Story by Karen Briggs
Our friendship began with Joni’s pen pal ad in a monthly magazine. When I answered that ad several years ago, I never could have imagined the journey I was setting out upon! My first letter to her, one of introduction, went unanswered for three months. I’d long since forgotten writing it when her response finally arrived.
In spite of that slow start, we soon discovered much in common – a shared love of writing and music and gardening and needlework — but in many ways our lives were vastly different. She was thirty-three and recovering from a second abusive marriage and divorce; I was ten years older and had been married since I was a teenager to the love of my life. Joni had routinely endured abuse I could scarcely imagine. She did not believe in God; I had a lifelong faith which, while shaky at times, had a firm foundation.
Our friendship flourished by way of the inky trail. We exchanged recipes and cross-stitch patterns and garden seeds. Our lives became happily entwined as our frequent letters traveled across the many miles between us. The friendship filled a need in both of us for that special relationship neither of us was fortunate enough to have with our biological sisters. She poured out her heart to me, as though the simple act of telling me the horrors of her life would somehow cleanse her soul and put her shattered hopes and dreams back together again. I listened and prayed and tried my best to help her find the peace she was so desperately searching for in her life. The long letters soon were interspersed with equally lengthy phone calls. We laughed and cried together, and though a thousand miles separated us, we became sisters of the heart.
In the summer of ’96, Joni’s world once again came crashing down around her as a relationship she was involved in abruptly ended. She became suicidal and many times in the wee hours of the mornings to follow, I found myself on the phone with her, reassuring my precious friend that she was loved and that her life could again be worth living. My insistence that she seek professional help fell on deaf ears. It seemed as though there was little I could do as I beseeched God to show me a way to help her.
One day I was walking through the mall with Joni very much on my mind. I wandered into a card shop, where my attention was immediately drawn to a music box on a shelf among many other music boxes. It was a small box with a short poem of friendship in its lid. As I opened it, my mind was filled with good memories as it played “You Are My Sunshine,” a song I’d often sung to my children in their childhood years. I listened to the melody and then closed the lid and continued on my way. As I once again resumed my shopping, I felt the gentle touch of an unseen hand on my shoulder guiding me back to the shop and an urgent need to send that music box to Joni. I bought it and mailed it to her the following day.
Three days passed before I answered my phone to find Joni there crying. She managed, between her tears, to explain to me that she had decided to end her life and had made a list of ten things she needed to do first. One item on that list was to hear the song “You Are My Sunshine” one last time. It was a song she’d loved as a child and brought back happy memories of those days. Having it come to her as it did reminded her of the love of her faraway friend and prompted her to add one more thing to her list — she wanted to come meet me.
Two very long days later, Joni arrived on my doorstep. What a joy it was to finally meet this friend I’d come to love so dearly. We talked and cried and laughed a lot in the next five days and through the miracle of our friendship, she discovered a desire to live again. As for me, my faith in God was strengthened as I watched in amazement the way He used a simple childhood song in a music box sent to a friend. I learned never to doubt the stirrings of a small still voice or the touch of an angel’s hand.
God truly does work in mysterious ways, or perhaps His answers to His children’s heartfelt prayers are not so mysterious at all. Whatever the explanation, I thank Him for my friendship with Joni and for that tiny treasure of a music box.