The first time I visited Ruth and Bill Porter's farm in Vermont, during a rough patch in my marriage ten years ago, Ruth and I had never spoken.
We had met online a year earlier, introduced by her brother, an actor I know in L.A., when Ruth was writing her first novel. We'd become fast friends, e-mailing daily, first about our love of writing, and soon about life. She and I shared the same birthday, and I felt I'd known her forever.
So, feeling smacked down hard at the turn of the millennium, I accepted Ruth's invitation to retreat to her faraway farmhouse—my 16-month-old daughter, Jessica, in tow, in the dead of winter—without a moment's hesitation. I spent the month of February sitting by Ruth and Bill's wood-burning stove, talking about work, kids, love, and lessons learned. During that month Jessica walked for the first time, and I took steps toward repairing my fractured life.
Nobody can tell me these friends, whose lives have since become so intertwined with my own, whose farm is my sanctuary in good times and bad, weren't heaven sent.
This holiday issue honors those good spirits who make our lives better in profound ways. Animal lovers should check out our tribute to heroic pets, "Tails of Love." You won't soon forget Lex, a wounded bomb-sniffing dog who risked his life trying to revive a stricken soldier in Iraq.
For executive secretary Laurette Davis, who has worked at AARP The Magazine for 12 years, one angel in her life was her grandfather Lawrence W. "Happy" Davis, who worked for the Pullman Company from 1925 through 1973. Davis was one of tens of thousands of African American men who for nearly a century made train travel in America a luxury. You can meet some of these proud porters in print now or online in our People channel next month.
And then there is Natalie Cole, who shared the dramatic story of her lifesaving kidney transplant, for the first time, with our entertainment editor at large, Meg Grant. Grant, a veteran journalist who joined AARP The Magazine in 2008, says Cole and her son, Robbie Yancy, believe the events were divinely inspired.
Cole is a survivor: she has a sign on her computer that says "Encourage Yourself"—a reminder of advice she received as a child to be her own best friend. If you read our story about resilience, you'll see that positive, flexible people turn misfortune into opportunities and learn to grow from their grief.
I hope 2010 brings you the opportunity to enjoy the people who enrich your life the most. Happy Holidays!
Nancy Perry Graham
Editor, AARP The Magazine
601 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20049