Earlier this week I learned that a friend of mine who lived in South Africa had passed away. Her name was Joan Halford - she was an author and expert grower of African violets. Her book, Growing African Violets in Southern Africa, is an excellent reference, written in a wonderfully conversational style. If you can get a copy of it, I highly recommend it - you don't have to live in South Africa to benefit from her knowledge. It's a wonderful book no matter where you live.
I had the great good fortune to meet her in person a couple of years ago during the luncheon auction at the African Violet Society of America's annual convention. We discovered we shared a great love of the written word. I was bidding on books and when I won one of hers at the auction, she autographed it for me. You don't often meet someone so talented who is also charming and gracious. We became friends and stayed in loose touch online. Last year as she was moving to a smaller home, she was downsizing her collection of books about African violets . . . and she sent them all to me because she remembered how much I love books.
Oh, it was like Christmas the day the package arrived! So many books, many of which I had never seen before because they were not published in the United States. I treasure them, as I treasure the memory of an April afternoon with a new friend, spent talking about books and enjoying the auction.
I've discovered I often think of those who have gone on before us as stars in the heavens. When my mom passed away a few years ago, one of my dearest friends sent me a card that still hangs on the bulletin board in my kitchen. It says, "Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones shines down to let us know they are with us." Joan, you will be missed . . . I hope you know how bright your light shone when you were here. It's comforting to me to think that it still shines on me through the opening in Heaven that belongs to you.