This whole adventure of blogging has set me to thinking about who I am meant to be, how I’ve gotten to this point, and people and events that have changed my life. Today I honor one of the great influences in my life–one of those lifelong friends who, though distant geographically, is always present in my heart.
Arlene is one of those people. The only child of loving parents, she was given a name that blended the “given” names of both her father and mother–Arlin plus Lorene equals Arlene. The name is so dear to me that I named my daughter, Cindy Arlene, after her. Arlene and I met during our years in the fledgling nursing program at a Christian college in Arkansas, our home state, 38 years ago. We were among the four married students in our class. I was the most nontraditional of all since I already had two children, ages 5 and 3. We married students gravitated together, but Arlene and I “bonded”. We struggled with endless clinical assignments, skills labs, lectures, exams, and care plans. We studied together, commiserated with each other, laughed a lot, cried some. Arlene and I made a memorable but delicious mess cooking toffee with melted chocolate for a Christmas treat. Her mother gifted me with a lovely Christmas cross stitch piece designating remembrance of friends as a central theme at Christmas–it still graces our home each Christmas season. And, finally, in May of 1978, we graduated with a baccalaureate degree in nursing from Harding University.
Arlene’s husband, Kelly, is a college professor, and his work led them to live in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama. At about the same time after graduation, though in two separate states–she working in the student infirmary at Ole Miss and I at home in my kitchen–we each decided to try regular dishwashing liquid in automatic dishwashers! The result, of course, was a seemingly unending flood of beautiful soapsuds cascading down the front of the machine and into the floor. The fact that it happened to both of us was comforting somehow. Through each of her moves, we never lost each other. Months might go by without a visit, but then Arlene would return to Arkansas to visit family or Cindy and I would load up and travel to each of those states to visit in her home. Arlene’s sense of gracious southern hospitality is unfailing. She is the ultimate gentle southern Christian lady–serene, compassionate, insightful, devoted to serving others. She practiced nursing as a registered nurse, as I did, but she soon found her way into the role of nurse educator, guiding students to understand not only the technical skills necessary for safe nursing but striving to inspire in them the same sensitivity and compassion that characterized her as a nurse. She has a special love for geriatric patients–seeing past the confusion or the querulous nature into their hearts and minds. She was an example of daughterly devotion as she cared for her mother through her battle with cancer and, later, with seeing her father through the hardships of cardiovascular disease and aging. She has become a true nurse expert, author, and presenter, and has been honored by our alma mater as an outstanding alumnus.
I have become a better, stronger, more devoted Christian because of Arlene. She gifted me with a daily devotional book in 2001, and I have read portions of it every year since. It truly speaks to me and inspires me to strive to be gentler, calmer, and always true to my faith. Arlene has seen me through many storms of life–a divorce, the struggles of single parenthood, dealing with my own family tragedies and illnesses–and the happiness of a second marriage “made in heaven”. She is the ultimate prayer warrior, supporting me and my family through the challenges of a child’s mental illness.
Thank you, Arlene, for being my BFF, my confidante, my sister in Christ. I honor you today, your birthday, and thank God for blessing my life with you.