For previous posts on the contributors, see these authors who were all featured in the first section of the book, “Mystics and Messengers.”
And from the second section of the book, “Angels Watching Over Me.”
Renea Winchester is a first-place winner of the North Carolina Press Association Award, the recipient of the Wilma Dykeman Award for Essay, and a two-time winner of the Appalachian Writer’s Award. In April 2020 she released her debut novel, Outbound Train, which won numerous prizes and was translated into French and released internationally. I was asked to write a blurb for Outbound Train. Here it is:
Renea Winchester is a natural-born storyteller. She has crafted a debut novel with a strong sense of place and a colorful cast of characters nursing old wounds and fighting for better lives in a small North Carolina town. Outbound Train’s small mill-town setting is reminiscent of An Officer and a Gentleman. While revealing the heroic battles of the human spirit—especially those of Barbara Parker and her daughter Carole Anne—she maintains their dignity. She deftly captures the voices of the people in Bryson City in the 1960s and ’70s.
Renea is currently working on her next novel, The Mountains Remember, a historical novel based on her grandmother’s displacement to form the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As a descendant of those who were displaced, Renea is passionate about Appalachian Heritage, preserving rare seeds, cultivating endangered plants, and meeting new friends.
“Waiting For Her Angel”
Renea’s essay could have fit in the “All in the Family” section of the book, since it’s about her mother, who struggled with ovarian cancer for over a decade. It’s also one of several end-of-life essays, some of which aren’t specifically about angels. Here are few excerpts to give you a taste of her writing:
The brain has a way of capturing last moments and replacing everything else with the most recent, the “last,” moment. We ay not remember childhood memories, but few can forget our loved’ one’s final moments, for they remain with us until we draw our own final breaths. . . .
Nurses and hospice volunteers often see this in their patients, the lingering. Patients who hold on until that prodigal child arrives. I like to think of this lingering as one last gift from God. But in mother’s case, my assurances didn’t cause her to relinquish the hold on her earthly body. And so I stood at her bedside, saying again and again, “It’s okay to go Mama. We’ll make it. Go. Go see Jesus. He is waiting for you.”
And a few hours later:
“Your angel is here to get you,” I whispered to Mother. “Just reach out.” The rattle stilled.