Something about this place draws me like flies to molasses. I know God leads me because I ask him to. He’s faithful who promised. Not that I need to be reassured, because I’m settled on one thing if nothing else. He loves me with an intense love.

I like how the wind blows through my silver hair and the sun shines brightest on this corner. I can do my work through the chattering and waving of hands. No smiles. Just a lot of ksi, ksi, ksi! Ne’ sosta’! ma’lista. Ghia’ ghia’ soo! So now you know I’m again sitting amongst the Greeks. A great place to write once I put my mind to it.

I was going through some computer files last night to see what could be rearranged into certain filing drawers when I stumbled upon a jewel of a piece. My dear friend, Lorna, had asked me to write her last wishes and type them for her. Lorna. That California girl who rode the train from Long Beach, California to Greenville, South Carolina when she was a girl of eighteen. Alone. She was going to Bob Jones University, a place she had only read about in books and catalogs. Knowing Lorna as I do, and knowing the University as I do—they were meant for each other.

She’s just older than I, a lovely—no beautiful lady, with strawberry blonde hair, maybe with a little help, tall and willowy. We had a lot in common. She, too, was a pastor’s wife for many years. Then he died, leaving her as lonely a person as I’ve known when she spoke of him. But when she talked about Jesus, who was her be all and end all, the loneliness just went away.

Lorna had a fantastic life. Her husband was director of the brass section at the University and founded and pastored a large Bible Church in Greenville until his death. Lorna worked in the University’s Art Museum, one of the foremost art collections in America. She knows every painting and the story behind each.

She took me there at Christmastime one year, every room its own vignette. The students, dressed in their best representation of the gallery where they were performing, were sated with musical talent. We flitted from gallery to gallery taking it all in. The paintings were phenomenal, the music glorious. In one of the galleries, children from Bob Jones Academy performed, dressed in their party best clothes. Such lovely little pure soprano voices. My favorite setting was the gallery where several young college women were dressed in sleek black gowns, playing their violins, the beautiful tunes of Christmas past. What loveliness, returning the truest value to the word culture, especially since we’ve misplaced the meaning lately. Lorna took me to the innermost parts of the gallery. So many rooms, so many paintings. It was splendid having a personal guide, someone who had roamed those halls for years on end. I was blessed.

We spent hours sitting across the table at Atlanta Bread in Cherrydale Point. That’s where we met. I had seen her come in several times before I spoke to her, introducing myself. I liked her from the beginning. Several days later, she was in again and I spoke to her. I said, “Hi, Lorna!” She gave me a cocky little look and said, “How dare you remember my name.” We both laughed. She had not remembered mine. I just kept telling her my name every time I saw her until we were fast friends. We shared scripture and life stories, prayed together. Real friends do that. We made every minute count for more than just ourselves.

We took little field trips from time to time, driving up to the mountains of North Carolina. It was only ten miles from where we lived. Just up the Saluda Grade. We walked the mountain trails at Carl Sandburg’s place in East Flat Rock, stopping off to visit the goats, enjoying the life and times of the late Mrs. Sandburg. Goats everywhere, in the lot, in the stalls, in the barns, the pastures. Goats with names like Champagne and Charlotte. My grandson, Harrison, memorized the names of about thirty of those goats, including the Billy Goats Gruff! We explored the little artisan towns from Travelers Rest to Saluda and Hendersonville. I grew up in the country, but she taught me so much about the simple life and God’s big wonderful world

When I moved to Florida, I thought Lorna would die. She said to me—“I somehow manage to lose everything I love.” I was as sad to leave her and I’ve missed her. Missed her smile and sweet spirit. Her intellect and her elegance. She had an abundance of both.

A lot of things rush the memories of Lorna Conley. She always liked to take the unexplored path, having little sympathy for the concrete. She once declared to me: “Sometimes, instead of taking the sidewalk, I just want to take off my shoes and dance in the grass.” And in my memory she is barefoot, far and away from any concrete jungle, dancing in the cool and green Carolina grass. And she’s still missing her Jim Conley. Still drawing every drop of nectar from the fountain of life, and still loving with such a pure heart.
Blessings on you, my dear friend!

Jane Bennett Gaddy, Author
House Not Made With Hands
The Mississippi Boys