The real good-bye

It’s a little after eleven on a Monday night, and my husband has just left the house to administer last rites to a man to whom he’s been ministering for a little over a year. This happens every so often; I can always tell when I hear him talking on the phone after nine at night. His particular ‘parish’–the people whom he visits, who attend the services he leads–tend to be early-to-bed folks, so a phone call that late is rarely good news.

 

Goodbye never comes at a good time. And even when it’s an expected parting–even when it approaches at the end of a long illness or catastrophic accident–death is never not a shock.

My husband will anoint the departing friend with oil. He’ll say those ancient words that have been repeated for generations of believers. There are assurances of mercy, promises of grace, forgiveness, and love.

I’ve sat overnight at two death beds. I’ve made my vigil as both of my parents passed from this world into the next. There is something about saying goodbye in the still silence of nighttime that makes us feel a little more alone. The dark velvet reminds of that we came into life alone and we leave it the same way.

I’ve written precious few death scenes in my books. Yet the two I have both happened at night or in the early morning. I don’t think that’s an accident.

I know that my husband’s presence will bring comfort to the soul on his way beyond and to his loved ones. I’m so blessed by knowing that God has given him the gift of sharing comfort and peace with those who most need it.

Goodbyes–especially those that feel forever–are never easy. There is a prayer in the Book of Common Prayer that brings me a measure of peace when I’m struggling.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

This is 55.

Today, I am 55 years old.

A dear reader wrote to me this week and said she hoped I wasn’t upset about getting older. “Not getting older is worse,” she reminded me. And how right she is.

I actually love adding a year to my age. For one thing, being the history lover that I am, I appreciate that I’ve lived in seven different decades (yes, I’m only in my fifties, but I was born in the 1960s, lived through the 1970s, 1980′, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and into the 2020s). When I consider that I was born just a little over twenty years past the end of World War II–and that my grandparents were all born at the start of the twentieth century–it’s really amazing how connected we all are to people and events that can feel so far away.

I also lost my parents and mother-in-law when they were still fairly young, so for every year I live, I am grateful.

A year ago on my birthday, I was looking forward to what looked to be a fairly serene and promising year. Books were selling so-so, but the writing was moving along. After a year of working almost exclusively on the Community Garden during the pandemic, Clint was excited about the plans for expansion and improvement. We had a new granddaughter on the way. So much for which to be grateful!

And then . . . and then.

Less than two months later, we learned that our rental home was being sold, forcing us to move. During the same week, the garden was taken from Clint. Doors were slamming shut all over the place, and we didn’t know what to expect next. The year I’d thought would be so calm and happy was suddenly unpredictable and a little scary.

Yet here I am, a year later, a year older, and all of those unknowns turned into blessings.

Our new home took quite a while to find, but once we did, everything fell into place with amazing alacrity. And we’re now less than four minutes from our oldest daughter and two granddaughters. Moving to this side of town–where we haven’t lived in ten years–has been a pleasant change, letting us rediscover old haunts and favorite spots. Clint has continued gardening on a more limited basis at several senior care facilities.

My fifty-fifth year has been one of reclamation and reunion. I’ve found my best friend from childhood–or rather, she found me. I’m also back in touch with several other friends with whom I’d lost contact over the past decade or more. And as I said, I’m enjoying some of my favorite parks, restaurants, and shops on the west side of town.

I find in this decade of my life that I both care less and care more. Some things that used to annoy or worry me no longer faze me at all. I’ve realized that getting anxious about what others do or think accomplishes nothing. At the same time, issues in the world–violence, war, intolerance, discrimination, pain, and injustice–make me cry on the regular. Even though I know these evils have existed since the beginning of time, somehow the older I become, the less used to them I become. My heart is becoming more tender instead of less. I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad. Maybe it isn’t either–it simply is.

I’m grateful for work I love, and for friends who make me laugh, send me chocolate, dedicate books to me, listen to me rant, and drink tequila with me. Where and how I live makes me happy. My sister, my sister-in-law, my nephews, and my favorite niece all add to my sense of connectedness in this crazy world. Aunt Terry and Uncle John are two of my favorite people and show me steadfast, unconditional love.

I have four incredible children who are all out seeking to make our society better–and they all have the greatest sense of humor, which is the best thing they could have inherited from me. And the people they’re bringing into our family are only making us an even better, stronger family.

And then there are my granddaughters. They are gorgeous, so bright, super funny (on purpose), and the lights of my

life. Truly. Being a nana has been the life-changer I didn’t believe it could be.

The man without whom I would be neither wife, mama, OR nana is still the hottest, wittiest, sweetest man I’ve ever met. My fifty-fifth year of life is also our thirty-fifth year of marriage, and I love him more now than I did the day we said I do.

I don’t know how long I’ll be on this earth. None of us do. My parents were both 63 when they died, but three of my four grandparents lived to their late 80s or mid-90s (the one outlier had a bizarre cause of death). Each year is a gift and a victory–and I plan to suck the marrow out of them all.

