story by Karlee Collins photos by Shelia Scott
In June of 2017, ninety-one year old Eugenia Spradley published her first book called Weaving of Words. The book includes poems about her family’s stories, beautiful places she’s visited, lessons she’s learned through the years, and more. In each one, her love for the Lord is an obvious inspiration. “It’s spiritual poetry,” she says. “I’ve got to give God the credit because the words come to me through Him laying them on my heart.” She explains that once she began writing it became easier and easier as time went on: “In fact, I’ve got enough stuff here to write a couple more books. It’s just something that I like to do.”
Eugenia has been writing for many years. “I remember even in the fifth grade having a desire to write,” she shares. Through the years she wrote poems and stories occasionally. However, it wasn’t until 2003 that her writing hobby became something of more importance to her. “When I had ovarian cancer the third stage, I felt that, if I was going to write, that it was the time to do it now because I didn’t know how many more years I had,” she says. “I said, ‘God if you’re ready for me, I’ll just change my address to heaven and if you’re not ready for me yet, then give me something to do.’ That’s when I started seriously writing.” Eugenia’s doctor had discovered the cancer, and she was able to have surgery. There was still much in store for her to do.
“My nephew is an army chaplain married to just a wonderful lady,” she shares. “Over the years, during their marriage, I have corresponded with her and I would send her poems all along.” Through this relationship of written words, Eugenia’s niece-in-law, Ricki Walker, enjoyed the poetry so much that she took it upon herself to make sure that the work got published. “She wrote and said ‘Aunt Jean, I’m gathering up all the poems you’ve sent me and I’m sending them to a publisher.’ She decided to use my work for some benefit to others,” Eugenia says. “I had made an attempt earlier, but I could never get any cooperation from the person I was talking to about it. So, I just gave up. Thinking maybe it isn’t the Lord’s will.” She believes God’s plan was better because with her niece handling the business side of things, she was able to just enjoy the excitement of becoming a published author. “I’ve got to give her credit,” Eugenia says. “Ricki took all the problems so I appreciate her for that. She had to do a lot of work.”
Ricki was not the only loved one to get involved in celebrating Eugenia’s writing. “A friend of mine gave me a book signing. They had it at Carey Hilliard’s in Garden City. It was exciting, exciting!” she shares. Friends and family came from all around to show their support and admiration for Eugenia’s accomplishment, including Ricki and her husband who traveled down for the event. “I just sat at a table and people would come to me and talk to me,” she explains. “Well at the end of the day, my friend handed me about five hundred dollars’ worth of checks; people had bought books!” This gift of writing that Eugenia had been sharing only with close friends for many years had become something to be shared with many, and she is still filled with excitement.
Eugenia gives God all the glory for her writing abilities: “It was more or less taking words that God laid on my heart and weaving them together into poetry.” She has led a beautiful life and in thankfulness, she writes about it to allow others to peek into her experiences.
One source of her inspiration comes from childhood memories of her grandfather. “Grandpa loved to sing to us,” she says. “In the evenings, all of us would sit on the front porch and Grandpa would sing to us.” She recalls songs that she loved to hear from him and the joy she shared with her siblings and cousins at being in his presence. “He’d play string games with us. And everything we learned at Sunday school or Bible school or school, we’d have to remember. Because he would sit on the wash bench in the backyard under the chinaberry tree, and we would have to tell him about the things we learned and memorized,” she reminisces.
Another relationship that has inspired her writing is the one she had with her sister, Sarah. Eugenia was three and half years older than Sarah, and they shared a close bond throughout their lives. In the later years of life, the relationship became a little different: “She had Alzheimer’s for nearly ten years and was in a nursing home in Richmond Hill.” During that time, Sarah lost her ability to communicate, but Eugenia continued to visit her. On the last visit that they had before Sarah passed away, Eugenia was blessed with what she calls “a farewell party.” She explains, “That day, the big room, where all the people usually are, was totally empty except for Sarah and me. And she began to clap her hands. She was alert. When she started to clap her hands, I started singing Jesus Loves Me.” Sarah and Eugenia spent two hours of singing and clapping and hugging. “No one came into the room. God knew it was our farewell party and God didn’t let anyone come in and disturb us,” she says. “God knew that we wouldn’t see each other on this earth again.”
A love for family is a huge part of Eugenia’s writings. She and her husband, William, were married at fourteen years old and celebrated fifty-nine years together before he passed away in 1999. She remembers him with fondness and stories of him and her children are included in her book of poetry. “My husband worked in a grocery store most of his life as a produce manager. When each one of our sons got old enough, he’d put them to work in the store with him,” she shares. Her two sons decided after working with their father that they would pursue different careers, but the early example of a hardworking man was important in shaping their motivation. Eugenia is very proud of all three of her children and what they have become, and that pride is evident in her work.
Eugenia has now been writing “seriously” for almost fifteen years. “I’ve got a box under my dining table full of more work,” she laughs. She is already considering publishing again, and has a publisher pursuing her for a second book. “I’ll have to gather my work together and see what’s appropriate,” she says. “I would not only use poetry because I’ve got a lot of other things that I’ve written that are about experiences that are not poems.” She is already exploring ideas for the name of her second book. While waiting for the sequel, Weaving of Words can be purchased through her website www.weavingofwords.com. The book is a special treasure filled with Eugenia’s life wisdom and insight that she hopes God will use to touch many lives.