touch·stone /ˈtn/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation [tŭch'stōn']
- a test or criterion for the qualities of a thing.
- An excellent quality or example that is used to test the excellence or genuineness of others: "the qualities of courage and vision that are the touchstones of leadership" (Henry A. Kissinger).
[Origin: 1475–85; touch + stone]
—Synonyms 1. standard, measure, model, pattern.
My friend Margaret has been my touchstone for years. I was delighted when I looked up the meaning of touchstone and found that it perfectly describes how I feel about her... she IS my measure for quality... she IS the standard I use for genuineness.
Margaret and I became friends slowly, gradually, over time and in spite of, or perhaps because of, the differences between us. Not only are we different in our physical appearance but in personality and expression as well. It seems what we have in common is our value system. We are both idealists, perfectionists, holding out for something better from life not only for ourselves, but for all those we love and care about. It isn’t money or possessions that either of us desire, but a moral quality of life; a rightness; a desire to be good and to do good.
We came to know each other through work. We both started work at the newly created corporate engineering office at CenturyTel on 7th Street in Monroe, Louisiana on January 26, 1981. We left the company’s new headquarters together almost 23 years later taking early retirement at the behest of our company. We walked in individually, separately as strangers; we walked out as sisters, if not by blood, then in our hearts.
Margaret saw me through many personal struggles as a single mom, raising 3 children on my own and supported me valiantly over the years. I was there when her son was hurt, suffering an eye injury that was devastating to her at the time and through other struggles in her life. We had what we affectionately termed ‘adventures’ together, although I don’t think we quite qualify as Thelma and Louise. Along with our friend David, we went on several weekend trips. We saw Tina Turner twice, the Eagles once and we all went to New York City together in 2002. Just going to lunch could be an adventure for us or a time of peace and solace when we would simply choose to take a sack lunch to our retreat at Black Bayou. As with most friendships, there were times when we would seem to drift apart but we always seemed to find each other when our needs were most urgent. I know today that it was God's hand involved in our lives, directing us, keeping us close.
When we first became friends, I don’t believe Margaret had a religious affiliation. I had turned my life over at the age of 12 in the Methodist church in the small town where I went to school but I was not active in the church on a regular basis and had not been in some time. When Margaret joined the Methodist church after her son’s injury, I was happy for her but still felt no real pull to return; perhaps guilt sometimes for not going and for not getting my children involved, but not enough to spur me back into living a fully committed Christian life. At her urging during one of my struggles, I started attending services at her church and got involved in church activities once again in my life. When the minister we both loved left our small congregation, Margaret eventually moved her membership to a different church and I dropped back out. Once again, although our personal paths seemed to diverge, God continued to keep us available to each other as we were both about to face some of the biggest struggles of our lives.
She was the one I called into my office at work when I got the devastating news about Anna, my granddaughter. She held me, she listened to me; she cried with me; she made arrangements for me to leave the next day to be with my daughter and her family. She offered money; she offered her shoulder; she prayed for me and my family; she gave me her heart.
When Margaret was diagnosed with cancer, it rocked my world. I wanted to do all I could for her. I prayed for her and I requested others to pray. I gave my heart to her and found it easy to take on a role of servant, doing little things at the office to clear away any concerns she might have there and being a link to others who cared about her. It was easy to do, I just followed her lead. I would say this is the point at which I was most impressed with Margaret’s Christian beliefs. I knew she had grown tremendously in her faith but I found a true understanding of how strong it was during this time. I heard her speak of it often over the years but I was watching now as she was living her belief every minute of every day.
It was through observing how she handled the cancer, the treatments, the fears and concerns for her family as well as for herself and seeing her remarkable strength that I recognized how much my friend had grown. By comparison, I realized that my own belief had withered, was producing nothing and that I was in serious need. A serious car wreck, involving myself and three of my precious granddaughters that we all walked away from convinced me of that even further. Again, Margaret had just the thing for me. She got me involved in Disciple classes at Lea Joyner Memorial UMC, took me to Women of Faith conferences and I found my faith rekindled one more time. In the midst of all she was going through, she was ministering to me.
The point came in Margaret’s treatment that a decision had to be made. A bone marrow transplant was needed and it was the only real hope of stopping the cancer from coming back again and again. I watched one more time as she, with grace and dignity, handled this difficult treatment on top of all of her other obligations in life. This time, I knew exactly where her strength was coming from and isn't God good! She came through the transplant and was cancer free!
Later, when our company came to all of the longer term employees and presented us with a difficult early retirement option (much earlier than I had planned), I found myself on my knees, asking what to do. I felt like God was leading me to retire and that I was being given the opportunity to walk out the door with Margaret and so I did. Since then we have experienced many more adventures including a trip to Israel together with other members of OUR church (yes, I moved my membership—finally), we still occasionally do lunch, we attend classes together and sometimes we just talk about our lives. During this time she also became a grandmother, we both deal with the issues of aging parents. She was one of the first people I talked to after my dad passed away last year and our lives continue to wrap around each others today... and today, one of us is in need again.
Late last year, Margaret got the news that although her cancer had not returned, her bone marrow was failing. It is treatable but not curable without another transplant. Even with treatment, she is in a weakened state, receiving transfusions regularly and taking serious medication, some of it still in clinical trial. She is currently recovering from bacterial pneumonia and accumulated fluid in her chest cavity and breathing problems associated with that. And that is where we are today. My friend, my touchstone, my measure of quality in all things good is in need again. And again, my world is rocked. But here I am, on my knees praying for Margaret each and every day.
I bring you the story of my touchstone so that you might pray for her as well. I believe there is power in prayer and that in this instance, more is better. Her husband Glynn, and their children, Chris and Traci and their families, Margaret’s mother and her siblings all need your prayers as well. I pray that they all be given strength and peace and comfort to endure and to trust in God. I pray that the donor be blessed with God’s grace and mercy. Mostly I pray that Margaret's condition will improve soon and that she will be prepared for the life giving transplant waiting for her down the road. She must be healthy to undergo the procedure and recover from it. She has much more to do in this life; she has a husband and children to enjoy; she has a grandson to love and hug and to watch grow; her mother and siblings need her; she has many friends that adore her; and she and I... well we have adventures to plan and experience.
Please, in whatever way you are comfortable, using whatever words you choose, I simply ask that you pray for Margaret today.
I apologize for the length of this entry, but it is hard to sum up 26 years of friendship in a few paragraphs. If you’ve read this far, all I can say is thank you! Thank you for reading to this point, thank you for praying for Margaret and if you have done either of those, thank you for measuring up to my touchstone.
Labels: Cancer, Friends, Margaret