Sometimes online trails bring unexpected blessings.
Consider the email I received earlier this month from a young woman in Virginia.
Dear Ms. Wilson,
I wanted to write and thank you for keeping the memory of my mother alive.
Tomorrow will be the 19th anniversary of her death and in a nostalgic moment I decided to Google her name to see what came up and came across your blog post.
To be honest I do not remember that phone conversation we had; I have had so many over the years with long-long friends of my mother’s that it has almost become a normal part of my life, but reading your blog post touched me. Although my mother was only there for the first six years of my life, her life has shaped mine, and the friends she had shaped her, so by extension, you have shaped me also. I know I am the woman I am today because of her influence….
My father still has the letters you sent us and they are a treasured possession for both my sister and I. So I just wanted to say thank you, it encourages me that my mother is remembered by people other than our immediate family, that she did not die to be completely forgotten.”
Grab a Kleenex and I’ll share the rest of the story.
In 1961, my family lived across the street from the Halliburtons in Tampa, Florida. Their daughter Anne and I became fast friends. When my family moved away the following summer, we promised we would write to one another. And we did for more than 25 years.
Every Christmas and birthday, we would exchange cards and gifts. Though 1,000 miles separated us, we had a lot in common. We both took piano lessons, we both
majored in journalism—she in Florida, I in Missouri. We joined sororities, were interested in politics and within a year of one another, we married.
I visited Anne twice over the years, and she cut the cake at our wedding. She was a lively, polished and gifted young woman who worked on Capitol Hill. She later ran for the Virginia General Assembly and had a bright future ahead of her. Eventually we exchanged baby announcements and kept in touch until about 1989 when her letters mysteriously stopped.
When the internet came along, I tried to locate Anne without luck. What was she doing now? Where was she? Why could someone who had “grown up” with me all those years just disappear?
In 2014 as I approached our 60th birthdays, I ran one more internet search and found Anne on Ancestry.com. Her address was the same. Her husband was listed along with her daughters at the same house. And so I wrote one more letter.
Two days later I received a message on our answering machine from a young woman named Megan who had some information about her mother. Anne had died of cancer when Megan was only six—a year younger than the age her mother and I were when we began our correspondence.
It so happened that I’d been asked to deliver a sermon at church three days after my birthday. This time I knew exactly what I would preach. That I should not regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied many. The extra time I had been given was a precious gift. I don’t know why she died so young or why her daughters had to grow up without their mother. All I knew for sure is that I should not feel bad about turning 60.
So I threw a party. And then I posted the sermon on my blog: http://tamrawilson.com/the-day-i-preached-a-sermon/ I knew that I should let Anne’s family know I’d given the sermon, but I didn’t get around to it until the internet did it for me.
Nineteen months later, Anne’s daughter found my sermon text. We made each other’s day.
Me (left) and Anne Halliburton, Tampa, 1961.