A New Perspective for Today: Paid in Full
Today we give you the first glimpse of a project which has been in the works for quite some time. This project is called A New Perspective for Today. Within the next few weeks, we will share more about the purpose and format of this series, but for now, we would like to share a story, part of which took place on Easter Sunday just three years ago. A New Perspective For Today: Paid In Full
I may have witnessed the highest price ever paid for a needlepoint work of an unrecognized maker, and it made me weep. But that is where this story ends. To begin, we travel back to 1921.
Carmelita was born on March 2, 1921. She lived most of her life in Texas and Missouri. Her husband of 61 years preceded her in death, and she continued to live alone in her later years, even at 92. Carmelita was content in her simple life.
Carmelita was a quiet lady who had a profound impact on the lives of many. Her connection with one family was particularly strong. Their relationship sprouted in the little town of Timpson, Texas. There, Carmelita and Donna, the preacher’s wife at her church, kept the church property adorned with beautiful flowers.
As time passed, Carmelita moved away to Missouri. Previous to this, Donna’s son, Allen, had also moved to Missouri. It just so happened that Allen was the Associate/Youth Minister in the same church where Carmelita made her home. Allen’s wife, Marilynn, decided to keep the family bond strong. In her motherly wisdom, Marilynn saw the importance of connecting her children with older mentors. She would take her daughter, Annette, along to visit with the family friend. On more than one occasion, Annette had the opportunity to sit at the feet of Carmelita and receive lessons in the art of needlepoint. Together, the pair made two needlepoint projects: one of a butterfly, and one of a frog. It was an uncommon pursuit for a young lady in this day and age, but it seemed like the right thing to do. They were special times with needlepoint as the topic, but life as the real lesson.
I also shared moments with Carmelita. Because of family connections, we saw her every Easter and Thanksgiving. On Easter Sunday in 2013, we spent the day at my brother's house. His custom-built dining table seated some 25 members of the extended family on both sides. Carmelita was present, but she took her usual place off to the side. She did not speak much, and was not one to draw attention to herself. She was just there, as humble as always. The day went on as had so many other holiday gatherings. We shared a meal, played some games and once again parted ways. Carmelita was transported home by her daughter and son-in-law to her quaint little house on Morehead Street. There, she settled into her favorite chair, where she regularly read her Bible.
The next morning, my phone rang earlier than normal. I answered and listened to the subdued voice of my brother: “Carmelita is dead.” I was a bit confused, having just seen her living and breathing 12 hours earlier. The next words from my brother’s mouth made my throat tight and my knees weak: “She was murdered.” I had never heard those words spoken about someone I knew personally. To hear them spoken about Carmelita was incomprehensible. As the story unfolded, I learned of a vicious crime spree perpetrated by two young men from a neighboring community. A series of events involving theft, assault, and stolen vehicles ultimately led them to Carmelita’s home. They wanted her car, and whatever else they could get their hands on. In the process of robbing her of what little she possessed, they also took her life.
The tragic death of Carmelita sent shock-waves through our community, especially the members of her church family. She had been a precious friend to so many. Her family came together and made it through the difficult task of finalizing her humble estate. What small amount of physical possessions she did have were dealt with efficiently. A few special items were retained by family members as mementos. Among those items was a needlepoint canvas. It was a floral scene featuring a teapot, cup and saucer. Of all the canvases she had adorned, this was the last. It was a simple object made special by the hands of the one who created it.
The needlepoint remained in the home of Carmelita’s daughter for three years, serving as a daily reminder of her mother. In February of 2016, the sacrificial decision was made to donate it to a benefit auction at the church, where Carmelita and her family were faithful members.
The day of the auction arrived. Bidding was lively on everything from cakes and pies to woodworking and knitting projects. Carmelita’s needlepoint was saved until the end. As the bidding began, it was clear there was more than one party interested. I was sitting behind one of parties: Marilynn and her husband Allen. I knew of their connection to Carmelita, but I also knew their funds were limited. Her hand shot up with confidence until the amount approached $100. At that point, her deep desire to own the needlepoint was shadowed by her limited finances. As the price increased and her arm slowly lowered, love took over. Marilynn’s bids jumped to life as her husband, Allen, placed his hand under her arm. He thrust her hand into the air where he held it without wavering. $110, 120, 130...the audience held their breath as the numbers continued to climb. $200, 210, 220...Allen held Marilynn’s hand high. $300, 310, 320...a chilled quiet fell over the crowd and eyes began to fill with tears. A quick glance from Marilyn to Allen and it was clear that his resolve was firm. There was no turning back. $400, 410, 420. Everyone in the room knew that this was a profound act of love. Carmelita was a woman who so deserved to be honored, and in this moment she was. Those honoring her had little means to pay the $470 final price for doing so. And yet, they did it without wavering.
The next day this post appeared on Marilynn’s Facebook page:
That's not where the story ends. As I'm in line to pay for it, I get a precious hug and note saying it is paid in full. I was already crying but sobbed into the cashiers shoulder. Five precious people ran up ahead of me to help pay a portion of it. Talk about feeling humbled and loved. I left the church crying and hugging that picture.
The plan for the needlepoint is yet another sacrificial act of love. It is a gift for Donna, Carmelita’s dear friend and Marilynn’s mother-in-law. It will become a family heirloom that, in due time, will pass on to Marilynn and Allen, and eventually to their daughter, Annette.
This one, simple object became the motivating factor for so many people to exhibit selfless love.
For the family, it was a reminder of the way Carmelita always chose to give of herself to others. Ultimately, it became an opportunity for them to express that love one more time through the donation of this cherished item.
For Marilynn, it was the desire to bless her mother-in-law with a gift that was beyond her means.
For Allen, it was the unwavering and loving support of his wife in this pursuit.
And for five, individual anonymous donors, it became an opportunity to pay the price as a spontaneous response to everything they had observed.
Author: Anthony Beaverson
Anthony is one of the staff writers for this blog series. He resides in Moberly, Missouri, where he is the managing partner for RoofTop Antiques. As founder of this organization, he is passionate about the stories that are connected to the simple objects that pass through their business. He is excited to bring these stories to you.
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