The gift of friends


By Betty Slade

I read, “Life has done its best with us.” Have I ever thought about life as a gift, giving and doing the best for me? No. I thought I’ve been doing the best I could for life.

People have been dropped into my lap, good and bad. Did I see them as gifts? Maybe yes and maybe not. But they have taught me about life and myself.

Friends are subtle gifts. We may or may not see them that way, but they are the best of what life gives to us. These gifts come at each stage of our lives. They look different at certain times and places where we find ourselves and are what we need.

I was given a stack of printed “Artist’s Lane” articles with a hand-written note on each one of them. They were from a person who took his time to delve into the depth of my words and shared the depth of his soul with me.

Paper-clipped to one of my articles, “When a man meets himself,” this man wrote, “Betty, the depth of your writing and your growth in the wisdom you share is startling, encouraging and a mark of God’s hand on you. He is using you in mighty ways to touch lives in profound ways.”

I was blown away by the generosity of this man’s words. I sat in the presence of God and sucked the sweet nectar from his fruitful words. He was giving me the best of his life.

My Sweet Al, bored with my musings as I read and pondered each word, got up and asked, “What are we having for breakfast?”

I said to him, “I can’t move from this place. God’s presence is so strong. I’ll quench the Spirit. These words are gifts from God.”

I wooed my Sweet Al back to his recliner and asked, “What gifts have you received in this stage of your life? Talk to me. Tell me your heart.”

He sat down and reminded me, “Today is Tuesday, trash day, and I need to get everything to the road.” My question bypassed him. Trash day is necessary. It’s a good thing. But I was in an “aha” moment and couldn’t think about trash day.

I said to him, “In these later years, we are losing our friends and I am beginning to learn how much I appreciate them. I don’t want to do without them. They are gifts and I’ve taken them for granted.”

My friend, Lin Harris, has walked every step with me in my writing career and now she is struggling to live. Every breath is a gift for her. My heart weighs heavy for my precious friend. I must thank her for what she means to me, as the man who made notes of my articles.

Lin needs to know how she has changed my life. Life did its best for me when she moved from Oklahoma to Chimney Rock 10 years ago and became my writing mentor. I needed her then, but I didn’t know how much I need her now.

From the beginning, she has been there for me, offering her support and knowledge. She wanted me to succeed as a writer and even put her own writing aside to teach me.

When I came to her with my first manuscript and asked if I had something worth reading, she said, “Yes, but it needs a lot of work. Come by the house on Sunday and I’ll tell you what you need to do.” 

I went by her house, thinking I would be there an hour. I was there six hours. She had read the whole manuscript. Now my words were bleeding with red ink and I didn’t have an inkling how to fix them.

She said, “I will work with you as long as you want me to, but you must do everything I tell you.” And I did. I drove to Chimney Rock every Monday morning for four years and stayed all day. My homework assignments were done to the best of my ability. She always had more to give me. The best of life was given to me through my dear friend.

We tore my manuscript apart word by word. My 110,000 words were whittled to 60,000, cutting, tightening and taking out redundant, fat and generic words. Chapters that didn’t move the story along were deleted. I didn’t argue. She knew more than I did.

In 2015, along with one other writer, we started the Wolf Creek Christian Writers’ Network. Lin was all about honing the craft of writing. If not, she wasn’t interested. I bounced a thousand ideas off of her and so did others.

I think of her legacy, her interaction and giving of herself and how it connected our past with our future. She is a gift to us. We have become better writers because of her. We are using her knowledge to write good books and good articles. Her legacy lives on through our words.

Final brushstroke: My whole writing career pivots from her foundational knowledge. Every article I write has Lin’s fingerprints on them. When I sought for the right publisher, she helped me meet their requirements and brought my book to the finish line. She was still sharing her abundance of knowledge as they wheeled her into the hospital. She wanted me to succeed. Her life has done its best with me. Thank you to my friend Lin. I hope I have made you proud.

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