Memories to share and stories to tell
Lois Wyrick wanted to see me. Several people told me. I knew about her, sort of. But I didn’t really know her and couldn’t imagine what she wanted with me.
I knew that Lois was a local writer, speaker and storyteller. She had an impressive reputation as a Sunday School and Bible Study teacher. Lois and her husband, Ed, were lifelong United Methodists, members of Newnan First UMC and founding members of Cornerstone UMC in Newnan.
I didn’t know why she wanted to talk to me.
“Well, she does,” my friend, Mimi, shared as we walked into Cornerstone UMC one Sunday morning. “She will probably be at church today.”
It was the mid-1990s. I was spending a weekend with Gene and Mimi Smith, precious friends Cornerstone members. I went to church with them that weekend. After Sunday School, they rushed to put on choir robes for the 11:00 service. As I navigated the hallways toward the sanctuary, I heard my name. I turned, hoping to recognize Lois Wyrick and solve the mystery of why she wanted to see me.
“Honey, you’ve been on my heart. Can we speak privately?”
We stepped into an empty Sunday School room.
Being a get ‘er done kind of girl, Lois spoke quickly.
“Cathy, we don’t know each other too well, but I know who you are. I knew your mother before she died. I know your father. I know how far you’ve come after a tough childhood. I was so happy when you found love and hurt when your husband died. You’ve been in my mind.”
Where was this going?
She continued, “You’ve had a tough time, Honey, and I know you are wondering why I wanted to talk to you.”
Well, yes . . .
“I have a word for you.”
Uh, oh. I bristled a little. I’ve worked in the church for years. Sentences beginning with this preface usually don’t end very nicely.
“This word is from God.”
I responded, “You have my full attention.”
This was not long after my husband’s death. I was young, widowed, lonely, and picking up pieces of a broken dream. I needed direction. If God had a word for me, I wanted to hear it.
“You are meant to write and tell your stories.”
How could Lois Wyrick know I wanted to write?
In those days, writing was merely an outlet for my grief. All my life, though, I dreamed of seeing my name in a magazine or on a book cover. Logic told me this was a ridiculous dream. Who would want to read anything I wrote? I knew nothing about publishing and no idea how to begin. Yet this woman was telling me God meant for me to write?
“You have stories to tell, even though you might not believe it right now.”
Was she reading my mind?
“Only you can write about your childhood and losing your husband. God has given you a gift, but if you let grief or anything else get in the way, you will never write a word. Cathy, if you don’t write your stories then I, for one, will be the less for not reading what God has placed in your heart.”
At home that afternoon, you better believe I sat in front of my computer and started writing.
Five books, countless stories, multiple magazine articles, and a few unbelievable awards later, I moved back to my hometown of Newnan. Lois was quick to welcome me. I spent many hours with Lois and Ed. I could not have a simple 15-minute conversation with her. When she asked how I was, she expected a detailed and honest answer. She had a story, memory, or Scripture for everything I shared. She was peacefully spiritual and I longed to soak up her wisdom. On the other hand, Lois was a real person! She had a wicked sense of humor, usually knew a little gossip, and could be stubborn and opinionated. I am all of those things, so that made me love her even more!
Lois Wyrick died the Saturday after Thanksgiving. My heart hurt and my mind screamed, “She can’t be gone. I’m not finished with her yet!”
Days later, Mimi and I joined hundreds of others at Cornerstone UMC to celebrate her life. Everyone had a story. Many people said, “This must be hard on you, Cathy, because you two were so close.”
We grieve deeply when we love deeply.
But I remember what Lois shared with me after another devastating death. She spoke God’s words. I have no doubt. Every story I have written is evidence of that. Her final gift was writing the foreword for a new book I am writing called Alone on a Limb . . . about grief.
Her words kicked me in the backside and helped me recognize God’s plan for me. If you have read my stories or heard me speak, you have also heard Lois Wyrick because her message gave voice to the words inside me.
I enjoyed every moment I spent with Lois Wyrick.
I hope you have enjoyed her, too.