“… And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts…” ~Hamlet~
“My bestie’s moving to your neck of the woods.”
That’s what my dear friend and mentor Lucinda wrote to me. And I promised her I’d make Maggie feel right at home in western North Carolina.
I kept my promise. Not long after her move, Maggie and I met at our local Christian Writers Fellowship. It was our annual Christmas party, and we struck up easy conversation over good food, among dear friends.
That was the beginning of my friendship with author and speaker Maggie Rowe, and several years have gone by. But more than time has passed. So has our dear mutual friend, Lucinda.
Author Lucinda Secrest McDowell, a woman I first met at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May 2017, was and will continue to be an inspiration to many. She penned numerous books, wrote countless blog posts at her personal site, and encouraged women (and I’m sure many men too!) for decades.
Lucinda and I discovered not long after our first meeting that we shared a love for pansies. “They’re my favorite flower,” she told me.
“Do you know their meaning?” I inquired, excited that we were both passionate about this paper-thin though perseverant posey.
“They symbolize ‘think of me’ or ‘things to consider’,” Lucinda responded.
“Ah, yes–and that’s why I love them so,” I shared. “Even named my blog site after them, for this very reason. Penning Pansies–doesn’t it have a nice ring?”
Lucinda smiled. “Yes, and I’m guessing, like me, you appreciate good alliteration.”
Indeed. I certainly do, as did Lucinda.
When I received word only two months into this new year that Lucinda was sick, I could hardly believe it. Like many, I thought, This just can’t be. She’s got too much to do. God’s using her so wonderfully in this world, shining His light. Surely she’ll be healed.
But the cancer which ravaged her body, threatening to take her so soon, was beyond medical treatment, doctors said. And many, me included, began to pray instead for her comfort, for Jesus’s presence in her passing.
It’s not that we doubted God could heal our friend, but we also knew this might not be what would happen, and we trusted Him.
I believed, void a miracle, I’d not see sweet Lucinda again this side of heaven, though I’d hoped to sit under her teaching once more at BRMCWC. She was on faculty for 2023 and was scheduled to team teach with her best friend of more than three decades, Maggie Rowe.
“My heart’s just broken,” Maggie shared with me. “I can’t imagine life without Cindy.”
Plans were made for Maggie to travel to Connecticut to see Lucinda once more. “I hope I get there in time,” she confided. “Her passing could come any day.”
And it did, though, thankfully, Maggie made it to her bestie’s bedside. Even in her last moments, Lucinda was thinking of others, as Maggie’s text to me testified–
Her mind is clear and she’s trying to take care of everything that seems unfinished. She’s so weak. She can only lift her head and her hands a little bit, but even in her pain, she asked her family to plan a celebration for her oldest son Justin’s birthday, so I’m out buying balloons and donuts.
That’s just like Lucinda, and I was thankful Maggie was there, able to make herself useful in a manner that eased the pain of knowing time was dwindling.
And Lucinda’s passing came only several days later. On March 25, at 10:30 PM–after just several short weeks of illness–our dear sister stepped into the arms of her Savior, the One in whom she trusted to the very end. The One she wrote about, the One she lived for for most of her 70 years.
Her 7th decade was to be celebrated on May 23rd, and Maggie so looked forward to being with her best friend days after Lucinda’s actual birthday when they were to serve together on faculty at BRMCWC. In fact, almost a year earlier, Maggie found and purchased a special gift for her friend, something she’d hoped to give her in person when they roomed together at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain, NC.
I learned of this when Maggie wrote to me–
I have something special to give you–a joint gift from Cindy and me. You’ll understand the significance when you see it. She was to turn 70 this year.
Not long after, Maggie and I were together at our monthly Christian Writers Fellowship meeting. In the parking lot afterward, she handed me a gift bag. Inside was a box.
“When I was at Cindy’s bedside just prior to her passing, I spoke to her about this special gift I’d purchased for her at a street fair in Waynesville last year. Being her 70th birthday, I thought it the perfect present for someone who loved pansies.”
Maggie stopped, pausing to swallow rising emotion. “As I held her hand, I told her about this gift, asked her if she wanted her daughters to have it or…”
Again, Maggie paused, her eyes welling.
“Cindy wanted you, her pansy-loving friend–to have this. It was her wish.”
Carefully, I opened the box, then separated several layers of tissue. There, protected inside, was the most beautiful window hanging. Pressed between glass were delicate purple pansies, persevered forever–
- To be appreciated.
- To cause one to consider.
- To stir remembrances.
Yes, to remind me often of my dear friend Lucinda whose words inspire me, motivate me, and encourage me–as they do for so many others.
Now in heaven, I’m certain she’s happiest with her Savior, reunited with her precious mama whom she loved so much, not to mention many others–including the late Elisabeth Elliot, who was a treasured friend also.
Some weeks after receiving this beautiful gift, I wrote to Maggie, inquiring if she remembered who its creator was. She wrote back that, after a year, she did not recall.
Only days later, however, I received a text from my friend, along with a photo of a business card.
“Maureen, I just found this in a bag. I think this might be the name of the woman who made the pansy window hanging.”
I emailed her, sending a picture of my gift, and asked if she was its creator.
I was able to then share with her a bit of the story, how Lucinda and I connected, discovering our mutual love for pansies, and how, some time later, our mutual friend Maggie moved to our area.
This local artist, Samantha Collins (Green Valley Botanical), was touched to hear how her piece of art was to be a special 70th birthday gift for Lucinda. How, in her last days, Cindy–and Maggie–gave it to me instead. And how this window hanging means so much more than merely a pretty piece of glass with pressed pansies.
It’s a constant reminder to pause and consider–perhaps write those recollections, share with others that they, too, might be encouraged.
I’d say Lucinda’s still inspiring, and I, for one, am thankful for this…
I had this photograph framed for dear Maggie (left)–a thank you for my pansy window hanging. She and Lucinda are indeed besties forever!
Kind Father, please tell dear Lucinda hello. Tell her I miss her. The world misses her. But her words, inspired by You, will continue to scatter seeds, making both heaven and earth more beautiful. For Your glory and the good of Your people, amen!