Sharon Stevens

I was so sorry to have missed the last Panhandle Professional Writers meeting due to a family emergency. Jan Epton Seale spoke several years ago at a conference at WTAMU, and it was such a joy to hear her stories. I purchased one of her books and stuck it in my bag. The next day my husband, mom and aunt would be making our yearly trek to the family homestead in East Texas for a reunion, and then for the Sunday service at the little country church. This book would be something to take along for the trip.

After we got on the road I pulled out the book, explaining the story. Jan’s father was a Baptist preacher and her book contained poetry and snippets of family and community life in a small town. I was encouraged to read out loud. Could be it was to keep me from talking. Either way the miles began to pass as I started turned the pages. One of the chapters had to do with Sword Drills. We were Methodists except for my husband, and he instantly remembered this Baptist tradition. The kids in Sunday school would line up holding their closed Bibles in front of their chest waiting for the signal. The teacher called out a Bible verse, and the child who was first in finding chapter and verse won the drill.

This led each of us to reminisce about memories growing up. We shared about Church picnics, (fun whatever the faith), Baptism (sprinkling versus dunking), fire and brimstone (the Methodist church doesn’t have too many pulpit pounding services.)

When we arrived at the church my great aunt was sitting in her pew with several friends clustered around her. I took Jan’s book and began circulating among those gathered at the church. Each one signed the inside after I told them I would be giving it to my aunt after the service as a gift and record of the memories of our time together.

My aunt was over ninety years old and she sent me a letter telling me how much she enjoyed reading and rereading the stories and remembering each person at the church that day. I was assured by her family that she cherished this until her death years later.

As writers we may not know the journey our stories will take when they are published. Who can fathom how far they may travel? Just think, Jan Seale wrote her book from a Baptist standpoint of her childhood memories, but it was shared several years later to those with a common faith. I so wanted to tell her at the Panhandle Professional Writers meeting how much this book meant to me, and how I shared it with others. I know that to a writer there is no greater accolade.

Recently I saw a facebook post encouraging people to write fan letters to five favorite authors. There are so many in my life that I need to write to. Loula Grace Erdman, Jodi Thomas, Natalie Bright, DeWanna Pace, and now Jan Epton Seale, are just a few out of thousands on my “bucket list” that deserve to be honored. I know that it will take a lifetime to list them all, and then another to put words to paper. How can I ever find the write words? So little time and so many thoughts.

But, when I do finally sit down to focus on the task at hand, in the back of my mind, with each note written, I will always remember Jan, and the sword drill.

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