Flannery O'Connor, who suffered from lupus and died at the age of 39, wrote to a friend, "I have never been anywhere but sick." In the same letter, she reflected on the two uninvited teachers that descended on her late in life: sickness and success. "In a sense sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe," she wrote. She then added a sentence that strikes awe in those who knew how much she suffered: "Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don't have it miss one of God's mercies. "Success, in contrast, she regarded as almost wholly negative: it isolates, breeds vanity, and distracts from the real work that brought it on in the first place."