, Easy didn’t visit Athens much. I literally didn’t see John until my wedding weekend! My little Hurst niece Emily (age 9) was excited to be a junior bridesmaid—and Harriett suggested John (age 8) would be a perfect escort for her. Mildred and Easy agreed and John was adorable in his little navy tux. We moved on—and our paths next crossed when Heather was a student at Vanderbilt and John, Kay and their three sons moved to Nashville to continue their ministry to international students.
What a surprise and joy it was to get acquainted with John and Kay! To see their unconditional love for people from all over the world, to experience their warm hospitality, and to share Eaves family stories. John became the family pastor—conducting funerals including Harriett’s in 1992.
When a new job brought me to Nashville in mid-2001, John said I could live at their house until I decided whether to relocate permanently. For more than a year, I lived in a spare bedroom and shared other living space in their home. That time was such a blessing to my life and I treasure the memory of it.
The world seemed to stand still on September 11, 2001, while I was living there. Kay and John came to Annapolis to celebrate Patrick and Julia’s marriage in May, 2002. Much of that year, John shuttled back and forth to a new ministry position at Hephzibah House in New York City. When I finally found a house I liked in Nashville, John came over to inspect it from top to bottom. When he said it was soundly built, I decided to buy. It was a joy to be able to have them over for meals—after being their house guest so long!
In 2003, John was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer and underwent chemotherapy. That July I hosted an Eaves Family Reunion honoring John. We rented tables and linens for my carport, prepared a souvenir booklet about the family, put framed photos and flowers on the tables, and had a festive picnic style lunch together. Arley’s grandchildren Farrell, Patsy, Buzz, John, Jerry, Bill, Heather and Patrick were all there—plus an assortment of their spouses and children. Everyone shared family memories and stories about the first John Arley Eaves—it was a beautiful day.
John died at home on February 22, 2004, just a few months after joyfully celebrating his 50th birthday with family and friends, food and dancing. Instead of asking why his life was cut short, John steadily continued his witness of God’s grace to the end. His emails (later published in a booklet, Finishing Well) throughout his illness inspired so many. He also preached several powerful sermons in his final months. But John’s very best sermon was his life—a wonderful surprise!