LOUISE: Heart Friends

I have been blessed with wonderful friends in my life. Some I’ve known forever. Others are new friends that I’m just getting to know. And some are in that middle category, but nearly all have a special story. How we connected and remained kindred spirits through the years. That’s where my friend, Pat Whitworth, comes in. My “Heart Friend” as she refers to us.

Pat and her son ShaneBack in 1994, Pat, who lives in Madison, Alabama, read an article I wrote for Guideposts Magazine and felt a connection. I had written about my son, Jay, who has Down syndrome. I wrote how Jay requested that we pray for an angel on the first night that he began sleeping with oxygen because of an inoperable heart condition. Pat’s son, Shane, also had Down syndrome and was on oxygen. She quickly wrote a letter, sending it to Guideposts who forwarded it to me.

Pat says I returned a l-o-n-g letter. I remember calling her and chatting for an hour as if we had been friends forever. We found that our boys had a ton of things in common. Not only did they have Down syndrome but they also had identical heart defects that were extremely rare. They also liked many of the same things. Both boys loved macaroni and cheese as well as helicopters and “weather” stuff. I actually found someone whose son loved to hear about tornadoes and twisters for bedtime stories as much as Jay did.

Pat and I spent hours on the phone. I learned so much about her friends that I felt sure I could move to Madison, Alabama, and feel right at home. A few years later, we finally met in person. Pat and her husband and Shane were on their way to Texas to visit their grown daughter’s family and decided to make a stop in Edmond, Oklahoma. We felt like old friends coming together. The next time they made the Texas trip, they came through Edmond again. Then when I spent a week in Atlanta, Georgia, Pat and some of her friends drove over to visit with me.

Of course, seeing each other helped seal our friendship but it was already very strong, spending hours on the phone. We laughed and cried together over so many happenings. I remember the day she called to tell me her husband, Homer, had died. We cried on the phone together. Seven years later, I called her with the same sad news about my beloved husband, Carl. Pat already knew what it was like to be widowed while raising an adult son with special needs so she was very supportive.

Pat and her son ShaneThrough the years, we have been prayer warriors for each other when our kids were hospitalized or had any type of illness. Tragically, in May of this year I received the shocking call that sweet Shane had left this world for heaven. My heart was broken, knowing how Pat loved and protected her son.

Our friend-ship has now passed the 20-year mark and our lives are so intertwined that today when I call, I still expect to hear Shane in the background asking his mom who she is talking to. She would always reply, “It’s Miss Louise, Jay’s mother,” with that Alabama accent.

Sometimes, God places people in our lives for special reasons. I feel like that’s what he did for Pat and me, knowing we would share our unique lives and be “Heart Friends” forever.

I hope the New Year brings lots of “heart friends” to my readers. I’m certainly thankful for all of mine. 

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