Touching Lives: Bessie's Note

Every now and again, someone will share a sweet story of how my mom touched their lives in some way. I love to hear the stories and decided I should really take a few moments to write them down so that I can continue to be reminded of her kindness and generosity.

One such story came via Facebook Messenger from my friend (and Mom’s) Janet Farley. Many moons ago Mom, Janet and I served together in our church’s ministry in a club for kids called Awana. I was the director of the girls’ club, mom was my club secretary, and Janet was one of our faithful Awana leaders. Janet’s daughter Bess was one of the clubbers in this ministry to kids in grades 3-6.

Mom sporting her own millinery creation for ‘Crazy Hat’ night in Awana

Janet shared with me that her daughter Bess recently came home with her husband and baby Charlie for a visit. While Bess was at home, she decided to go through some of her old things. Janet shared, “Among them was this kind letter from your mom. Your mom has changed so much, but this note is how most of us think of her. She is a wonderful lady.” Janet shared these photos of the note and I have permission to share it with you:

If you take time to read the notecard you will surely see that my mom made the card so personal. Janet made this observation about the card sent to her daughter,

“I think it is special that this note to a young girl is not just a rushed short card but is full of details and caring.”

Janet Farley

My mother had a good example in both her mother and her grandmother, who faithfully took time to write wonderful letters. Her grandmother, also named Bessie, set aside time each evening to write one long letter and one short note. As her eldest great-granddaughter, I was privileged to receive several of her letters.

Receiving thoughtfully written letters and cards via postal delivery has all but been replaced by email and memes. My sweet momma enjoys reading (and re-reading) the cards she still receives, but Alzheimer’s has advanced to the point where she can no longer compose her own letters. I’ve “inherited” her large stash of stationery, cards and postage stamps. Now it’s my turn to continue this letter writing legacy by picking up a pen and writing to someone who needs encouragement and a little bit of love in an envelope.

Rewind: “God’s Providence and the Envelope”

I promised I would tell how “she” started writing him in the first place. 

You’ll remember that her church made it their mission to ensure that every serviceman and woman who went out to serve their country from this church would receive at least one piece of mail each month from someone in their church family. Several pre-addressed, stamped envelopes were distributed to the teachers in the various adult Sunday School classes. The high school class also participated in this letter-writing endeavor. 

Garfield Baptist Church in Wauwatosa, WI (now Spring Creek Church in Pewaukee)

Each month her Sunday School Superintendent (Mrs. Grace Barron, her youth pastor’s wife) would hold up two of these pre-addressed envelopes seeking volunteers to write a letter. “She” was accustomed to volunteering to write a random recipient each month, but, as was mentioned in an earlier account, had selfishly decided that she was no longer going to volunteer. 

Pastor Bob & Grace Barron

Her reason? Simple. Because they didn’t write back! 

Pretty selfish, wasn’t it? If she wasn’t selfish, at least she was a bit naive. It never dawned on her that it sometimes takes months for mail to reach someone serving in the armed forces. It also never dawned on her that some of the recipients might be in a foxhole dodging the enemies attack somewhere in Viet Nam. 

On this day in early January, while sitting in class waiting for the Sunday School pre-session to begin, she saw the familiar air-mail envelopes sticking out of Mrs. Barron’s Bible. To further strengthen her resolve, she whispered to her best friend Cindy that she was not planning to volunteer this month. 

Mrs. Barron held up the two envelopes and, with her characteristic deeply dimpled smile, asked who would like to write one of our servicemen this month. The reluctant writer avoided looking at Mrs. Barron, but could somehow still feel the teacher’s eyes imploring her to write. But, no one would volunteer. 

“She” felt bad, but still stubbornly refused to volunteer, sitting on her fingertips, so as to remind herself not to volunteer. Mrs. Barron sounded disappointed and made her request one more time, this time looking straight at her usual volunteer. The reluctant writer didn’t budge in her resolve – though something inside of her really wanted to. 

So, without a single volunteer, Mrs. Barron opened the class in prayer. The now guilt-ridden reluctant volunteer bowed her head in prayer too, a little bit ashamed of herself. 

Then a really unbelievable thing happened. As Mrs. Barron raised her voice in prayer invoking God’s blessing on the students and their class time in God’s Word, the reluctant volunteer felt the Bible that was sitting in her lap move. She looked down and underneath her hand, the cover of her Bible was being raised and one of those envelopes was being slipped into the flyleaf of her Bible. Mrs. Barron never paused or missed a beat in her prayer as she cunningly executed the drop. The disinclined letter writer looked up at the praying pastor’s wife and made eye-contact. Mrs. Barron’s eyes were saying, “Please?” The hesitant writer nodded in reluctant affirmation…she would do it. Still praying, Mrs. Barron’s eyes smiled a “thank you.”

After the “Amen,” the involuntary volunteer looked at the name written on the envelope. She had no clue who this Wayne L. Winquist was…but Cindie Boyles would soon find out.

Next up: “He Meets She”