Last Friday was rough. One of my dear friends passed away on New Year’s Eve and was laid to rest on Friday. Priscilla was a wonderful lady whom I’ve known my entire life. She was my mom’s very first friend and babysat my sister and I a time or two when were little. We grew up with her three daughters. The thing I remember best about her was her smile. I always loved her smile, which could light up a room.
Priscilla and I reconnected in my adult life around fifteen years ago. She came into the TV station where I worked to ask a question. I don’t remember the question, but I recognized her right away and we talked about old times and reminisced about mutual acquaintances. We had a lovely visit, and then I didn’t see her again for a while.
A year or so later, I had been a member of Joplin Writers’ Guild for a few months when I saw her walk through the door for a meeting. She joined our group, and we began spending more time together. We worked on some projects together and volunteered for The Friends of Peace Church Cemetery together (My time with the cemetery was limited due to other obligations.). We attended many Women’s Getaway Writing Retreats together.
We grew very close. Though she was my mom’s age, I didn’t see her as a mother figure. She was my precious friend with whom I could discuss anything. I remember she once introduced me to someone as her lovely sidekick.
I will never forget the day she told me I absolutely had to put my short stories into a collection and get them published for everyone who wanted to read them. We were at a retreat, and I had just been notified one of my stories would appear in Missouri’s Emerging Writers. I shared the news with her, beaming in my excitement.
She told me she was happy I was getting published in various journals, but the average person would never read my work if I kept publishing that way. She advised me that I needed a book full of my own work and only my own work. She assured me that I’d have more readers, and people who sought me out specifically would have an easier time finding me.
“I want to see your name in lights,” she told me. “I think you’ll be famous someday.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever have my name in lights or be famous, but I will never forget the confidence her support gave me. I’m not the only one, either. She gushed over many of us, assuring us of our talent and affirming her belief in us. She was a great encourager, student and preserver of history, writer, and friend. To know her was a pure delight.
She had two nonfiction historical books of her own published, and they can still be found in print today. Images of Joplin and Images of Webb City are the two books she wrote, both of which were published by Arcadia Publishing. She told me the royalties were nice, but writing the books was the fun part. She took great pride and joy in her work. She wanted everyone to have that kind of joy.
I did put my short stories into a book I titled Moonbeams and Ashes. I thanked Priscilla on the Acknowledgement Page for her inspiration. Then I mailed her an autographed copy of the book she insisted I must write. She sent me a message telling me how much she loved it.
I cherish the time I had with Priscilla. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she stopped attending our mutual functions. We texted, emailed, and talked on the phone for a while, but she didn’t have the energy for much. I believe I only saw her in person a couple of times once she started treatment.
Her daughters arranged a beautiful, loving, and fitting farewell for her. Photos of her happy times flashed across the screen as family and friends found seats in the funeral home chapel. The room was full of flowers, plants, and cards from those who had loved her.
The pastor who officiated was from Priscilla’s church and had known and loved her. He told several sweet stories and talked about delivering meals to her while she was homebound with her illness and how he loved visiting with her every day. I was so happy to see that. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than an officiant who never knew the dearly departed.
He spoke of her smile and love of life. He reminded us of her generous heart and dedication to preserving local and family history. He spoke of her arts and crafts and how she loved teaching those skills to her grandchildren. By time he was finished reminding us of how special Priscilla was, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.
I cried a great deal. Then I visited her casket and bid her a final farewell.
Rest in peace Priscilla. I will miss you.
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