The “point of the Point” for this edition of Athens Now, is to celebrate the life of a dear friend who just passed away, and to underscore the power of the lost art of letter writing. My friendship with Julie Lavorini, who is now safely in the presence of our Savior, is a tale of unlikely loyalty and unswerving support. Our lives were very different. She was shy, God knows I am not. She was famous for her pies, my pie crusts stink. She was a homebody, I’d just as soon trot the globe. We did, however, share several things, a love for God, children, flowers, reading great books, and writing. She called me “Hummingbird,” an apt description of someone whose wings beat ‘til they are a blur while they dart about through life seeking sweetness.
Her name, in Italian, meant “little works,” and her life as an unsung heroine of the faith was indeed replete with “little works” that added up to a veritable trove of treasure. The lion’s share of the “loot” was bequeathed to me in the form of letters, real live letters that were written in cursive, put in an envelope, empowered to reach their destination courtesy of the United States Postal Service, eagerly awaited, and always enjoyed.
She never attempted to be profound in her writings, she just was. Her tales of her life, a life which she often thought was so lacking in consequence, beautifully illustrated an extraordinary level of grace and mercy. She had been dealt a tough hand, one that could not have been easily discerned outwardly, but full of relational anguish. She experienced a divorce which came as a total surprise after decades of being a true help that was meet. The shock was unspeakable. Seemingly out of nowhere a particularly vicious brand of brittle, adult onset Type 1 Diabetes struck her, and she found herself bereft on so many levels. The most pernicious attacks were not physical, however. They were the lies, spoken by the enemy in shrieks and whispers, as to her worth, and for a good while she believed them.
But then this gentle, bright, articulate woman fought back in the most loving way, and God indeed was her shield, her sword and her buckler. She forgave, and it wasn’t just lip service. A young family named Hunter came to live with her, they indeed became family, and were with her to the last. She wrote her memoirs, using the analogy of her life as a pie. If a pie is going to be a pie, the crust has to be baked, and the ingredients need to be transformed into deliciousness by way of heat. That was her story, and she was sticking to it.
God used everything from Max Lucado books to a dog to speak to her of His love for her, and what got me was that even though she could not afford to, she would purchase and send me copies of the very books that had touched her. We would send her flowers, something she was not used to, and they became her avatar on facebook. Her appreciation for the tiniest kindness was at times unnerving.
She was my most vocal cheerleader, and I have a bright blue gift box full of her letters in my office. Whenever I am struggling, all I have to do is look at an example of her lovely handwriting, and know that in a sentence or two, she’ll turn from the current chapter of her endearing personal story to encouraging me. I have a permanent, powerful source of personal strength at my fingertips, and I am grateful beyond words.
Little Works is gone, but not for long. She is free, soaring all over heaven, and until I get there, I shall have her lovely letters and the memory of her hearty laugh to keep me warm. I am an unspeakably rich woman as a result. A letter has leverage, my friends, and in my life, the “Lavorini Letters” served to be a lever so long and strong that it moved my world.