On Tuesday, March 26, I celebrated 14 years since my diagnosis with cancer, and one year since the signing of my first book contract. Today, March 28, I mark another milestone, and I’ve celebrated the life, and home-coming, of someone who was there at the beginning of my writing journey.

I met Louretha in 1993, just after Brian and I moved to Oregon, twenty years ago this spring. The first thing one noticed about Louretha was her elegance and poise, and her marvelous South African accent. But as I got to know her during time spent in a small fellowship group that met in the home of a man who, years later, would be my oncologist, I learned Louretha and I had in common a passion for writing.

When I asked, Louretha graciously read my first completed novel (a tome of a novel, approximately 200,000 words, in the fantasy genre). Then she showed up at my door and took this then twenty-something, largely clueless writer out to lunch, and shared much wisdom and encouragement. I had never heard the term “beta reader” at that point. I had yet to meet another published writer, or attend a conference, or read a writing craft book. But I’ll never forget that lunch date with Louretha, and the fact that she gave of her time, wisdom, and insight for me, and I’ve been blessed today to join her family and hundreds of others she loved and encouraged, to celebrate her life. It fills me with wonder and longing to think of her in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ–cheering us on still, I’m certain, among that great cloud of witnesses.

I learned today at her memorial service that Louretha was also writing a book. Though she didn’t live to finish it, her husband intends to do so, and see it published. I made the long drive out of the mountains, where our church is, singing one of Louretha’s favorite hymns, and looking forward to reading her book one day.

Once home, I received a knock at the door. A man in brown. This is what he handed me.

Typeset galleys for Burning Sky

Life is full. God is good. Heaven is real. Louretha is there.

May her words left behind go on blessing many in the months and years to come. May these words of mine be a blessing, too. 

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