Guest Post – Cheering for Life

Stepping-into-the-WildernessI’ve been following Susan Payne’s Blog The Water Witch’s Daughter (written under the pseudonym SuziCate) for at least a couple of years and each time I read it, I’m enchanted with the combination of breathtaking photos and heartwarming insights, touching stories and snippets of life.

Susan recently published her first book, Stepping into the Wilderness, an anthology of sixty encouraging posts from her blog. Each contains five thought provoking questions to promote inner growth through reflection or journal writing. In addition, each piece contains five writing exercises for enriching the writing experience. Each contains five thought provoking questions to promote inner growth through reflection or journal writing. In addition, each piece contains five writing exercises for enriching the writing experience, and in this post she shares a touching story with prompts for you to write about parallel experiences.

Susan_Stephanie 2“Is my letter crooked?” I adjusted the large “N” stretching across her sweater and pinned it in place.

“How about my hair? My bangs ok? My pony tail too high?”

“You’re perfect. Now, get out there and get us going!” She was beautiful, popular, and my best friend.

Her skirt flung to and fro as she swung her hips to the beat. Green and gold pompoms danced through the air as all the girls followed her lead in waving their arms above their heads. The bleachers smelled of sweat and mixed perfumes as we clapped, yelled, and stomped. She jumped from the human pyramid, long, muscular legs spread, back arched as her arms almost touched midway, and landed on her feet. She ran across the gym clapping and cheering, “Go green. Go gold!” She encouraged the football players. She encouraged us to get into the team spirit. By the end of the pep rally I was so caught up in school pride goose bumps tickled my skin and sent a chill over me.

Her damp bangs formed a ridge around her dark eyes. Her ponytail hung limp, but she bounced. She asked, “How was the new routine?”

“You performed flawlessly!” And that she did. Oh, how I wished I was wearing the short swirly skirt and toting pompoms. She tossed the pompoms to me…”Hold ‘em for a minute. Will ya’?”

“Sure.” She had no idea how I loved the times I helped carry her stuff. I thrust my arms skyward mocking her earlier movements. Problem was I jerked back and forth. I didn’t have her grace. Honestly, I didn’t have a rhythmic bone in my body. I tripped over my own feet, and my voice was definitely not the sing-song type.

Still, somehow she talked me into going to cheerleader practice camp. I flopped. She encouraged me to keep trying, telling me I’d eventually get it. I didn’t get it. I dropped out before tryouts. Though we walked our days together, she was swamped with cheerleading duties, and I was busy with my own fortes of being literary magazine editor and newspaper reporter. Still, we supported one another with our gifts. I helped her write her school papers, and she helped me develop confidence.

About fifteen years later, I told her on the phone it was going to be ok. I told her she could beat the cancer. I encouraged her to do the chemo, the radiation, go to Mexico, swim the Atlantic, to do whatever she needed to live.

She suffered, but her faith and courage proved to be as strong as her grace. I called her every week and traveled four hours to visit when I could. On the last visit, she was so weak she could barely eat or speak. “Don’t pray for me anymore. I think God is tired of hearing my name and wants you to pray for someone else. I need you to do something else for me. Will you?”

“I’ll do anything you want,” I said as I squinted my eyes to hold back the tears.

“I need you to tell my story, to encourage others to keep faith no matter what. And I want you to write my obituary.”

“There’s no need for an obituary. You’re going to be fine.” I knew I was lying but I just couldn’t bring myself to have this conversation.

“Promise me you’ll write it.” Her fingers pulled at mine.

“I promise.” I squeezed her fingers for confirmation.

A few days later I awoke about five a.m. to a cool wind sweeping across my soul. I knew before I got the call. I wrote the obituary and delivered the eulogy. As she requested, I encouraged all in attendance to keep the faith.

I never learned to dance, nor did I develop a singing voice. Still, I am a cheerleader. A cheerleader of life, that is. Through reflection of these many years I am learning my friend’s story, though it seems she knew mine all along.

As a genealogy enthusiast I write memoir. As a person who feels emotion deeply, I wrote poetry. As a hiker and canoeist, I write prose about my connection with nature. As a creative, I write fiction. From my soul, I write inspiring words to encourage others. I say this to you: Embrace this beautiful life of yours, and live your time here with passion and love.

Walking Along the Edge of the Woods:

How do you deal with loss? Do you close up and shut down? Do you face it head on? Do you rely on faith?

Have you ever been asked to something difficult but felt obligated to do it? How did you deal with it emotionally?

When have you felt your prayers or needs were not being heard? Did you remain encouraged things would get better?

Have you ever known with certainly in your soul something has occurred before receiving confirmation?

Do you have a best friend? Why is this person important in your life?

Stepping into the Wilderness:

Write a death scene. Have your character make a bizarre request of a loved one.

Write a memoir about how a non-achievement in your life became a gain in the long run.

Write a narrative about the best friends of your life. Tell us how they have changed or remained through the seasons of your life.

