An Author Who Became a Friend
Even though he wrote seven books, his name isn’t in the annals of best-selling authors. Yet when Romey Swanson died in late March at the age of 82, I lost a great friend.
We got to know each other 30 years ago at a banquet he organized for contributors to Hands Extended. This crisis pregnancy center continued for more than 15 years, until he had to close it down to care for his ailing wife.
When I spoke at his memorial service, I mentioned how three dozen people were alive today because of Hands Extended.
“I can’t think of a more fitting epitaph to put on his headstone than ‘Because he lived, others live,’” I said.
While many coauthors and I go our separate ways after the project, several have become friends—none closer than Romey.
After that long-ago banquet, I approached him to encourage him to write a book about Hands Extended. In his customary, low-key style, he said, “I don’t know how to write a book.”
“Well, I do,” I said.
Soon, we launched the series of interviews that led to that book. Daddy, Do You Still Love Me? was what his oldest daughter said to him after she revealed her teenage pregnancy.
That conversation would also become his inspiration for starting Hands Extended.
Many years would pass before his second book. In it, he wrote about how God had done a great healing work in his marriage before his wife’s Alzheimer’s robbed her of her mind and then took her life.
He was so emotionally fragile after her death that I wondered how he would be able to compose the drafts. But he persevered, and went on to write others. His final work, Never Alone, was a tribute to all that God had done in his life.
One chapter reviewed a vision he experienced in 1995. It started out describing how the Sunday he took the most startling journey of his life started out like many others in that season of life.
It wasn’t a bland, humdrum kind of day. The Holy Spirit had been moving in the midst of his church for several years, lending a sense of anticipation and excitement that he found difficult to describe. Many others embraced the same sense of expectancy.
“We were all excited to see what God had planned for us,” Romey wrote. “Walking into the sanctuary with the knowledge that someone—or several someone’s—would give their life to Christ . . . made every service a thrill. As you can imagine, as a church we came alive.
“There’s a reason for the instruction found in Hebrews 10:24-25 . . . God knew as weak human beings that we would need continuing fellowship, mutual encouragement, and ongoing instruction in His Word if we were to have any hope of standing strong in the face of a hostile world that scorns and rejects Him.”
After reading from that page at his memorial service, I remarked that Romey Swanson had given us a gift by recording an extraordinary era through seemingly ordinary events.
It hurt to see him go, even though I’m glad he’s free of the pain of the leukemia that took his life. I am glad that I helped preserve the words that one day will bless the great-great-great-grandchildren he will never meet.
Sometimes, being a ghostwriter and editor means growing close to those who stories you help relate. As much as it can hurt, the risks are worth it.