An Irmo woman’s courageous friend inspired a message that will now inspire greeting-card readers around the country.
It took Elaine Mathis only about five minutes to write the 14 encouraging words that caught the attention of contest judges from Hallmark and CaringBridge.org:
“During your journey, you’ve become a stronger, even more beautiful you. You’re an inspiration.”
Mathis’ message was one of 15 national winners that will be printed as part of the More Caring Messages greeting card contest. She received her first batch of the cards last week; the first copy went to the friend who inspired her.
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Mathis, 47, met Sue Duffy about three years ago through their Sunday school class at Chapin Presbyterian Church. Since last October, 66-year-old Duffy has been fighting pancreatic cancer. She journals about her journey through illness and treatment on the CaringBridge website, where Mathis follows along.
“Her journal entries were always so optimistic and so full of faith and hope and encouragement and wisdom. I was just completely drawn into them and inspired by them, as were many people,” Mathis said.
Duffy has used her CaringBridge site not only to update her followers on her treatment and condition, but to share lessons of faith her illness has taught her.
“God has shown me so many things through this journey that I needed to share with them,” she said. “It may sound silly, but this cancer has just been a blessing to me. ... I never would have known the depths of caring that sometimes you just don’t get on a level of surface-to-surface communication with people.”
It was while visiting Duffy’s CaringBridge site that Mathis noticed the contest announcement, and she decided to take the chance to fulfill a long-time dream of writing a Hallmark card.
Mathis said she can remember sitting in a boring class while studying as a creative advertising student at the University of South Carolina, scribbling ideas for greeting cards. She keeps a journal with her to jot down ideas when they come to her. She’s even started making cards of her own for friends and family and wants to incorporate her own photography into her designs.
“I love stories and poems that really have meaning and have a lesson and can inspire others,” Mathis said. “That’s what encourages me and motivates me to write or to take a picture – something that speaks to me and that could possibly speak to others.”
As a program manager for the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge Network, which provides hospitality lodging for cancer patients and their caregivers, Mathis is surrounded by stories of inspirational cancer fighters. Her own father’s death after battling cancer 15 years ago is what drew her to serving the American Cancer Society.
Now, supporting Duffy in her journey with cancer has drawn the two friends closer, Mathis said.
Duffy was filled with pride when she received the first copy of her friend’s card, she said, and she hopes that people who send the card to others will use the space to write their own messages of encouragement and expand on the meaning of inspiration.
“A simple message has a way of growing, and I’m sure this message will,” she said.
And Duffy, a published novelist herself and a former editor of The State Media Co.’s Lake Murray Magazine, is encouraging Mathis to continue her writing pursuits.
“If it hadn’t been through God shining in my friend and her translating that into her words and her wisdom and her faith that she shared in her writing, then I would never have been inspired to have written a card in the first place,” Mathis said.