Write a dialogue between two people where one wishes to emulate the other.

Write a short story about someone keeping hope alive in a bleak situation. Use your setting to convey the bleakness of story’s situation.

The above questions and exercises are not in my book but are an example of those contained in my book.

Susan’s book, Stepping into the Wilderness, is available on Amazon in both Kindle and print, and you can visit her on the web at The Water Witch’s Daughter.


SuziCate said...

Sharon, thank you for hosting me today. A visit to your blog is always pleasurable and informative. So grateful to have found you along my way!

Sharon said...

Note to everyone. If you sign in with Facebook, Google or Disqus, your post will link back to your site. Let us know where you are!

Susan Jones said...

That's so touching and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

nrhatch said...

Beautiful share, Suzi.
She must have died very young.

Sharon said...

Thanks for stopping by Susan. I'm also moved by this story.

SuziCate said...

Thank you, Nancy. She died at age 35 of a very rare form of cancer. At the time their were only thirty documented cases in the world. She fought hard for three years.

Debbie said...

Suzi, this was breath-taking in its beauty! What a loving friend you are. Your post shows us that we can learn to identify, appreciate, and love even those who are different from us. I'm so sorry your friend has passed on -- rest assured, she's still with you in spirit!

Beth Hills Velatini said...

Oh, this made me all teary eyed - and its my birthday today! I tell you all the time, but I Iove your beautiful written voice!

Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudr said...

Susan, I am sorry for your loss. Your tribute is touching and left me brimming with tears this morning. Sounds like this was the best kind of friendship - one that allows latitude to celebrate differences. xoxo

Ron said...

*tears in my eyes*

Suzi girl, you're writing continues to blow me away.

"I never learned to dance, nor did I develop a singing voice. Still, I am a cheerleader. A cheerleader of life, that is. Through reflection of these many years I am learning my friend’s story, though it seems she knew mine all along."

As I was reading this post, I could sense your friend looking down with a HUGE smile on her face, saying, "Thank you!"

" Embrace this beautiful life of yours, and live your time here with passion and love."

And yes, my are most definitely a cheerleader of life!

And thank you for being in MY life.....X

suzicate said...

Thank you, my dear friend! So glad you're in mine as well.

suzicate said...

Thank you. Stephanie was a wonderful example of someone who always saw everyone's best side. She taught us many valuable lessons in her short time here.

suzicate said...

I didn't mean to make you cry on your birthday, Beth! ANd thank you. I hope your birthday is fantastic and you enjoy that fabulous dinner celebration your hubby planned.

suzicate said...

Yes, she is here in spirit. I hear her voice coaxing me back to the positive aspect of situations still.

suzicate said...

Thank you, Susan for your kind words.

Clarike Bowman-Jahn said...

As someone who keeps trying to write memoir this post is awesome and so are the prompts. You have written the scene clearly and it drew me in right away. :)

Thanks for sending me here as I want to explore Sharon's other posts and want a copy of your book, Suzicate. I'm so glad there is a print copy for the next time I have books to get at Amazon I'm going to remember I want yours as well to get the free shipping.

I'm sorry for your loss. Sometimes when we write about a situation we experience it all over again. I hope it is getting easier for you.

Take good care,

suzicate said...

Clar, Time really is a healer though I still miss her. Thanks for stopping by, and hope you enjoy the book if you get it. You will find lots of valuable info here on Sharon's blog.

Becky said...

This is beautiful Suzi.

suzicate said...

Thanks, Becky.

KathyPooler said...

Suzi Cate, this is stunning on so many levels-a captivating story of love, friendship and loss; an intriguing format that guides us into our own story and beautiful writing. I instantly connected to your story as I lost my best friend, Judy in 1993 and did the eulogy at her funeral. I still miss her and I can relate of the depth of your loss. I hope you are finding consolation in this loving tribute.

Congratulations on your lovely book.

Sharon said...

Happy birthday Beth! Hope the rest of it was splendid. Many happy returns.

Sharon said...

Thank you for stopping by Clarike. I hope you enjoy your visit to the site and come back often.

suzicate said...

Thank you, Kathy. Loss is difficult, but through memories and applied lessons much beauty abounds.
I'm sorry you had to experience the loss of your best friend. Friendship is a deep connection of love, trust, and kindred spirit.

Herm said...

My friend/brother-in-law retired in January. This week doctors told him no treatment will help. I've learned, and here yet again, that we are here for each other. Glad I looked in today.

Sharon said...

I'm so sorry to hear the sad news about your brother-in-law. May he and the rest of the family be carried gently on the wings of prayer. May I suggest that you take advantage of this window to help him write his story insofar as possible? That will create a legacy of story he can leave behind, and also many Hospices are finding that people seem more comfortable about death as they make sense of life.

suzicate said...

Everyone needs someone to help them through the trials of life. Your BIL is fortunate to have that in you. As difficult as it is to go through this with someone you love, it teaches you lessons of love you might not even see until years later.