(That’s a good thing, the marrow sucking. Trust me. And it’s figurative. I tend toward vegetarianism.)

VIRTUAL Coastal Magic!

Coastal Magic is going virtual.

Of course, we all wish we were going to be back together again at Daytona Beach, but this year, we’re virtual once more–to keep us safe so that we can meet again.

Here’s how I’m participating (all links will be on the Coastal Magic website that weekend):

Tawdra’s Q&A Friday, February 25th, 11:15 AM EDT

Tawdra’s virtual book signing, Sunday, February 27th, 3:15 PM: If you want to take part, you can preorder your paperback here and then chat with me while I sign it and then send to you.

Coastal Magic Convention Charity Anthology–available here now! All proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity. My story in the book is called Cake By the Ocean and features Cal and Alex from both Crystal Cove and Love in a Small Town.

Kobo

Barnes&Noble

Google

 

 

 

The last time

Never pass a chance to say “I love you” | Sayings, Quotes, Say i love you

We rarely recognize last times when they come.

I’m the mother of four (mostly) grown children, and I couldn’t tell you that I recall the last diaper I changed as a mama, the last time I nursed my youngest, the last time I cuddled a little one who woke up in the middle of the night with a bad dream.

During the course of COVID lockdowns, we were unable to be with so many of our beloved church people, those living in senior centers, and over those months, we lost several to death or to relocating after a spouse’s passing. As I’ve come back to Sunday worship, those losses are all the more poignant because I didn’t know when I saw them last that it was . . . the last. 

Fourteen years ago tonight, I was going through lasts with my mother.

The last time her eyes opened and she knew me.

The last time she spoke to me.

The last instruction she gave me.

The last time she squeezed my hand.

The last decision she made.

We sat in that hospital room at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and we kept watch. We waited. We were mostly women: my mother’s sisters, her niece, her granddaughters, and her daughters, my sister and me. My cousin and my son were our token guys.

It was my oldest daughter’s prom night. When we knew what was coming–because after months of fighting leukemia and rejection following a stem cell transplant, in the end, it was very sudden–we brought over my four children who ranged from six to eighteen. My husband had been living in Florida for nearly a year ahead of our family’s move there. I hated that the night was ruined for her, but being together, all of us, at the end was important.

When I look back now, fourteen years later, I remember some things very clearly. My daughter, still in her prom gown, had been given a scrub top by a kind nurse who knew that the beading on the strapless dress was chafing her arms. When she went wandering in search of coffee that night, I’m pretty sure patients thought they were having hallucinations. I remember that even in the midst of anticipatory grief, I had to worry about things that had to do with my parents’ estate–my father had died 51 weeks earlier. And I remember the love and care poured out on us by everyone at the hospital and by family and friends all over the world.

When we left the hospital late on the morning of June 2nd, I knew it was the last time. And although I’d hated the circumstances that brought us there for a solid eighteen months–for first one parent and then the other–leaving was hard.

It was an ending.

It was a last.

 

 

A very personal post

This was sent out as a newsletter this morning, September 1st. 

Dear friends,

I often begin my newsletters to you this way because, in my mind, you are my friends. I share my stories with you, I let you in on behind-the-scenes action, and I often fill you in on stuff going on in my family. You saw the first pictures of my granddaughter, and you encourage me when things are tough.

Of course, most of us have not met one another. Mostly, we know each other through this interchange of words and ideas. Some of you might follow me on social media, too, and then you’d know a little more about me and how I think.

What I’m sharing today is primarily for my fellow Americans. My beloved friends around the world . . . you’re welcome to read along, too.

A few years ago, when things took a turn in my country, I was advised to keep everything in my professional world apolitical. I was cautioned not to let my opinions and beliefs bleed through in my social media, website, newsletter, and books. For the most part, I’ve heeded this advice. My author page remains non-political. My newsletters are always filled with bookish things. I don’t go down political roads in my books.

If you are friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, you probably know where I stand on some important topics. But I’ve done my best not to let that show in my author persona.

However, a few things have happened recently that have caused me to question this way of doing things.

First of all, when I released The Anti-Cinderella books, I received a small backlash from readers who accused me of ‘shoving that climate crap’ down readers’ throats. Now, to my way of thinking, I wasn’t shoving anything. Yes, Kyra went to school for sustainable agriculture–and I gave her that course of studies because my youngest daughter majored in that. Sustainable ag and sustainability as a whole are passions for my family. But nowhere did Kyra or Nicky proselytize about climate change to the reader–what happened between them and other characters was based on things that have really happened to us, and it was part of their story. This is fiction, but it is inspired by people and events in my own life. That’s my process. I wasn’t making a political statement. I was telling a story.

And then came this year. Oh, my friends, this has been a hard year for all of us. I’ve seen the suffering caused by the pandemic and by the escalation of racial tensions in my country. I’ve cried over George, Ahmaud, and Breonna. I’ve struggled with intense rage over the ignorance of some of my fellow Americans. I’ve seen division and anger and bullying and shameful behavior on the part of our nation’s leadership.

