Life Lessons from Darla

By Mary Salz

Shock. That was Darla’s first reaction when her carefree childhood was disrupted by cancer. Her life became a roller coaster of intense emotions. Sadly, she lost her leg and, ultimately, faced death. During her illness, we shared difficult times, but also great times celebrating life as Darla grew in faith and joy.

My life was enriched by my precious friendship with Darla. She taught me to be more peaceful, loving, and accepting. My love for Darla and gratitude for the life lessons I received from being with her transcended the heartbreak of losing her. I learned that our choices shape our lives. Will we live in love or fear? Will we be courageous or withdraw when given challenges? Will we be caring or careless with others?

Here I share comical and touching tales of life with feisty Darla. I also include heartwarming stories about other amazing people with differences. Like Darla’s, their stories offer insight and inspiration. They show us that differences make the world a richer place.

Excerpts —

I remember walking down the hall of the hospital to visit Darla after her leg had been removed. I was very uncomfortable, literally shaking. My heart was racing. When we quietly walked into her room, my smile was weird. She couldn’t look at me anyway so I let the forced smile fall. She was extremely pale and her soft blue eyes blinked as though she hoped to wake up from a bad dream. Her trauma was obvious. I longed to comfort her. I desperately wanted to say, “It will be okay,” but how could I? I took a deep breath and slowly walked up to tentatively touch her hand. “Sorry,” came out as a croak. One small teardrop escaped, sliding down her beautiful face. Suddenly, we were weeping together—big, sad tears of anguish. She was a brave girl, but nobody should have to be brave all the time. Crying relieves stress. We let out all we could.

Nobody wanted to talk about her lost leg. I didn’t want to look at her legs either, but my curiosity was strong. I looked. I glimpsed a leg and a quarter of a leg under the sheet and looked away. My 12-year-old mind had a hard time with the reality. Then I found myself staring. It was really … gone. Flustered and not knowing what to say, I quietly sat by Darla while our mothers nervously chatted across the room, giving us time to reconnect. For several moments, we glanced at each other and looked away with a shyness, as if we were first meeting. Then a thought came to me. Was I looking at Darla’s body or at Darla? With fresh understanding, I looked at her and it was okay. Not so scary. It was my turn to give her the gift of acceptance, no matter what she faced. She was still my best friend, with a difference. A missing leg—a small change overall. When we think with our hearts, small differences are nothing. I smiled at her and she gave a tiny smile back. We finally talked normally and then hugged goodbye saying, “See you soon!” I didn’t like to see her suffering but left the hospital feeling happier.

*****

She wouldn’t have her dates or even a first kiss. So … she decided to live those things through me. Feisty little Darla gave me a smile one day. Not a sweet one—one of those sly little grins that made me cringe. I lifted my eyebrows and stared, waiting for it. “Go find somebody to kiss you,” she said nonchalantly. “Ha!” I squeaked, “I don’t think it’s that easy.” “Well, it can be,” she said. I was willing to do an awful lot for her, but this?

Table of Contents
Part 1 – A Deep and Precious Friendship
  • Darla
  • Mary
  • Best Friends
  • Differences
  • An Adventurous Friend
  • Changes
  • The Role of a Friend
  • Sad News
  • Blessings
  • Dealing with Misfortune
  • Not So Scary After All
  • A New Leg
  • Respect for Others
  • Good News at Last
  • A Sad Change
  • Joy
  • A Passing

Part 2 – Life Lessons from Darla


Purpose

Lessons

  • People choose when to pass on
  • Death is not to be feared
  • Ask for and give help
  • Focus on the positive and the present
  • Love can come with the pain of loss, but it is absolutely worth it
  • Connection
  • Let love guide, not fear
  • Compassion and service
  • Understanding can lead to acceptance
  • Stand up for others, nicely
  • Anyone could quickly be different
  • See the person inside
  • Appreciate every person
  • Courage to show differences and what can be accomplished

ENDORSEMENTS

I really like it! Told as one would relate to another, and in a clear, interesting, compelling and vulnerable way. – Rev. Dan Holloway

As a former counselor, I am highly impressed with the potential this little gem of a book could have in helping people face their fears about disabilities and death. This book is easy and fun to read as the story leads the reader through ups and downs of life. Darla is a wonderful role model for those wanting to live joyfully, no matter their circumstances. – Rebecca Wallace, MAADAM

This book takes a sensitive look at living with physical challenges, medical issues, and the emotions that arise from them. The author provides inspiring stories of spirited people with disabilities. Her insights focus on people’s actions and reactions to others. Her writing is full of raw emotion — compassionate and deeply felt. – Frank Birinyi, MD

Mary Salz

Mary Salz grew up in the arid Southwest among cacti, mountains, and stunning red rocks. She now lives in the Midwest amid green trees, deer, and her two delightful children. She credits her mother and Darla for inspiring her active volunteer life. Hosting the school snakes for a summer was her most “Am I out of my mind?” yet fun experience.  She loves dancing to almost any kind of music!

Mary Salz

Mary Salz grew up in the arid Southwest among cacti, mountains, and stunning red rocks. She now lives in the Midwest amid green trees, deer, and her two delightful children. She credits her mother and Darla for inspiring her active volunteer life. Hosting the school snakes for a summer was her most “Am I out of my mind?” yet fun experience.  She loves dancing to almost any kind of music!

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Where to Buy:

Amazon Kindle at amazon.com
Your favorite bookstore can order it for you 
and please ask your librarian to order it!
Available in print, large print, and ebook.
Also available at your favorite audiobook site.

Contact the Author

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Where to Buy:

Amazon Kindle at amazon.com. Your favorite bookstore can order it for you and please ask your librarian to order it! Available in print, large print, and ebook. Also available at your favorite audiobook site.

Contact the Author

Also from Look Beyond Publications – A Children’s Book Series

By MARY SALZ

Different, Yet Like Me

Book 2 Luke

Also from Look Beyond Publications –
A Children’s Book Series

By MARY SALZ

Different, Yet Like Me

Book 2 Luke