I have a face, or a smile, or a goofy look about me that compels complete strangers, and life-long friends, to tell me their secrets. For that reason I am a vault packed chockablock full of things people have told me through the years all while they whisper, “Don’t you dare tell a soul.”
And I don’t. Whisper your secrets in my ear and they are safe.
But Robin didn’t tell me a secret. She shared her soul.
To set the scene, I was at the Rose Glen Literary Festival. Imagine a room filled with 49 authors. Mix in another hundred or so booklovers and another hundred who were dashing in-between author sessions.
Robin followed me back to my table. I had just finished speaking and if you’ve ever heard me speak you know that I try my level-headed best to encourage fledgling authors, many times to my own exhaustion. But this story isn’t about me. It is about Robin.
Please, don’t think this post is about me, at all.
Her hand held a crumpled Kleenex. Her cheeks were sunken and her skin bore the familiar pallor of cancer. And, if you’ve ever heard me speak you know that I usually ask readers to pray for my mother, who has ovarian cancer.
“I was wondering if you could tell me how to find a group of people who might read my work and tell me if it’s really any good. People have told me my work is good, but . . . well. . . she paused, what I really want is to publish my work before I die.”
All authors say this, but in Robin’s case the expression is literal.
Robin then said, “I’ll pray for your mother.”
I looked up at her, really looked and saw this woman as a broken bird. She hovered, barely fluttering to stay in flight.
“What type?” I asked knowing that she was struggling with something.
“End stage breast cancer. I knew I had it three years ago, went to my doctor. She told me it wasn’t cancer, gave me some sort of hormone cream to rub on my breasts.”
Robin paused and smoothed a strand of her red-haired wig. “But I knew, deep in my gut. . . I knew that I should not rub hormone cream on me. I knew it was breast cancer even then. Me and my husband were getting a divorce and you know . . .” her voice trailed off.
I wanted to say, Oh Robin, if you only knew how much I knew. I was sitting in the very spot, within eyeshot of the same golf course my where my ex-husband had played golf so many years ago. If anyone knew what she had lost it was me.
She had lost it all and just when she thought there was nothing else to lose, cancer took her health leaving her with nothing, nothing, but fear, loneliness and the ear of a stranger.
“My momma’s gone too,” she said her chin lowering, her hand coming to her eye to catch a falling tear. “I miss her.”
I replied, “I’ll pray for you.” Robin nodded and asked some particulars about publishing. She told me how she writes (by hand, purple pen to paper). She explained that she doesn’t have a computer (sold it). She doesn’t have a career (was once a photographer, now too sick). And she laughed this time when she said, “I want to get my work in a book before I die.”
“Would you mind if I prayed now,” I said and when she nodded I grabbed her hand.
For the record I do not consider myself an eloquent prayer. Not in private or public. I don’t remember what I prayed, I only did what I felt lead (or called) to do. Then I came around the table and gave her a hug. That was when my little Robin fluttered, when the energy she’d been using to remain upright gave way.
Our hug was the kind that joins two souls. A kind of physical connection so strong I could feel her tiny abdomen fluttering against mine with each cry. Tears fell wet on my thin jacket, soaked through the fabric and onto my skin. As her tears wet my hair all I could say was “You’re ok. I’ve got you. I’ve got you.”
But this post is NOT about me. It is about my broken friend Robin. I do not have her. God does.
I wanted to take her picture but my daughter forbade it; said Robin wouldn’t want me to share it. I argued that she was beautiful to me but my daughter gave me the look. I defer to my daughter. She is wise beyond her years.
What I want from you my friends is to shower Robin with love. I want you, my readers, to help me hold Robin up, for as long as we can.
If you have ever been afraid−not the eek! kind of fear that comes from finding a spider in the bathroom−but genuine fear and loneliness, please consider sending Robin a card. Contact me via my email reneawrites(atsymbol)gmail.com and I will share her mailing address.
Robin’s healthcare is 100% through the Health Department. And I don’t have to climb up on my soapbox about how the poor and indigent receive substandard care and how easy it is to get lost in a healthcare nightmare. Robin said it took a full year to get an appointment to see the doctor, to even receive care at the Health Department. By then she was end-stage.
Can we even imagine how she feels?
When I wonder what God’s plan is for me, when I look at my God-given “gift” all I see is a BIG mouth. And today I am using this mouth to ease Robin’s loneliness. Sadly, there are thousands like her, people who are afraid, and who will die alone. But God didn’t show me them, he showed me Robin.
So if my words have moved you, please send me an email. When you write I ask that you do NOT mention me. I would like this “Love Project” to be one where we just send her cards from random strangers. Of course you can include your mailing addresses, but I don’t think she can afford to return the correspondence. Perhaps we can each send her a little something, stamps, stationary . . . pens, but the Bible says we aren’t to boast when we help another. Do what you feel led to do but do not tell me what it is. My job is to tell you about her, to give those who ask her mailing address. The rest is up to God.
Because this post, isn’t about us, it is about our new friend Robin.
Please, PLEASE, share this. If you share on Facebook, please write a short sentence asking your friends to read the post. Let us shower Robin with love.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com I would be honored if you’d download a copy of my work.