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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Miserable Day/Wonderful Night

At work the coke machine returned my quarter and rejected my dollar bill.

Multiply that by everything I tried to do today. One of those days. I rested well, I wasn't stressing over Jolene, but today I should have moved to Australia (do any of you remember that children's book?)

A very pleasant evening, however. We watched So You Think You Can Dance. The synergy of music, movement, and beauty touches me, and revives my own dreams (as a musician, not as a dancer). During commercial breaks, Mom shared pictures of her parents, grandparents, and other family members. A feast of delights for the evening.

Made up for the bad day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guest Post - Elizabeth Ludwig

Tonight I am starting something new. Recently, my book Gunfight at Grace Gulch, was released as part of the new Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! book club (

As a member of the wonderful "spyglass" authors loop and of the larger Christian writing community, I experienced firsthand their amazing love and support. I also heard over and over "I lost someone." "I care." "I'm praying."

So I am inviting fellow authors to share their experiences of loss with me and with my readers. Tonight, I am privileged to introduce you to Elizabeth Ludwig. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies, is currently available through the book club.

Q: In this blog, I have been processing the loss of my daughter to suicide. The experience of loss of universal. What significant loss have you experienced? How has it impacted your writing?

A: You’re right, Darlene, experiencing loss in one form or another is universal. I lost my son, Seth, in 1991 when he was three months old. Five years ago, my mother-in-law passed away from cancer. Both of these deaths impacted me and my faith deeply.

Writing about these experiences was a healing balm to me during those troubled days. After Seth passed away, I wrote a short article that chronicled my feelings, my heartache. I never expected those words to see the light of day but God had other things in mind. A few years ago I received an email from Houston author, Charlotte Holt. She was putting together a book all about trusting God during periods of grief. I sent her that article and though the book has yet to be published, many have read it and been helped by the testimonies of others.

I went through a similar process after the death of my mother-in-law. I dedicated an entire scene in one of my novels to a family get-together we had when she was alive. It was a way of memorializing her, I guess, of saying goodbye.

At the heart, that’s what writing is—a way of opening ourselves up and letting others get a taste of who we are and how we came to be at our place in life.

Q: What central truth did you learn through your loss?

A: More than anything else, I learned how precious time is and the importance of making the most of every minute. I had a very short time with Seth, but those memories are sweet. I am so thankful that I am able to remember the way his gaze followed me about the kitchen as I prepared his bottle, and how my husband and I laughed over his skinny feet. Though parting was difficult, I look forward with joy to the reunion God has planned for us in heaven.

Q: Do you write to escape your circumstances or to process your feelings? Or both? Please share examples.

A: As I shared above, writing can be therapeutic. Sometimes, the most intense emotions are the hardest to process. That’s why writing them down was so healing for me. It was an acknowledgement of everything I could not find the words to voice. If you’d like to read the article I wrote about Seth, click here.

Q: What books or characters resonated with you in your time of loss?

A: You know, the book that meant the most to me was a tiny thing called “Death of a Little Child,” by J. Vernon McGee. It’s funny how the simple words this author penned still resonate within me. I’ve often shared some of the truths I found in its pages with other suffering mothers. This book taught me not to overlook the importance of even the simplest work. God can do great and mighty things with the smallest of tools placed trustingly in His hands.

Q. You have recently published Where the Truth Lies. Please tell me a little about your book.

A: This was such a fun book to write, especially because so much of my writing tends toward the morose. I loved gothic romances growing up, so I guess that explains it. :-)

Don’t let me mislead you, however. Coming up with the character of Casey Alexander was just as much a personal endeavor as anything else I’ve done. Janelle Mowery, my co-author, and I spent weeks hashing out just who we wanted this character to be and what her outlook on life was to become.

Casey is a fun person, quirky in her love for detective novels, but someone I would love to hang out with. I think that’s why people who have read the book tell me they hated for the story to end. Hanging out with the characters was fun! That’s the feeling I hope to leave all of my readers

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Woman at the Well

I am reading Desperate Woman of the Bible by Jo Kadlacek, and just finished the chapter on the Samaritan woman.

