When I graduated from Magnolia Bible College in 1985 I moved 8 miles west from Ruleville, Mississippi to Cleveland. I worked for the Cleveland Church of Christ as a Campus Minister at Delta State University and as the Youth Minister for the church. The preaching minister at the time was Eddie Lewis. As a 21 year old recent college graduate with a new job I really thought I knew a lot. What I didn’t know was that I had stepped into a goldmine of mentoring under the influence of Eddie and Judy Lewis. They were a marvelous team as they reached out to others in the church. It took me a while to realize this, but as I look back now I can see God’s hand in having me in their shadow and gaining life and ministry lessons from them that still serve me today. I think as long as I live I’ll always hope to be the kind of man that Eddie is. This is even more vivid as I’ve watched over the past six years as he has cared for his wonderful wife Judy as she traveled down the darkening road of dementia. But that was not the Judy that I knew.
Judy was perceptive. When you talked with her she often unearthed a perspective or feeling that you had not identified yet. This served her well as a counselor both in a professional setting and in informal conversations.
Judy was compassionate. Like most compassionate people, Judy had lived through a lot of her own heartache and troubles in life. I often marveled at how someone who had so much to deal with early in life could be such a sunny and bright person. She genuinely cared about the person in front of her, no matter who they were.
Judy was funny. She had a ready easy laugh – and if I can say this in a kind way – she was at times loud and vivacious! Fun to be around because of her great sense of humor and desire to bring happiness to others, Judy had some (searching for words here) funny voices with which she would express things that brought many a smile. I can remember funny games that Eddie and Judy led at gatherings that had everyone in stitches.
Judy was unafraid. If there needed to be a hard conversation, she was ready to have it. It would be done with class and kindness. But it would happen – and often with a good resolution because of her determination to iron out anything that had created an issue. In addition, they ministered in a time when very few couples were doing marriage enrichment seminars for churches where both the husband and the wife spoke. These were tricky waters to navigate but they both cared about the family and withstood criticism from some in order to help the most.
It was during the time I was in Cleveland when an unexpected issue developed between my father and me. It was something I couldn’t do anything about. At the time I was still single and didn’t have the blessing of a spouse to lean upon. Depression settled in and I needed help. Eddie and Judy were there to be a blessing to me … a light in my darkness.
When the Lewis’ moved from Cleveland to Greenville and then on Germantown, they left behind friends and admirers who were impacted by their positive and uplifting ministry.
That’s why today, the day of Judy’s funeral, there are people all over Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana who are wistful today as they ruminate over memories of Judy. Her daughters and their families have endured a terrible loss. If there is any comfort it comes from two things…
Judy lived life to the fullest, a woman of faith and family, leaving a heritage her family can be proud of.
Judy is released from the darkness of memory loss into the brightness of God’s caring presence.
Until we meet again, goodbye Judy. God’s blessings and comfort to Eddie, Angelia and Christie and families.
Thanks for reading, JD