A few years ago, I met an amazing person. She was the whole package: kind, intelligent, talented, generous, and lovely in all ways. She was an international bestselling author to whom I was introduced during a writers' conference. Her name was Heather Burch.
She had recently moved back to the Missouri Ozarks and asked me about writing groups in the area. I remember telling her about Ozarks Writers League, one of my groups that meets in Branson twice a year. Imagine my surprise when she showed up at a meeting of one of my Springfield groups, Ozarks Romance Authors.
We got to know each other and attended several of the same functions. We became friends. We were close to the same age, and I think we gravitated to each other. Not many people in our groups are in their early fifties, so we had a great deal in common. We remembered the same historical events, bands, and TV shows. You could say that we spoke the same language, that of Generation X.
Not long after I met Heather, she stopped by the venue where I was setting up for the Ozarks Writers League Conference to see if I could use some help. She said she could give me a couple hours if I needed her. I put her right to work trying to set up a broken easel. She was not deterred. When she couldn't make get it to cooperate, she found some duct tape and solved the problem.
That was the year I served as the OWL president, and I was in way over my head. During the conference, she ran herself ragged helping with this and that, trying to keep me organized. She handled speakers, issues that arose, and everything from ensuring we had water to setting up equipment. She was a gem during that hectic conference - my righthand gal. I would never have made it through without her, even though I had several great folks pitching in where they could. Heather was a dynamo, and everyone loved her.
She was always willing to help. I asked her opinion on my first two chapters of Sally's Secret Legacy three years ago after I received feedback from an agent. She agreed to read them, and I was expecting a short email response. No, that wasn't Heather's style. She called me, and we talked about it for around half an hour, and then she sent me detailed notes. She told me I had a good story. It just needed a little work.
I will never forget her words of encouragement when she said, "You are the queen of your own world. Don't let doubts in." That's the kind of person she was, and I will miss terribly. We spent some time together last year shortly before she discovered she had a brain tumor. During our last conversation, we made plans to have some champagne when I finally published the book. It's coming out later this year. I'm too late.
Heather passed away from a rare form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. She discovered she had it in February and passed away July 19th, a mere five months later. There is a GoFundMe page that was set up for her when she was diagnosed. It's still active, and her husband will have a lot of expenses including medical bills and final expenses. If you'd like to donate, here's the link: https://gofund.me/ac04f9bd.
I am completely heartbroken by her loss. I've never met someone so full of love and kindness. She dropped pearls of wisdom and kindness on me every time I saw her, visiting with me about the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing, allowing me to feature her on my blog, teaching me more than I knew I needed to learn, and cheering for me. She even gave me tips on traveling light because I told her I brought three suitcases for a four-day trip.
Writing isn't the only thing we talked about, but it was the most common topic. We also discussed men, kids, grandchildren, life, and pets. When I told her I had adopted a cat named Ursula, she looked at me funny. Then she asked, "Does she look like a sea witch?" We had a good giggle over that as I explained Ursula was the name the shelter gave my cat, and I didn't want to confuse her by changing it.
Every time I saw Heather, she hugged me and told me I was precious. She said that to a lot of people, but it still made me feel good. She had that effect on people. She was the one who was precious. I am among many, many people who will miss her terribly.
I spotlighted Heather on Ozarks Maven in April of 2020. During her interview, she shared a poem from one of her books, In the Light of the Garden. It seems appropriate for me to share her poem with you now as a tribute to her.
Will you come, sit with me.
We’ll tell our troubles ‘neath the tree.
The tears we shed will surely be
Water for the Weeping Tree.
And in its shade our woes will fall.
Pain and suffering sorrow and all.
They’ll fall like glistening diamond drops.
You see, the tree, our pain, it stops.
~Heather Burch, IN THE LIGHT OF THE GARDEN
Rest in peace, Heather, until we meet again. My you fly high with the angels.
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