Jo asked what we learned about the meaning of “passion” from her story.

I wrote that she refused to accept a ho-hum existence. She longed for the “abundant life” that Jesus described elsewhere. She sought meaning and passion in any way possible, including inappropriate ones.

So when she met Jesus—POW! He was what she had sought all along, and because of her life-long search, she knew Him when she found Him. And grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go.

As I wrote, I thought of Jolene.

How many conversations did we have in the past year when she railed “Why doesn’t the church …”

What she expected was what the church should be: a haven, a loving family. That they should call her when she was absent, recognize her and greet her enthusiastically when she was there. At a minimum.

I love my church, and they went to extraordinary lengths to help us when Jolene died. But I will admit … it can be lonely. The month we joined, we sat alone at a fellowship to welcome new members, while old members carried on lively conversations.

So I tried to tell Jolene, “You’re right but … they just don’t act that way. It’s nothing to do with you personally.”

She refused to accept a ho-hum church, or a ho-hum existence. Whatever she did, she jumped into headfirst, with all the determination and enthusiasm contained in her body and soul.

Before she died, television ads had convinced her that she could make thousands of dollars a week through sales. She got so far in debt she could never repay and never made a single dollar. She plunged into finding a career with her limitless passion.

I wish Jolene’s story ended in success and transformation the way the Samaritan Woman’s did.

But her passion for living, her refusal to settle for second-best, touched many people.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Word Play

Mom & I watch a lot of t.v. But we also know how to turn it off when there's nothing we want to watch. We play a lot of board games. And tonight, since we ate early and it's a holiday night, we played Scrabble.

I LOVE words (okay, I'm a writer!) And I've scored over 300 on my last 2 games, so I'm feeling pretty confident. I won tonight. :) It helps to get the Q and the Z.

And as we played, we spoke of Jolene.

Jolene was very bright. She also used words like weapons, very articulate. She could read and digest almost anything.

She just couldn't write correct sentences. Poor motor coordination resulted in terrible penmanship. She also did not spell very well, a minor case of dislexia.

So, I never played Scrabble with Jolene. It was a set up for failure, and she didn't tolerate losing very well.

As we membered, Mom and I spoke with fondness and not tears. "She need a game where you had to make up words!" Mom joked.

I laughed. "Yeah, 'mack up, Mom, mack up!'" Which in Jolene's unique language, meant something between "do what you said you would do" and "do what I think you should do." (At times it was hard to tell.)

It was good to remember the good times and not to cry volumes the way we did yesterday.

Both are part of grieving, and letting go. Only today was a lot easier.

Thanks for all your prayers. I know they have made a huge difference.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My First REAL Memorial Day

A really rough last 36 hours.

We went through the remainder of Jolene's belongings yesterday. Which was worse--the simple Care Bear dolls she had since her first Christmas? Or the box full of receipts, evidence of her responsibility and organization--and life in-the-midst? I think I started to lose it when I found a receipt from Smash Burger, a new hamburger chain that she introduced us to.

That was yesterday.

In Sunday school this morning, I opened my Bible to Genesis 50. There I read a note from a year ago, May 24, 2007. I said Jolene had said hurtful words, and asked God to turn them into something good.

Oh, God, I would take those hurtful words if it meant Jolene was still here.

Only, as I told my class, if she were still alive--I wouldn't realize the alternative to those words was her death. Her words would still hurt just as badly. In the last year, she and I had really struggled with our relationship. We'd always been so close, you see, and I felt I understood better than anyone else on earth. All of a sudden, I felt like I didn't know her at all.

At the beginning of the year, we seemed to be coming out on the other side. And now she's gone.

I was already crying when the worship service started. Then I looked at the section of the worship service titled "Remembering members who have gone home to be with the Lord since the last Memorial Day."

The pianist and organist played a duet while the names of church members scrolled down against a background of flowers, on the overhead screen. There she was: Jolene Franklin, March 17, 2008.

