Author Edie Hand talked Tuesday about how God helped her to rediscover hope again when she wanted to give up on life a couple of years ago, and how friends have supported her through life.
Hand, speaking to the Merry Hearts at Northside Baptist Church, has written more than 20 books, has been a TV personality and has run an ad agency.
She started by recounting how her grandmother and singer Elvis Presley's grandmother were sisters, and how the grandmothers dipped snuff. "Elvis thought it was the funniest thing in the world that I would bring them black gum toothbrushes so they could clean their teeth after they took their snuff," she said.
Hand said she got to hang out with Presley when she was 16 and he was a big star. She noted he "never stopped thanking God" that he was able to overcome a very poor childhood. She took a life lesson from Graceland about giving back.
"I was there the day he gave his yacht to Danny Thomas at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital," she said. Hand met the Thomas family and is still close friends with Thomas' daughter, Terre, who is godmother to her son, actor Linc Hand. Hand's son, who will marry in a few months, has starred in "42" as major league pitcher Fritz Ostermueller and has had roles in numerous TV shows.
"We never know who we are going to meet along life's journey who is going to make a difference," Hand said.
He also recalled Presley watching TV one Christmas, seeing a woman who said she had been praying for a wheelchair. "Lo and behold, Elvis makes a phone call in the middle of the night and asks someone to bring a wheelchair to Graceland," she said. "I remember he and Uncle Vernon put it in the trunk of his car — they had a Cadillac — and they went to this woman's house late at night."
"As young as I was, they were planting seeds in my life," said Hand, who eventually started her own foundation, the Edie Hand Foundation, for charitable causes.
She also said over time she learned about the importance of faith, family and friends.
Hand learned from her father while growing up in Burnout, noting he also owned a small grocery store. If a customer couldn't pay, their name would be written down, and they would come by later paying in items like eggs or things they could afford.
"I learned about work ethic. I still have three jobs at age 67," she said with a laugh. "But my father planted a seed in the community of giving back to people."
In addition, the late congressman, Carl Elliott, was also from that area, and she knew the family. She noted he passed a bill making it easier for rural residents to go to college on scholarship, which she benefitted from.
She also noted her grandmother placed importance in God's Word, putting her real pearls over her bedside Bible. "She said the Word is pure, so that is where she draped her pearls," which she inherited.
Her grandmother also gave her a copy of "The Velveteen Rabbit," which inspired Hand to write and to believe like the rabbit, if you believe in things enough, they become real.
"I still read that book periodically, and I think of my grandmother Alice," she said, noting she also taught her about manner and that hard times in life can be changed into beautiful situations.
She recounted how her three brothers, whom she practically raised, died over time, with the first passing away in a car wreck at age 19. Although Presley had planned to pay for her way to go to acting school in New York, she was so upset at the death she couldn't even go to her own college graduation and dropped those plans.
A second brother died in an accident, and she ended up taking care of her last surviving brother for several years in his final illness. He would ask her to write about he and his brothers. The story of the brothers became the basis for her book, "The Last Christmas Ride."
Instead of going to New York, she met her future husband, who was Linc Hand's father. She would run an advertising agency for 35 years, and the family had homes near Jasper, in Mobile and in northwest Alabama.
She read to those attending Psalms 34:18 in the NIV version: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." She said she didn't realize at one time that "fame and fortune and things didn't really matter. We can't really take any of that with us when we go to glory."
Hand said she has lost most of her family in her adult years, and her son's father died as well. She also said she went through a "deep betrayal" that was devastating to her, as it resulted in the "loss of a great amount of money that was taken from me.
"When you go through betrayals or different situations, you can either lie down or you can seek God's wisdom and find another way," she said. "I can tell you when this happened to me a couple of years ago, at my seasoned time in my life, I thought, 'What in the world am I going to do?' I can tell you I wanted to just lay down. I thought I would just will myself to die, because I thought, 'I've done everything I want to do.'
"And then my son called me and said, 'I want to get married.' And I thought, 'I have to be around for this. I've never seen a grandchild.'"
Hand said at 4:07 a.m. one day she got a text from a young attorney friend who noted Hand was not herself a few days earlier. She urged her to listen to a tape of a woman who talked about girls with swords. Hand looked over in one corner in her home's bedroom where there was a sword she had recently pulled out of the closet.
"You've got to find the lioness within you," the woman said. Hand said her sword had a lion's head on it.
The woman said on the tape that one has to slay the demons in you life and change your thinking to positive, good things.
"I got up and I said, 'I can slay these demons. God is not done with me yet.'" She noted she had to speak to 500 executives in the Birmingham area the next week and had felt not worthy. But she said God gave her the sword, and when turned a certain way, one can make out a cross on it.
"He certainly carries all our burdens. This happened to be the weekend of Easter. And I was speaking the next Tuesday. I thought, 'This is my message, Father,'" Hand said. "On Friday, all hope was lost and Jesus was crucified. But on Sunday, He rose again and all hope was restored. I told all them like I am telling you, if you are having a Friday, I'm telling you, Sunday is coming. Sunday is coming.
"It changed everything for me. Even in this last period, when I gave it all away, God has restored me with something. I just sold a film screenplay. I'm going to travel the world for a company. My funds will be restored sevenfold. You see, you never know what God has got in store for you. You can't just lay down and let it all go."
She said she was blessed to have other people in her life when she thought she didn't have any value.
"We're all of value. We are of worth," she said. "In life, we can't help situations of circumstances. But the one thing I learned was we can be responsible of how we respond to them."