There are days when the world should stop spinning on its axis. Today is one of those days for me.
I learned that two writing colleagues and friends – Ethel Herr and Barbara Curtis – passed away Tuesday, October 30. Ethel succumbed to a long battle with cancer, and Barbara is thought to have had a stroke. Both women played a significant encouraging role in my life, and I want to pause and honor them today.
Barbara and I met in 2005ish, and as adoptive moms do, we instantly bonded as we shared our adoption stories. At that point in my career, I was itching to write a book that would help prepare people for adoptive parenting, and Barbara said she’d review the manuscript and consider endorsing it.
In the mid-2000s, blogging was a fairly new thing, but both Barbara and I were avid bloggers. She authored a popular blog called Mommy Life, and we traded tips about how to grow our audiences and serve as a helpful voice in our respective communities.
In 2007, when I was teaching a blogging workshop at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in California, Barbara sat in the back of the auditorium where I was teaching. Afterwards, she came up to me and stated, “That was good.” Her simple words of praise made my spirit soar.
As Barbara and I got to know one another, she shared her life story with me. I was so captivated that I asked her if I could pitch her story to the magazines I wrote for. Two magazines published slightly different versions of Barbara’s life story: Marriage Partnership and Today’s Christian. (Both stories are still online; you can read them by clicking the magazine links above.)
Barbara did endorse my book, The Adoption Decision: 15 Things You Want to Know Before Adopting, and we emailed each other periodically. The qualities I loved most about Barbara were her no-nonsense attitude, her love for her family, and her willingness to share her very colorful life story, warts and all.
When I called Barbara and her husband, Tripp, to do a followup interview for one of the features I was writing about them, I kept asking, “Are you sure you’re comfortable with seeing this information in print?”
They both repeatedly assured me, “Our lives are an open book.”
Barbara and Tripp’s radically-transformed lives will continue to serve as an inspiration for many, including me.
Ethel Herr and I met several years ago at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. Ethel had the reputation of being the “matriarch” of Mount Hermon; she was one of the original attendees at the first conference 44 years ago, and she has served on the faculty of nearly every conference since then.
At the 2010 conference, Ethel and I spent several hours together discussing ways she could market a book project she was working on. Although Ethel had approached me for advice, I somehow felt as if I was the one doing the learning and growing during each of our conversations.
When Ethel informed me that she planned to attend my Major Morning Track (8-hour course) on internet marketing, I was more than a little intimidated. She said, “Don’t worry; I’ll probably just attend the first session.”
Ethel attended the first session. And the second session. And the third session. After the third session, I pulled her aside and said, “Ethel, you’re still here!”
She gave me that frank, steady gaze that’s so “Ethel” and said, “If your class wasn’t good, I wouldn’t have come back. But I’m planning to come to all the sessions.”
And she did. What a blessing Ethel was to everyone in our class. She often chimed in with quiet, thoughtful comments. More often than not, I felt as if I should just sit down and let Ethel lead the class! What a tremendous privilege it was to spend those hours in the presence of such a delightful woman.
Do you have a story about how either Barbara or Ethel has impacted your life? I hope you’ll share it.