I couldn't contain myself. My tears turned into sobs and I left the sanctuary. Mom joined me and we cried and prayed for half an hour. At last God gave me peace enough to leave. We never returned to the worship service.

So it's been a long day, a hard day, but a day that we have survived by God's grace.

From now on, Memorial Day will be a day to remember.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Jolene at Play

From the Christmas carol, As with Gladness, Men of Old:

Holy Jesus, every day keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past, bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide, where no clouds Thy glory hide.

The words sparked an image of Jolene at play. In my prayer journal, I wrote:

At play in the field of the Lord—dancing, tumbling, on the trapeze learning from Vicki. She is in the presence of the Light, no longer any veil in between.

Vickie Baker, my writing companion from the beginning, was a self-styled “quadriplegic trapeze artist.” (She broke her neck while attempting a 2½ somersault.) A big hunk of my writing heart died when Vickie went home to be with the Lord in 2003. For months afterward, I felt like I had lost my biggest fan and best mentor.

For the first time it occurred to me that Vickie was there to greet Jolene when she died. Someone who watched Jolene grow up, encouraged her writing gift and loved her, welcomed her at the gates of heaven.

And now they are both free to do what was impossible on earth—fly on the trapeze, in and to God’s glory.

I miss you both, but I’m glad you have each other.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Holiday Weekend

Well, I've never been big into Memorial Day.

But this is the time we've set aside to go through the remainder of Jolene's belongings. I'm dreading it.

Add to that finding more sympathy cards that I hadn't yet tucked into our memorial notebooks.

My heart is heavy.

Continue to lift us up. Thanks!
My son, Jaran, gave me interesting feedback about my post on American Idol. I asked him to share his thoughts with you:

Go David Cook from Tulsa! OK's second American Idol! Mom says I'm like a walking Oklahoma travel brochure. And speaking of OK travels, Mom, Grandma & I ate at the historic Rock Cafe on Route 66 in Stroud, OK two Mondays ago. It recently was recognized as the inspiration for the Pixar movie "Cars," along with it's owner. Well, on Wednesday, it caught fire and roof, everything came down, except the walls. Dawn, the owner, was on the edge of her seat regarding those walls because she figured she couldn't rebuild if they went down. Since they didn't, she's going to bring the Rock Cafe back to life.

The reason I'm posting this is that even if dreams are brought to the ground in ash, they don't have to end. King David declared of our Savior, "In your right hand there are pleasures forever"-Psalm 16:11. Death couldn't hold him back, and we won't be held back by it either. If we remember that at the end of the day, those of us in Messiah will have eternal pleasures, then we can always have hope in our dreams.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Idol or Not?

The 25 minutes I carved out of watching the finale of American Idol has dwindled to 5 minutes, thanks to a slower-than-molasses computer. Oh, well.

Mom & I LOVE watching American Idol. This season our jaws dropped at David Archuleta's amazing voice and we swooned to David Cook's rendition of The Music of the Night (and a lot of other songs. He's my personal favorite.) It is 8:15; I won't know the season's winner for another 40 minutes or so.

We like Idol for a lot of reasons. These young people who have nothing except a dream. I likened it to an author placing a manuscript before an editor, hoping against hope that they will like it. Going from there to a John Grisham-type career.

Also, I like Idol because it appears at least in the music arena, most artificial barriers of race and gender and even style are swept away.

But ... here's a thought ... shows like American Idol may discourage more young people than it encourages. For every 16 year David Archuleta there's a 23 year old like my precious Jolene who realizes she will never be "the best" at anything. It fosters a mentality that if you don't win, you haven't succeeded.

At least Jolene felt that 23 life had passed her by. I'm thinking about conversations before her death, not saying that's what led her to take her life.

I only regret that she didn't live long enough to see that new dreams take the place of old ones. We're never too old to reach out for something larger than life.

Anyhow, those are my quick and rambling thoughts as I prepare for bed (I've felt physically lousy today.) Back to the living room to learn who the winner is.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I had a dream last night that spoke to me (and as I’m mentioned before, I remember very few dreams.)

