I made a new friend several months back—one of those rare occasions when you seem to “connect” with someone you have just met. Bill had that look-you-in-the-eye, do-what-I-say-I-will, when-I-say-I-will kind of demeanor that is so rare these days. He was a former police chief in places as far away as Alaska who abandoned his career to shoe horses for a living.
Bill and wife Penny came to the launch party for Go Down Looking, though we had only been friends for a short time. We were soon on the fast track to becoming great friends.
I was at the funeral of an old friend and reader when I heard that another grave was being prepared at Shiloh Cemetery. I was shocked to learn that the grave was for Bill.
The death of two friends, a few setbacks in writing, frustration with social media and technology in general had me pretty discouraged.
Then I got this e-mail from a cousin I seldom see.
Teresa and I were at Bill McClendon’s funeral and I guess I wasn’t too surprised to look up and see you sitting two rows in front of us. When it came to friends and friendly acquaintances, Bill threw a pretty wide loop. I worked with him for over two decades and counted it a sad day when he told me he was retiring from the department. He was my training officer when I hired on and good friend thereafter. The people that fit the latter category, I can count on one hand.
As I sat there wondering how Bill might be remembered by all the different folks in that funeral parlor that I didn’t know, Arliss Edwards’ “High Plains Tribute “ came to mind.
I don’t know how long you knew Bill, but I do know it wasn’t long enough. I tried to get over to you after the service but people got between us and you escaped. We will talk one day.
That probably doesn’t sound like much to you, but High Plains Tribute is the title of a piece I wrote more than ten years ago about a cousin who had died. I consider it a high honor that cousin Jay thought of it as he mourned the loss of his good friend.
That same day, an old friend from Delta County, Larry Whitlock, sent me a very fine review of Home Light Burning and told me that his older brother Tommy, a noted historian, also loved my book. Historians are hard to please.Doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, it is. Thanks, Larry and Tommy.
When I told my daughter Shelly about meeting Kathleen, the 95-year-old voracious reader and Biblical scholar I wrote about a few months back, she told me a story about my mother’s Bible.
On a day when she was having doubts about her own business (she is an artist who transforms guitars and other objects into works of art), she picked up Mother’s tattered old Bible and a faded, ragged piece of paper dropped to the floor.
She picked it up and read. In the “parable of the talents”, we get an idea of what God expects us to do here on earth. We’re all given talents, some great and some small—but whether your talent is epic or miniscule, we glorify God when we use it to further His kingdom. God isn’t rating His followers based on the number of converts they win over or the number of church pews they fill; He’s interested in the passion with which we use whatever gifts He has given us.
I occasionally express to wife Jan my frustration not so much with writing itself, but in getting a larger audience to read and enjoy what I write. Jan selects fabrics in various colors, designs, and texture, cuts her chosen fabric into tiny pieces, sews them together like a complicated puzzle, then quilts them into color coordinated, beautifully symmetric works of art.
Today, she is in the final stages of a quilt that might be called my own tapestry of life. I watched with some wonder as the pieces came together with pictures, logos, symbols, even business cards converted to fabric that tell a lot of my life story.
She suggested calling it I Did It My Way. I hope a better title might be He Guided me to do it His Way. I could not conceptualize a beautiful work of art coming from mere stacks of fabric, old photos, assorted t-shirts, and keepsakes. Sort of like writing a book.
In the movie Shadowlands about C. S. Lewis (one of my favorite writers), a character says, “We read to know that we are not alone.”
Professor and writer John Dufresne says, “A book should offer hope. It should lift up the reader. It should give the reader a reason to live—should he need one. Life is not easy for any of us, but the pain of loneliness is often unbearable. The writer is saying, among other things, “You’re not alone.”
I hope my books make readers feel that they are not alone and that they are “lifted up” by my writing.
In an article about finding one’s purpose in life, the author describes the difference between a gift and a calling. “A calling forces us beyond our own abilities into utter dependence on God. A true calling commands our complete humility.” Writing demands my complete humility, so maybe it is my calling.