More than one person has told me they could write what I write.
My answer is always the same: “Of course you can! So, why don’t you?”
I know most people have a story to tell and good column writing always tells a story. And stories change people. That’s why Jesus, as well as religious teachers, used so many.
I got an e-mail recently from a woman whose story so inspired me, I asked her to share it with you. From these e-mails, I compiled and edited her story into the version you can read below.
Dear Chaplain Norris: Every Saturday, The Herald Times Reporter (Manitowoc, Wis.) runs your column on the front page of its religion section. During the past two years, I’ve been pausing long enough on my single-minded journey to the sports section to see what scrap of Packers news I might find (a habit as predominant here as Catholicism) and I have been reading your column.
Recently, I think I’ve come to understand what it was that made me stop on your column.
In May 2001, Dad was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of melanoma and was given just weeks to live. God gave us 11 months instead. Those months were a gift, and I experienced my dad in a way I never had known him before.
Dad always was a rather crusty or prickly guy, perhaps because of his war experience or just by nature, but whatever it was, he was a hard man to know. Understandable perhaps, since he was a World War II POW. However, six weeks after his capture, he escaped and worked with the underground until the war ended.
Although reared Catholic, we weren’t devout, or was Dad. Personally, I rarely discuss my beliefs. I keep them to myself, choosing to live them instead. I can be rather “prickly” on this point but in one of our conversations Dad told me of his fear of spending eternity in hell for the things he had done or not done. I assured him that my loving and forgiving God never would judge him as harshly as he was judging himself.
Certainly he had regrets (as do we all), but after a time he centered his thoughts and words on what he was grateful for. That particular conversation with Dad is one I treasure.
Finally, one day, I found him very close to death. And as his body gave out and the cancer overtook his brain, he looked me squarely in the eye and simply said, “LuAnn, don’t waste your life.”
Nothing more, just that.
Being with my dad when he took his last breath in this world was a gift, and I want you to know how peaceful I felt, and how in that instant my belief in God was absolutely, without a doubt, confirmed.
Two years ago, I finally decided to take my dad’s advice. I left my alcoholic husband and moved into my own apartment. That’s when divine intervention led me to your column.
Perhaps this is all pretty ordinary stuff in an ordinary life. But, since I don’t believe in coincidences, I know there was some divine intervention that finally allowed me to share my story.
Dear LuAnn: By sharing your story, you demonstrate the principle, “You can’t keep it (your story) unless you give it away.” By sharing our stories — our experience, strength and hope — with others, we get to keep the blessings we have gained through living those stories. In other words, by giving it away to others, we get to keep the prize inside.
Thanks for writing.