A companion (his or her identity was nebulous) and I were traveling by train. A large group of people joined us for a grand celebration, the Super Bowl of all parties. I felt so happy.

Suddenly, we arrived at the destination, and the two of us were the only ones left on the train. Not only that, but my once-rotund belly had flattened. I had lost my baby on the way.

The conductor comforted us. “You wouldn’t want your baby here yet.”

With that, I woke up.

At least I think that’s the way the dream went.

Symbolic? I’d say so.

A large crowd of people has surrounded us in our grief. They—you—hold us up in every way possible. You travel with us and help us forget our pain for a time.

But you know, ultimately, we reach our destination alone. I look around for a human companion and only find my divine Conductor, the Lord my Shepherd.

And He’s right. I wouldn’t want my baby here, where sin and sorrow still reign. Not now that she’s experienced heaven. That would be selfish and cruel.

The dream doesn’t make me feel either sad or glad. I think it illustrates how I’m feeling: Lonely. Needy. Weak.

I’m glad God is present to lead me down the path I must walk.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

God is Enough

This morning took up where last night ended, feeling rather depressed and down.

But then … the miracle of joining in praise with God’s people … Somewhere between singing “Age to age He stands, and time is in His hands” (from How Great is our God) to the sermon from Habakkuk 3, the darkness lifted. God directed my attention back to Himself: the One who is always faithful and true, who is the beginning and the end. I can leave the tragedy of Jolene’s death safely in His hands.

I believe I quoted these verses from Habakkuk before, but I will copy them again because they are such a powerful statement of faith:

Though the fig tress does not bud
And there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen
And no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

In a sermon titled, “Is Jesus Enough?”, the pastor pointed out that Habakkuk wrote these words while awaiting the destruction of his beloved country. He likened it to knowing an atomic bomb was about to hit America, and being unable to stop it.

Makes my individual pain seem insignificant.

And, as a fun conclusion to the day, I had my first-ever book signing at my church. What a blast!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dancing With Grief Plus Two Months

A month ago, I was reliving the horror of the events of the days leading up to the discovery of Jolene’s body. I felt compelled to record the details before they faded from memory.

This month, I left Oklahoma on the 13th—the probable anniversary of Jolene’s actual death—and didn’t even think about it.

I’m not sure whether to be sad or glad. How could I forget so soon? How can I not be happy I’m moving forward?

In any case, today, the two month anniversary of Jolene’s official date of death, loomed large on the calendar. Mom pointed out that it’s another anniversary for her; five years ago she had a stroke the weekend of May 17-18. A double whammy.

I prayed for grace and strength during my quiet time. Then I opened my prayer list.

Next up: Jolene. Oh, God.

My thoughts today have centered around Jolene being frozen in time. She will always be twenty-three. We will grow older. We have already experienced two months that she didn’t witness with us. (Aside from whatever knowledge those in heaven have of our lives here.) She has not enjoyed the “prettiest spring in Colorado” Mom has ever seen. She does not know about her coming niece or nephew. I can’t tell her about my new book contract. She can’t plan her wedding with Marius.

If so much has happened in two months, what changes will a year bring? Five years? What changes would they have brought to Jolene?

She’s gone. But we’re not. And life has so much left to offer, a cornucopia of blessings and trials. Things I’ll experience without my daughter.

Good bye, dear girl. I wish I could have seen your mature beauty.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Intense Faith

Celise, my brace-yourself-I’m-going-to-hug-you friend, came to me today with sad news. The 23-year-old son of her choir president died earlier this week, from a fatal seizure.

Celise said she told God it was too much. But in the midst of the swirling questions, she remembered Sunday’s sermon. Her pastor preached that God calls us to have intense faith. An interesting sermon for a day celebrating mothers—perhaps God was preparing their congregation for what lay ahead.

The word intense has several meanings.

