The first lines that went straight to my heart in Margaret Terry’s book Dear Deb, a collection of 55 letters written to a friend dying of cancer, came two pages into the book. In the introduction, called The Inspiration, Terry relates that she was surprised to have been asked to pray for Deb, and “believe in my miracle.” Terry admits that she was a church friend to Deb, but they weren’t close. She knew that Deb was a capable and energetic woman, she loved Motown and hockey, but outside church she and Deb didn’t socialize. Terry goes on to say, “I’m not sure why this happens in churches. We hug the same people every Sunday for years, we watch their children grow, and we share their trials and joys, yet for some reason we limit our friendship to church.” “True, so very, very true,” I marveled. “And if Margaret Terry is able to nail down that situation in two sentences, what other treasures are in this book?” Well, there are dozens of treasures in Dear Deb! I have several favorite stories in the book, but I love the story of Crowning Mary, probably because I can recall similar May celebrations from my own days at St John’s Catholic Elementary School in Seattle, Washington. Crowning Mary is a beautiful story full of innocence and faith, and it includes a miracle that will make you smile for days.
The old-fashioned name for a book made up of letters is epistolary. This being the 21st century, Terry’s letters were originally composed as emails, and were sent daily to Deb, who had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. They were a form of encouragement which Deb asked her friends to send her as support while she endured cancer treatment and waited for her miracle. Over time, as Terry’s letters went beyond platitudes, she found that sharing her moments of failure and fear were, paradoxically, a way of sending strength to Deb, and they also were an avenue for Terry to unburden her own secret past. Through that process of letter writing, Terry shares with us the great truth that God doesn’t abandon us when we and our world break apart, but He comes close, and cares for us through it all.
Here’s is my take away from Dear Deb – maybe the broken pieces of your life aren’t meant to be put back together the way you think. Maybe a jagged piece of your story is meant to heal the brokenness of someone else’s life. But that won’t happen if you don’t share your story and let the Master Potter use it as only He can. I believe that in Dear Deb, a book that touches both your heart and your funny bone, you will see this amazing process at work.
Review of Dear Deb in 140 characters or fewer: “You’ll need Kleenex, you’ll laugh out loud, you’ll be stunned, and you’ll be inspired. Read it!”