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Rich: How fast rumors go

Posted: June 5, 2015 3:05 p.m.
Updated: June 8, 2015 1:00 a.m.

Carrie called the other day and I grabbed the phone just as I was coming in from the garage. I dropped my purse at the foot of the stairs and sat down on a step to talk. No conversation with Carrie is ever short. Even her voicemails run three to four minutes.

“You’ve not going to believe what happened,” she began without preamble and with the high pitch to her voice she gets when she’s upset. “Becky Dodson called and told me that Jerry Morgan who works at the funeral home called and told her that Leland Evers died!”

“Oh no,” I responded sincerely. I liked Leland a lot. Carrie and I have known him since we were teenagers. He was always extremely helpful to us and very, very kind. Then I said what every Southerner says next, “What did he die of?” Except for Mama. She always asked, “What kilt him?

“Well, she didn’t know, but we found out that they weren’t having a funeral for him so I got on the phone, called everyone who I know who knows him and we started planning a memorial service. I spent most of the day on the phone. Called everyone.” She took a breath. This is rare when she’s in the midst of a story like that. Usually she speaks like a telegraph taps. “Then, I decided I’d call his mama and check on her. She’s been in frail health for a while, you know. And you’re not going to believe what happened when I called her.”

“What?”

“Leland answered the phone!!!!”

I howled. There was nothing else to do. I actually fell forward on my knees in the foyer and laughed long. You have to know Carrie. She’s always full of energy and if you need a memorial service planned, you want Carrie to do it. She didn’t have to tell me. I knew exactly what happened: he answered, she took a sharp breath, and said tentatively in a little girl’s voice, “Leland?”

“Yep, it’s me,” said the dead man.

“It’s Carrie. How are you doin’?” She tried to sound calm but she was panicked. She thought of the people she had called and asked to participate in his memorial.

“Well,” Leland replied in his customary drawl. “I ain’t dead. Somebody’s been spreading the rumor that I’m dead and the phone has been ringing off the hook.”

She paused in the story long enough to heave an exasperated sigh. “I was too embarrassed to tell him that I was the one spreading the rumor! Ronda, I called dozens of people and told them he was dead and he wasn’t dead. He was just at Mama’s, visiting with her. He hadn’t even been sick. I tried to call you, but I got your voicemail. You’re the only one who didn’t think he was dead.” Beat. “When he wasn’t.”

I’m still laughing about this but, as I told Carrie, it still started officially because it came direct from the funeral home and if you can’t count on the funeral home to know who’s really dead, who can you count on? I said as much to Carrie and pointed out that it was relayed from the funeral home through someone she trusted.

“It was another man with the same name. I didn’t ever know there were two Leland Evers. Did you?”

There’s a moral to this comical story and one that will ring true for all of us. Leland, the man who died but wasn’t dead, said, “I just wish all of these people who have been calling when they thought I was dead had called me when they knew I was alive.”

Whoa. There’s a lot of truth in that. We all need to be making more calls as well as receiving calls. Before it’s too late.

But if you ever need a memorial planned, I’ve got just the person for you.

(Ronda Rich is the best-selling  author of There’s A Better Day A-Comin’. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.)

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