The first definition, “extreme in a way that can be felt,” made me think of one of those ten gifts of grief, exponential growth in faith. God has been with me in a tangible way. Even as I’ve wept and wailed about Jolene’s death, I’ve felt His arms holding me up.

The second definition, active, involving great effort, also resonates. That reminds me of the deliberate choices we’ve made to believe; to affirm God’s sovereign love when our hearts are breaking. Why I call it a sacrifice of praise.

Concentrated, or narrowly focused, faith, also applies. Everything in my life, my prayers, my worship, revolves around Jolene’s death. As I’ve shared many times, I can’t sing a hymn without breaking down in tears. Her passing has concentrated my attention on the reality of the resurrection.

Thanks for sharing, Celise. You are another “gift of grief,” friendship deepened in the cauldron of my pain.

Thanks to all of you who share, who have proven friendship as days and weeks have lengthened into months.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Family Love

Mom asked to join me in my hymn sing this morning. We started the the section of hymns celebrating God in nature. Safe, I thought. No lines reminding me of death and eternity.


For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child; friends on earth and friends above; for all gentle thoughts and mild. Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

From For the Beauty of the Earth by Folliott Pierpoint

Yes, our voices just about broke on "parent, child" and "friends above." And we raised our hymn of grateful, and sacrificial, praise.

Jolene is above. And I rejoice in the love we shared on earth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I’m B A A A C K! It’s good to be home.

I only have five more devotions to read in Meditations for Survivors of Suicide. The one that struck me the most recently was “The Ten Gifts of Grief.”

Your initial reaction may be the first as mine. Grief, as a gift? It’s one none of us would choose to receive. But God the giver of all good and perfect gifts has given me the gift of grief through these days.

As I read the list, my spirit chimed in agreement. Things like pride in my ability to endure, a spiritual growth spurt, a new awareness of, and a desire to, comfort others in times of grief. Ordinary days of new routines, instead of dark despair. But I’ll camp out on the first gift tonight: genuine laughter.

In the first week or two, two incidents involving laughter stand out in my mind. The first was intentional.

My first week back at work, a good friend asked me a question that made me laugh (I don’t remember what it was). He smiled broadly. “I wanted to make you laugh.” He gave me the precious gift of humor.

The second occasion happened when Mom and I went to our favorite breakfast restaurant. We had a new server; she paused at our table long enough and asked “Do you need anything?” But she left without waiting for an answer.

I looked at Mom; she looked at me; and we both started laughing. God’s gift to us, to see and respond to humor.

I’m tired and I’m not sure if I’m making sense. If not, laugh with me and for me. On Friday afternoon, we laughed as often and as hard as we had cried in the morning. And you know, that’s okay.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Final Day

We leave tomorrow to return home. Five days go so quickly.

The day I dreaded the most, Mother's Day, came and went quietly. Mom and I slept in, ate a late breakfast, managed to stuff in delicious food prepared by my dil's family, and returned to the hotel when Jaran went to work. We watched the Survivor finale (one of the best seasons ever, wasn't it, what we got to see of it with everything that happened.)

In fact, yesterday was SO peaceful, that this morning I asked God to let me NOT express the anger that didn't come up yesterday. Aside from literally crying over spilled milk (messed up my portrait outfit), I've been fine. I had a digital portrait taken for future books (smile) and we traveled down Route 66 to the Rock Cafe, the diner whose owner inspired the character "Sally" in the movie Cars, and got back in time for Jaran's evening shift.

And that's all there is for now. Going to eat at the restaurant where Jaran is an assistant manager, pack and shop for a maternity outfit for my dil Shelley. Becoming a grandma is SO much fun!

Tomorrow night, home!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Yesterday, what a day! I only have a few minutes. But we saw a lovely graduation ceremony, watched Jaran walk across the stage, wondered how Jolene would have handled the mass noise and crowd, ate at a fun Irish pub and went to Iron Man. (A wonderful, fun movie!) A lot like our celebration of Jaran's high school graduation 10 years ago.

