A visit with first time author and my grandma, Shirley Faith Touchstone.
Hello friends. I hope this post finds you feeling something good in your bones, little or large, as long as it’s in there somewhere. Mine are, quite frankly, bursting. And it’s got everything to do with the fact that one of the stops on my recent 5,200 mile cross-country road trip was to my Grandma Shirley’s home in Van Buren, Arkansas…Where I got to hold her book, Why Am I Still Here?
We spent a few days together talking about how excited and busy she is at 77 years young to have seen this, her first book, to publication. For anyone struggling with perseverance to stick with your dreams or anyone hurting from loss, Grandma and I hope this helps.
Grandma Shirley’s middle name is Faith and mine is Love. We were born in November; two days shy of being exactly 40 years apart. She was named after Shirley Temple and I love to drink them, and yes, we had moms who loved to style our hair with those signature curls.
We are both writers.
We share so many lovely things but as families do, we also have had to deal with tragedy together. In November 2007, she lost her son—my dad, when he was killed on his motorcycle. Six months later, we lost Grandpa when he took his own life. But we were lucky. Faith and love were there for our family and have seen us through to today—a great day to be here talking with you all about things that leave people wondering why in the world this stuff happens and what do we do afterwards?
Grandma and Grandpa
What Grandma Shirley wants to share is that knowing you’re not the only one who has had to deal with loss and the worrisome questions and doubts that stem from it helps. Her book, Why Am I Still Here?, is a collection of tragic yet triumphant stories from people like Helen, a 90-year old lady who suffered a minor stroke and had to leave her home of 60-plus years, who said to Grandma one day after church, “I don’t know why I’m still here. I’m worthless.” To which Grandma replied, “Helen, you are not worthless. You have the most beautiful smile. If you can’t do anything but smile at someone, you have brightened their day and that’s the purpose for your life right now.” There are encouraging stories showing us exactly why those of us left behind need to go on. I was honored to have contributed stories about my dad and grandpa to Grandma’s work.
Sometimes to get an answer to those worrisome questions, you have to take that leap of faith and bravely ask, “What now?”
After Dad and Grandpa died, Grandma wasn’t sure of her purpose so she asked God, “What now?” When you pose a question like this, be prepared for the answer, whether it translates into the years of hard work it takes to produce a book or simply asks you to smile kindly at another. Grandma’s has turned out to be this unexpected, amazing journey.
She’d been asked to lead a bible study for Legacy Heights, the unassisted seniors living center where she now lives, and wasn’t sure if she was up for it so soon after Grandpa’s passing. But deep down, she knew Helen’s words, “Why am I still here”, were her answer. Grandma agreed to do a one-time study program on that subject, putting together a few booklets to hand out. That was in May of 2009. By September of 2009, she had printed and given out over 500 booklets! It was at that point when she asked her good friend, Anita Dowty, for help. They knew in their hearts from seeing the response that this was supposed to be a full-fledged book. Anita and Grandma were in it together all the way and have become like sisters, celebrating the book’s release by Believers Press, a division of Bethany Press, this past week!
Grandma and Anita
I can’t think of a better example of good coming from bad.
Before our visit was over and because she has inspired me to never give up on my dream of becoming published, I asked Grandma if she had anything to share with those of us who might be struggling to stick with writing. She said, “Never give up on your passion. I’m 77 and if I can do it at this age, so can you. If you have a story to tell, stick with it.” I agree with her, because somewhere out there is the person who is meant to read it someday and be touched by what you have to say.
Grandma and I are so very happy to be giving away a copy of her book to one lucky commenter today. To find out more about Grandma Shirley and Anita, check out their website http://whyamistillhere.net/ Why Am I Still Here? is currently available in both digital and print versions on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble and wherever fine books are sold.