BY-WAYS - 7/8/43 - Betty Smith - How she became an integral part of our family

May I try out a suggestion of Dorothea Brande's - the author of "Wake Up and Live!"? It is to be found in her book, "Becoming a Writer," and is this: try jotting down whatever thought comes into your head. Of course this exercise is to be done in the early morning hours - as soon as you wake up. But my early morning half hour is spent in struggling out of the arms of Morpheus and into my "army" uniform. From then on it's work, work - until the gentle twilight, when that subtle god of sleep begins beckoning. Now it's the blessed Sabbath afternoon, with all good resolutions about nightly writing broken. Never mind. The war can't last forever. Sometimes I'm afraid it will last longer than I will. And I did so want to live to that Utopian day predicted, when there is a little airplane in each back yard - and I can hop over to Saltsburg and environs whenever I want to.

Greetings and good health to Mrs. Homer Buchanan, sick in Woman's Hospital, Pittsburgh. And don't forget, friends, that the best tonic in the world is the little message of cheer - a beautiful card, a comic card, a brave and fortifying poem, or just a personal note of love and good wishes. Since I am committed to write whatever comes into my head, will you forgive the personal note, while I tell you of the sustaining message of a dear friend who dedicated her life to brightening the lives of others?

It was Betty Smith, of whom I wrote three years ago, when she developed cancer. Betty died just a month before my dear friend, Kathryn Henderson. To retrace the years a bit; just six weeks before Estelle was born, Betty, a total stranger, came, under the auspices of the Best Service Rental Bureau, to rent a room - and stayed, to become an indispensable member of the family. No, come to think of it, she didn't come right away. She paid no deposit, and kept us in suspense a whole week while she debated whether she wanted to live in the same house with the inevitable squalling infant. She was already past the 30 milestones, and accustomed to a well-ordered life. On the other end of the scales was my gentle, blind father, for whom she formed the deepest attachment. The balance tipped in his favor; one of God's best women came into our lives. Betty had such capacity for loving. She spent part of each Sunday, and many an evening, reading and discussing great books with Father. She and Aunt Daisy had about the same religious views; since the latter's income was meagre - and uncertain - Betty, out of her own fine salary, gave Aunt Daisy many a musical and cinematic treat. This precious auntie left us when Estelle was 2-1/2 years old, to live out her days with her only daughter in California; but for years Betty kept up a faithful correspondence with her, giving her a complete, but rose-tinted picture of our family life, with special emphasis on their common idol, our baby daughter. Estelle lived up to the worst traditions of a colicky and squalling infant - but Betty adored her from the start. She was a much better mother than the baby's real mother. We always wondered why Fate decreed that she should be homeless and childless. Our boys were equally dear to her. She was the kind of friend to whom you could boast or confess with equal candor. Her admiration for Virgil was boundless. In her workaday world she was thrown in with all kinds of men. She would always come home and say, "Florence, you don't know how lucky you are." Now that I am out in that same kind of world, I begin to realize the truth of her words.

Now I must give you this one instance of her steadfast friendship for me. It was the morning of my first operation (and those first operations are scary things.) She knew that Virgil was going to stop in that morning on his way to work. So she wrote one of her incomparable letters, and sent it with him. I was already under the spell of the sedative that is the prelude to the final anesthetic, but I took in this sentence, "Remember, the Everlasting Arms are about you, to keep you safe." With those precious words ringing in my ears I went to sleep. The words are still ringing in my heart. Good-by, now,

Florence B. Taylor

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