By Rick Hamlin
Happy Birthday Old Friend!
C.S. Lewis wrote somewhere that it was certainly all right to pray for the dead because when you get to a certain point in life your dearest friends aren’t around.
Not sure I’ve reached that stage yet, but I certainly think a lot about my old friend and mentor Van Varner, a longtime GUIDEPOSTS editor and former editor-in-chief. June 6 would have been his 86th birthday and if he were around this year—I mean physically—he would be sitting at the Belmont track in his seersucker suit for the running of his second most favorite race (his first, naturally, would be the Kentucky Derby).
I think about him every time I edit a GUIDEPOSTS story and his classic advice about storytelling: “Tears should be in the eyes of the reader, not the narrator.”
I think of him when I see a big dog loping down the streets of New York—he adored dogs. Readers often ask what happened to Coke, his last dog. You will be glad to know that Coke is in the care of Van’s nephew Gordon and from reports, very happy.
I think of the stories he told that made him laugh so hard his face would turn purple.
I think of him when we pray on Monday mornings for others. His curiosity about people was immense.
I think about his ratty old knapsack—his reticule, he called it—and how it always brimmed over with manuscripts.
I don’t worry that he’s happy—he had a gift for happiness that surely has followed him into the beyond. I pray simply because I miss him. When you love somebody they’re always in your prayers, whether in this world or the next. Happy Birthday, Van!
Rick Hamlin is the executive editor at GUIDEPOSTS.
Watch Rick's video about Van.