In a few days, I will be attending a writer’s conference that has become a high point of my year. This is the place where, in addition to learning and getting inspired with new ideas, I reconnect with friends that I rarely get to see. This year, one very dear friend will be missing.
I met Ethel at my very first writer’s conference. In addition to having writing in common, she knew members of my family, so that created a special bond. Over the years, she critiqued my stories, I took her workshops, and she modeled what it meant to write and live for God’s glory. As we got to know each other more deeply, I trusted her with struggles and she became one of my most faithful prayer warriors. My mind is full of moments when she took time out of her busy schedule to pray with me, and responded to e-mails with words of love and wisdom that always included Scripture and reminders that God was at work. She was one of the first friends to greet me at the conference each year, with a long, tight hug and the most sincere, “Oh, it’s so good to see you, my dear.” I always made a point of sitting at her table for lunch or dinner, and we never left the grounds without spending some one-on-one time catching up. If I had grown in some area, she let me know, constantly reminding me how far I had come.
Two years ago, I attended one of her classes just to hear her soothing voice and her beautiful teaching style. The workshop was on poetry, and I’m not even a poet, but I knew Ethel had been battling cancer and that one year I would attend the conference and she wouldn’t be there.
This is that year; Ethel passed away in October and will not be at the writer’s conference to greet me with a hug. I know I am not the only one who will feel her absence, and that many attendees join me in considering her one of their mentors, but that won’t make me miss her gentle, wise, uplifting presence any less.
At the same time, missing Ethel reminds me of all the reasons why I thank God for the gift of her friendship. She was one of those friends who made me want to be more passionate about God, taught me a different definition of success, and loved me right where I happened to be at the moment. She was the kind of friend I want to be.
Have you ever had a friendship like this? If so, thank God for it, whether this friend is still around or not. What have your most special friends taught you about God, yourself, and what it truly means to be a good friend?
Take some time this week to tell your most precious friends what they mean to you.