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What do you do when a parishioner loves you--with a deathlike grip?

The phone rang. "Can I visit you?" a woman named Carol asked with that particular tone of voice that lets you know she'll be crushed if refused.

I clasped my hand over the receiver and whispered to Mary, my wife, "That girl we met after worship wants to come and see us."

"You mean here?" she mouthed incredulously, casting her eye over the packing cases still strewn everywhere from our recent move. I nodded. We wanted to be friendly to our new congregation. So Mary nodded in agreement, and I told Carol, almost honestly, "You'll be welcome."

Within ten minutes of Carol's arrival, we knew she was different. Her world was small, amounting to her job, her parents, and her church. Any question on these three subjects would elicit a one-sentence answer, often accompanied by a high-pitched giggle. Rarely did she initiate a subject.

However, she never failed to give me perfect attention. Her eyes never left me.

Mary spoke frequently to divert her attention, but Carol barely responded to her. After an ...

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