This past weekend, three things happened.

Chadwick Boseman died.
Jim Gaffigan spoke out on Twitter.
I sent an email about football books.
Chadwick Boseman dying would have been a tragedy at any time, but in 2020, it takes on added meaning. I’m not going to delve into the whys and wherefores of that. You’re just going to have to take my word for it. His loss struck deep for me, and judging by the overwhelming response around the world, I’m not alone.

Jim Gaffigan is one of my family’s favorite comedians. We’ve listened to and laughed with him for years. At the end of last week, he began tweeting . . . and well, better to read the story in his own words.

Something Jim wrote as he unpacked his Twitter time struck a nerve for me. So if I believe I won’t sway any voters, why speak out like I did? Honestly, I feel I had no choice at this point. I think Trump is ruining and possibly has already ruined my country. For me this isn’t a debate about the size of government, taxes, health care or even abortion. I miss the days when those were the topics I would discuss with friends. I feel a responsibility to coming generations, my children but selfishly I didn’t want to explain to my grandchildren that I didn’t fight to stop Trump. Maybe they will see that I stood up for decency, rule of law, and equality. That’s way more important to me than selling out an arena.

Responsibility. The word resonated within me. What have I done to fulfill my responsibility to generations to come? How have I been a positive force in this dangerous world? How have I been a light in a world of hatred? I’ve shared posts. I’ve tweeted. I’ve worked for my party during elections.

But have I even begun to sacrifice? I think not.

And then there was the football email.

I think I write about topics that are pretty middle-of-the-road. You know romance is my gig. If you don’t like kissing (AND MORE!!) and sweet nothings and happy endings (most of the time), then you shouldn’t read my books. Some are paranormal; if that spooks you, don’t worry, there are plenty of non-para books of mine out there, too. If you like small-town America, I’ve got a bunch of books you might enjoy.

At one time, I worried that my military romances might offend some people, but silly me–it’s not those. It’s the football books.

Now, you know I love me some football. It’s why fall is my season. I. Love. The. Game. In the past few years, I’ve struggled with this love for a few reasons: the safety and health of the players as we learn more about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), and the way Black athletes have been treated by management and how management has so often dismissed the social justice calls of the players.

This weekend, I received a slew of response to my football-themed newsletter, telling me that they won’t watch the game or read the books because football is catering to the ‘criminal terrorists of the BLM’. Some of these emails were mean and nasty. Some called me names. Some were just filled with ignorance. These emails made me very sad.

So this was my click. It doesn’t matter how apolitical I am. It doesn’t matter how often and sweetly I smile and mind my own business, as one reader advised me to do, because no matter what, people are going to take offense at something. And I realized that the people who are working to erode the rights of others, who are standing for prejudice, sexism, racism, fascism, and a bunch of other distasteful -isms . . . they’re not worried about offending me.

I’m tired of worrying about it. And what’s more, I realize that it’s time for me to stop cowering behind ‘what’s good for my career’ and own my convictions.

If you’ve read this far, you might ask yourself, does she really think her decision matters? No, probably not to most of the world. I’m one romance writer in a sea full of them, and the universe is hardly waiting with bated breath to see what I do.

Or maybe it is. Maybe the universe does depend on small decisions like this, on the tiny courage of insignificant people like me, in order to turn the tide of righteousness. I don’t know. It’s possible. Madeleine L’Engle would say it counts.

Will I lose readers? Most likely. That’s okay. If you’re offended by football players and farmers, you probably wouldn’t stick around long anyway. Also, many of you won’t even open this email, so . . . there’s that! And in the end, to paraphrase Jim Gaffigan, owning my beliefs out loud is more important than selling a few books.

Now, here’s the caveat, if you’ve hung around this long. I’m not planning to turn my books, my newsletters, or my author social media into an endless political debate. I’m not planning to change anything, as a matter of fact. My newsletters will still be about books and characters and fluff. That’s what’s fun. The characters in my books won’t be leading marches or attending rallies or delivering long soliloquies on politics or religion.

I don’t want to argue with you, and I’m not trying to change your mind. Please don’t try to change mine.

But I’m not going to pretend that I don’t care anymore. I do care. I care about my Black sisters and brothers. I don’t claim to understand what they’ve lived with, what it’s like to be Black in this nation, but I stand with them now, and I will do whatever I can to learn so I can be better and do better.

I care about the future of my country. I care about electing leaders who embody HOPE, not those who gain power by playing on fear. I want to work to unify my nation in truth and justice for ALL, not just for some. I want to make this world better for my grandchildren, so that they will have clean air and water and the freedom to be who they are, love who they want, and live lives of fulfillment and peace.

It is fitting for me to end this with the words of King T’Challa as played by the incomparable Chadwick Boseman:

Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.

Peace and love, my friends. If this is the end of our road together (the unsubscribe link is below my signature), go with God. If you’re going to stick around . . . thank you. We’ll keep having fun. <3