A dear, dear lady from my childhood (well, and my adulthood as well I suppose) passed away earlier this week. She was such a large part of my childhood and I wanted to share a tribute to this amazing woman.
Helen Parrish, or Saint Helen as she is known by most, is a part of my heart. She is a part of who I am. She has always been a part of my life and my family.
And I am not unique in this.
Miss Helen had a hand in raising so many of us in this community – at Clanton First United Methodist Church, yes, but also throughout the whole county. If you were a member of our church, chances are, she taught you on Sunday nights, in God’s World, through her special class in the summer (as an attendee or a helper), or just in passing her in the sanctuary. As a child, I spent at least 3 days a week during the summer spending time with Miss Helen. We did chalk drawings, rendering copies of famous pieces of art. We learned about rocks, trees, flowers, and creatures. We learned how to be an acolyte in service – to help our congregation worship and the importance of doing so. All of this, we learned from Miss Helen.
But the lessons she taught us all weren’t limited to the physical things we learned to do at her hands. The largest lessons I, personally, learned from Miss Helen, were taught through her smallest deeds.
Years before it was popular, Miss Helen taught me to be “green”. Once a week every summer of my childhood, I spent an entire morning exploring God’s world with her. She showed me the cool and beautiful things, but she also showed me the icky, gross, and boring stuff. She taught me in word and actions that just because I don’t enjoy or understand a part of God’s world doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a purpose. She taught me to respect every single aspect of this Earth (even creepy, crawly things) because God put it here for a reason and it needed to fulfill its purpose.
I think the most important thing Miss Helen showed me is that just because someone is different doesn’t mean they are less valuable or marvelous. She gave me the privileged of working (and playing) with all of her special-needs friends – adults and kids. She helped me see the most amazing things in each and every one of them. She showed me how easy it was to find what was lovable in every single person I encountered no matter where they came from or what they looked like. She taught me through her words and showed me through her life what unconditional love truly is.
If you knew Miss Helen, you know what I mean and probably have a million other lessons to add to this list. If you didn’t know Miss Helen, you can rest assured that if you HAD met her, she would have loved you, encouraged you, taught you, and walked you into her office to show you her giant rock.
You will be missed, Miss Helen.
Love and Shipoopies,