I met Loretta Miller Mehl at an Oregon Christian Writer’s conference one spring. When I read her name tag, I realized she was the grandmother of friends—her son and his wife homeschooled their children through the same channels I homeschooled mine.
I said, “I know who you are!” She gave me a skeptical smile. When I proved myself, she broke into that effervescent grin I would come to know as her trademark. Loretta loved being with people and rarely met a stranger, her smile a contagious draw.
We crossed paths again later that summer at the college graduation party of a mutual acquaintance. Loretta invited me to her critique group because I didn’t currently attend one. “Wear your toughest skin,” she warned, “these people are brutal.”
I visited the group and stayed, bearing their scrutiny of my work with dignity. Their attention to detail made me a better writer. Attending each week made Loretta a welcomed friend. She wrote prolifically and sold, or so it seemed, almost every thing she submitted. Her stories were vignettes of family life, incidents she remembered while rearing three sons and a daughter. Her book about her life as the daughter of a southern sharecropper made me cry. I fought professional envy of her success. Her manner of telling stories with poignancy and adapting a scriptural truth to each tale made editors love her.
Health events slowed Loretta as the years hurried on. Still, she came to critique, always dressed fashionably, moving with a walker, sharing a hearty hello and a story—she didn’t leave home without one. Her words made people laugh, cry, and feel everything in between.
When the critique group faltered and began to drift, I moved on to another. Loretta and I stayed in touch. She’d e-mail me about a blog I’d posted, or when she wanted to pass on family news. I visited her in re-hab. When I learned she’d needed acute care, I was saddened.
This week Loretta joined her husband, Bill, at the throne of God’s grace. She’s earned her reward. In Galatians 6:9-10, the Apostle Paul tells us, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.”
Loretta is probably chatting with Jesus, that unstoppable smile in place, those mischievous eyes twinkling. I know she’s telling a story and I’m sure Jesus is laughing.
Goodbye, dear Loretta. We will meet again.