Steel Magnolias

By Reba Phelps

A few months ago I sent a group text message to many of my close friends and asked them to share with me what woman they most look up to and why. It seemed like a simple question but every single friend took an ample amount of time to respond. They each put so much thought into the task. I was blown away by the many stories of sisters, mothers, step-mothers, aunts and grandmothers, all who overcame the many different adversities that life so cruelly hurled their way. Every one of these ladies had one common thread.

They were all tough as nails and had loved others with everything they had in their bones. Simply put…they were true Steel Magnolias.

Every single one of these ladies were further along in the path of life than the friends of mine who chose to write about them. Each woman used their unique experiences to help guide other women.

The story was going to be so eloquent and beautiful just like the Steel Magnolias mentioned in the text message sentiments. Technology had other plans though. Unbeknownst to me I had my new phone set to delete text messages over thirty days old. Once you combined the technology mishap with a small dose of procrastination, my valuable information was lost. I did have a couple of friends that chose to email their thoughts, so there was one small silver lining.

This past week, I attended the funeral of a dear and precious friend who had been one of those people in my life. I met her just out of high school while working out at the old Russ’ Fitness Center in Winnfield. Her husband then became my family’s dentist. She had the most pure soul and positive attitude of anyone you have ever met. By watching her I learned how to be a gracious friend to others.

Her and her friends became my entertainment during the monotonous time at the gym. One of her friends even owned the first apartment I lived in as a young married woman. They watched me as I got married and had children and I watched them as they became mother in laws and grandmothers. This was a special group of women whose friendship almost spanned over five decades. One of her friends has a Facebook prayer page and it was evident that all of the friends were praying hard for her and her family during her last days.

Once I arrived at the service I sat myself on the back row and little did I know that I was sitting near this special group of friends. I watched as they listened intently to every word being spoken about their treasure of a friend. I saw them occasionally nod in agreement. I witnessed them smile as they recalled something funny. I also saw them silently weep as one of their husbands eulogized their friend and I saw them cherish each other as they sat on that church pew.

The beautiful ladies were the closest of friends. Soulmate friends, who had to say goodbye to one of their own. They have shared church pews for many different weddings, holiday services, and baby dedications through the years but this is one reason no one truly wants to share a pew. But, they did it with grace and love. They celebrated the life of their sweet Steel Magnolia.

This is something that my special friend group has not yet experienced. Truly no one wants to experience this but with time and age, it is bound to happen.

God has an extraordinary purpose for everyone on this earth. Sometimes his purpose is to make a difference in just one life. Sometimes that purpose doesn’t look the way we planned and sometimes his purpose will not make sense to anyone except for him. He places Steel Magnolias in all of our paths to teach us, comfort us and even challenge us. Sometimes we are even that Steel Magnolia for someone else.

All through the Bible there are many stories and parables that are wrought with strong women, flawed women and even perfect women. At some point in our lives we may be a touch of all three. But God, can use all three to touch the lives of many.

“As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another.”

Proverbs 27:17