Today so far I'm doing okay with Mother's Day, except for one brief spell. One of those "God-incidents" led me the meditation (Meditations for Survivors of Suicide) based on an essay "How God Mothers Us." It was just what I needed.

I'll write more later. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 9, 2008

BurialThen there was

Let's hope I can write on this strange keyboard at the end of a tiring day.

I told Mom that I felt like today was two different days. There was this afternoon when we went to the campus of Oklahoma City University and picked up Jaran's cap and gown. A delightful meal at Cimmaron Steakhouse and ideas for stories.

Then there was this morning. The burial of Jolene's ashes.

Jaran, John, Nerinda, Mom and I met at a beautiful cemetery this morning. As Jaran said, with pine cones and bird song and all the beautiful things of nature Jolene loved. It's a lovely, peaceful spot, and the pink-streaked marble vault struck just the right now.

Mom read 1 Thess 4, about the dead in Christ rising first at His return, and Revelation 22, about Jesus' wiping away our tears. John read from the story of Lazarus (John 11). Nerinda said that Mary (the mother of Jesus) knows my pain. We sang 3 hymnns, crying through the words of Oh, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus, Be Still My Soul, and It Is Well With My Soul. Mom and I cried and said final goodbyes over the vault. We watched the laborer place the vault into a hole in the ground and shovel the dirt into it.

We cried buckets, and screamed at the heavens for the wrongness of saying goodbye so soon. And rejoiced that she is with the One Who Loves Her Best and First, beyond faith and hope and secure in knowledge.

And we left her to rest, and turned a corner. Thanks for your prayer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Valley of the Shadow of Death

Aargh! I took the time on this day before trip morning to compose a blog--directly in blogspot--and sure enough it disappeared.

Thanks to all of you walk with us through the death's shadow, for taking our hands and leading us when we can't see.

And please pray for us this weekend, as we bury Jolene's cremains and go through our first Mother's Day without Jolene.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Tired Tonight

We are leaving for Oklahoma 2 days from tomorrow. So ... expect me when you see me. I'm not sure when I'll have access to a computer or energy to write. I don't tonight.

I'm having fun tonight playing writer over at Seekerville. Boy, do I have everyone fooled! They all think I'm a good writer! :)

Weekdays are a lot easier than weekends. Staying busy helps.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Songs


For a chance to win a free of copy of Dana Mentink’s cozy mystery Trouble Up Finny’s Nose, leave a comment on yesterday’s blog.

Back to business. Today’s tear-jerker hymn: All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name. Can you guess the line?

That’s right. “Oh that with yonder sacred throng, we at His feet may fall. We’ll join the everlasting song and hail him Lord of all.”

Mom said she saw me struggling. I hope I didn’t distract the worshippers; maybe not. As Mom pointed out, she’s attuned to me.

People in the congregation tell me they’re happy to see me back in choir. So I trust I’m blessing them, in spite of my tears.

I look forward to the day when I join Jolene at the feet of Jesus, singing His endless praises.

And oh yes, we saw little Hannah Grace again today.

I’ll keep it short. Mom tells me that I should say I’ll blog more about writing than about Jolene in the future. Will I? I don’t know. It depends on what happens each day.

On that note, I’ve written a blog for which will appear tomorrow. Stop by and check it out if you have a chance.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Unexpected Reminder; or, New Taste in Books?


Everyone who leaves a comment on this post will be entered into a drawing for a copy of Dana Mentink's mystery, Trouble Up Finny's Nose.

I’m going to mention books I read in April … eventually.

But first, it’s been a bit of a hard day. I went to the hairdressers today, an activity I enjoy.

The problem today was … the last time I had my hair colored was that Saturday. The day I banged on Jolene’s door and went to the salon when she didn’t answer. Seven weeks ago today. The stylist expressed her sympathy (she had cut Jolene’s hair several times). After that, we talked about happy things. I didn’t come even close to crying.

But the reminder, plus my badly aching knee, has left me sore, physically and emotionally.

But it’s time to discuss another favorite activity: reading books.

Of the twelve books I read in April, all but one of them were mystery/suspense.

