Mark and I met a few weeks after Susie passed away.
Jimmy Hester, a friend and former LifeWay client of mine, called one day to discuss a possible new book project. Having spent my career in the communications business, I've done quite a bit of writing over the past three decades, including co-authoring or ghostwriting books, so I was looking forward to hearing what he had in mind.
Jimmy explained that the wife of a friend and member of his Sunday School class had just died from cancer. The couple, Mark and Susie Edwards, posted regular updates on Facebook about their experiences during their two-year journey.
In these posts they openly and honestly shared the good and not-so-good times in dealing with Susie's cancer, as well as how much hymns of faith ministered to them each day. What made these updates so inspiring was how each one was characterized by an attitude of faith, joy, and gratitude - regardless of the circumstances.
Following Susie's death, Celebrating Grace approached Mark to publish a book based on these Facebook updates. A number of people had independently urged Mark to consider turning the online journal into a book as well because of the potential the Edwards' insights and reflections had to minister to others. Jimmy asked if I would like to get together with Mark to discuss the project. Without a moment's hesitation, I said yes.
Jimmy arranged a breakfast meeting for the three of us at the First Watch restaurant in Brentwood. Mark, I soon discovered, is one of those individuals you can't help but like. He quickly disarms you with his friendliness and candor, his delightful sense of humor and his aw-shucks demeanor. He's down-to-earth, yet clearly has a strong faith in Jesus. He had just experienced tremendous loss, yet there was no sense of gloom or despair in him.
It didn't take long for me to realize that Mark is godly man who loves his Lord, his wife, and his family. And now, his beloved partner for so many years had departed this world for her new residence in heaven. Happy for her, sad for him and the family. Isn't that always the paradox of death when a loved one who dies in Christ passes into eternity?
Much as I wanted to help Mark tell this remarkable story, I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to find in these updates. They were written to friends and family, with no thought at the time of one day putting them into a book of hope and inspiration for others on a similar journey.
I didn't know how well it would work to try to turn a journal of Facebook posts into a book, but I was eager to read through them because it sounded like Mark and Susie has a story that was worth sharing. Boy, was that an understatement!
Some of the early posts were routine updates, with special callouts of thanks for that day's meal train and special acts of kindness that had been bestowed -- often in creative ways -- by friends, neighbors, Sunday School members, and others. Nice, but nothing that people outside their circle would find particularly interesting. However, as time went by and Susie's disease progressed, the posts became much more in-depth and insightful. Time and time again, I was amazed at how Susie found things for which to give thanks even when she was feeling awful or had received bad news that day.
I also was struck by the role hymns played in Mark's and Susie's lives, how they brought them closer together and ministered in ways that nothing else could quite replicate. Prayer, the word of God, and the fellowship of the saints all strengthen us during a crisis, but there's something about musical praise that soothes our souls in a special way.
Mark and Susie were downright engaging communicators, and the high quality of their writing made my job as editor so much easier! Of course, Susie has lots of practice because she was a prolific writer of notes of encouragement to literally hundreds of people.
I am so grateful to have had a small part in bringing this book from concept to reality. Mark was truly a pleasure to work with each step of the way, and he soon became more friend than client. My only regret is that I didn't have a chance to meet Susie in person, but I know I will one day, because I share her and Mark's faith in Jesus. In fact, after reading and editing Notes from Susie, I feel as though I've come to know her now.
Editor, Notes from Susie