It started in 1983 with a call to the conference center in New Harmony, Indiana, looking for someone to share the drive.
“Just one woman from your area,” the registrar said. “K-y-r-l-a-c-h. Patty.”
Patty sounded nice enough over the phone—maybe a little spacey—but at least I’d have a driving companion. I was nervous about the writing conference, never having attended one before. While making a six hour drive with someone I’d never met was anxiety-provoking, it was preferable to going alone.
She looked normal enough, this stranger I picked up several weeks later. Tall and thin, with auburn hair, she lugged a huge suitcase down her porch steps. My first impression, other than that she seemed nice enough, was that she might be just a little spacey. By the time we reached the freeway we’d exhausted the vitals—husbands’ names, number of children, their names, what we did besides caring for our kids (at the time, not much).
Then, silence. Deafening silence.
The comfort level rose several notches when we discovered our bodies were synchronized for bathroom breaks—approximately one per hour—a need guaranteed to make a person unpopular with 99% of the traveling public. Finally! A car companion who understood.
I don’t remember our conversation on the rest of that ride, but I do remember long stretches of silence, filled with the sound of Patty humming as she stared out the passenger window, interspersed with snacks as well as bits and pieces of shared history.
By the time we reached New Harmony I’d learned quite a bit about a Christian writing group that Patty belonged to.
“Come meet my friends,” Patty said as we pulled into the parking lot of the New Harmony Inn. Thirty minutes later I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of conference attendees as we waited for tables for dinner, and shaking hands with several of Patty’s friends. By the time we sat down to eat I was no longer alone, but with friends; enfolded into a ready-made fraternity of writers—real writers!
Patty and I had much more to talk about on the drive back to Cincinnati. It’s a conversation that’s lasted for thirty-five years, and shows no signs of letting up. There are still punctuations of silence in our times together, but that’s okay. As a matter of fact, I like it.
Patty sings, plays piano, guitar, and most recently, ukulele. She’s an amazing poet. She writes a blog called Stark Raving Mythopath. She listens, she laughs, she makes me laugh—sometimes so hard my make-up washes off. She prays with me. She encourages me in my writing. She writes fairy tales that give me goose bumps—the good kind. She brought me into the Writing Academy—that group of friends she introduced me to in New Harmony so many years ago—which led me to the realization of my dreams. To be a writer. A real writer.
Those first impressions of Patty, so long ago—nice enough, normal enough, just a little spacey?
I couldn’t have been more off-base. There’s nothing normal about Patty. She’s a rarity—a treasure—a kindred spirit.
Well—maybe she’s just a little bit spacey.
I learned last night that this one-of-a-kind gem of a friend passed from this earth into the eternal realms of glory. Patty and I spent hundreds of hours over the years rooming with each other at writing retreats, working on newsletters, planning writing conferences, and sneaking in regular private writing retreats together at St. Clare’s Monastery. One of our last communications, via text, was that we needed to get back to St. Clare’s.
We laughed. A lot. We wrote, we prayed, we shared treasured memories, family stories, and our favorite books, poems, and movies. In other words, we shared our lives at a level that only comes once in a blue moon. Over the course of 35 years life is bound to get tricky, if not downright messy, at times. Both of us faced challenges; relationally, spiritually, emotionally, and, these last few years, physically. During those times, Patty often referred to this scripture:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 RSV
Patty fixed her eyes on “the things that are unseen.” I think that’s where her “spaciness” came from. Patty lived in kairos time rather than chronos time far more than most of us. I can still hear her distinctive voice, asking, “I wonder what that weight of glory will feel like?“
Today, that question has been answered for you, Patty. I visualize you there, in that shining city; singing, playing whatever instrument is closest to hand, and reading Quen Po stories to an appreciative crowd. My life is dimmer today, but heaven is several degrees brighter than it was before you walked over the threshold.
P.S. Give Madeleine a hug for me, OK?