Shameless Self Promotion (SSP): The new Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! (HPM) books Death on a Deadline and Trouble Up Finny’s Nose entertained me far more than books by some of my favorite authors. (SSP because my book Gunfight at Grace Gulch is one the book club selections.)

The trio of three sisters, Christine Lynxwiler, Jan Reynolds, & Sandy Gaskin, wrote a seamless first-person story about newspaper columnist Jenna Stafford. Dana Mentink brings the quirky characters of Finny’s Nose to hilarious life. In the midst of laugh-out-loud lines, Dana’s heroine grieves her husband’s death. It touched me where I live for now, in grief, in a way that restored faith.

Unlike other mysteries. Mom and I are both big mystery fans, whether television or books. The problem now is they often strike too close to home.

It seems like lately every other story includes a suicide or a hanging. In his new book Rage, Jonathan Kellerman described the death of a troubled 16-year-old: “Birthday suicide. Unable to face another year.” That’s exactly what happened to my troubled almost 24-year-old.

Have there always been so many references to suicide, that never registered until it happened to me? Or has it become the plot-device-of-the-month that hits me when I’m already down?

Sometimes I push past the hard parts, like in Rage. Other times, I close the book (Lord Jonathan and the Brotherhood of the Blade) or turn off the television (recent episodes of Cold Case and Psych).

Well, this was going to be a book review. Instead, it turned into an essay about books. I’ve always turned to books for escape; what do I read now that my favorite genre has become horrifying fact, not fiction? `

Honorable mention, in addition to the 2 HPM books I mentioned earlier:

1. When Darkness Fades by James Grippando. If you haven’t discovered this series about Miami-based, half-Cuban defense attorney Jack Swytek, check it out.
2. Golden One by Elizabeth Peters. Another winner from the Peabody/Emerson series.
3. Hidden in Plain Sight, my one nonfiction book of the month, by Mark Buchanan.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Still Waters

God brought Psalm 23 across my desk twice today.

First of all, I sang one of several adaptations of the psalm in my hymnbook. Secondly, a friend sent me an acrostic.

I didn’t make the connection until just now, thinking about what to write today. Do I need God to write it across the sky with lightning? Hopefully not. 

I won’t write about the valley of the shadow of death. Yes, even there, He has led us into and through the shadow of Jolene’s death. But tonight I don’t want to dwell in that dark place.

Instead, I’ll cling to the promise of still waters. What do they look like?

A puddle of moments when my thoughts are aimed at happier times, like my new grandchild, the upcoming visit with my son and his family, opportunities to promote my book (and write more!)

Friends who call, who write, who pray in silent, secret battle on our behalf.

Long hours of dreamless sleep.

Stories that lift me out of the moment and make me look at the world in a new way.

Those are a few of my still waters. What are some of yours?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day Mush

May Day, a date that suggests sunshine and warm weather and flowers. You wouldn't know that to look out my office window at the snow-coated fields.

My clearest thoughts about Jolene today said, "It's now the month after the month after Jolene died." Life moves on.

I scheduled a book signing for my mystery, Gunfight at Grace Gulch, at my church on May 18th. It was the most convenient date, between Mother's Day and Memorial Day weekend. Only yesterday did the significance register. Two months plus one day from the official date of Jolene's death. I'm sure the date will bear down on me as it approaches, but I take the act as progress. I scheduled the event without making the automatic association.

We've missed two weeks of Sunday school. People are calling Mom, concerned. We explain, "We had to take Jaran back to the airport."

"You're doing okay, then." They've done their duty; Mom is in good health, not hospitalized or otherwise in need of succor. They appear anxious to get off the phone.

Mom wants to talk. We're both still lonely, still saddened with unbearable grief. Yesterday I described the manner of Jolene's death as a scratch to my soul. It's an irritant, a fact that rubs my feelings raw. Mom described it as piercing. A single, sharp stab shattered her peace.

It's going on two months. The rest of the world has gone ahead, Jolene's death a sad footnote.

For us, we're still treading water.