Does anybody remember near the end of the movie Steel Magnolias when Dolly Parton’s character Truvy opens her second beauty parlor and she proclaims, “I’m a chain!” Does anybody remember the joy in that moment? Well these past couple of weeks since my new book (with a wiro cover) Relying on the Moon has been printed and for sale, I’ve felt the same way. It’s somehow exciting and proud and a little bit scary all wrapped up together. It’s incredible.
Never really thinking I’d write a book, I’ve stumbled in and through most of this past year. Except for the writing of the stories it’s been baby, baby, baby steps. Not always two steps forward and then one back, but sometimes close to that.
Last summer we were visiting our friend Susie at her (beautiful, lush, spoiling your bare-feet with those plush white carpets) house on Skid-Away Island. On a long walk I started thinking about all the words that seem to be in so many of the books on grief. It was frustrating because I knew from my experience, that when I am grieving, my attention span is short and I don’t have much energy. And so I started dreaming a book in my head.
For a long time I’ve thought of the moon being a strong metaphor for ways of grieving. Both are always changing. Both seem to be always coming ‘round again. Predictable and not ~ both. A part of daily life. So many ways one can speak for the other. And on that walk I started thinking about writing my book. This notion seemed easy enough: 28 meditations (it turns out I’d need 29, but I digress), beautiful pictures and White Horse questions to engage the readers in the meditations. So after asking Susie to be the photographer, and her (and her muse) agreeing we were off and running.
Getting time-off is not an easy thing. PTO days are few and precious. But Linda and I agreed that I could take off the week before Labor Day (always reserved Thursday – Monday for reunions with our Candler sisters). I would have the first 3 days for writing and we'd see what would happen.
Susie was as excited as I was (and for that I will forever be thankful). She invited me to come, stay at her house and write to my heart’s content. I came in late Saturday afternoon and after one thing leading to another, began in earnest writing Sunday afternoon.
Writing this book was one of the most energizing times of my life. Susie would head off to work and I would sit at her dining room table looking out over the lagoons and put words to paper. I’d write 2 or 3 meditations and then Susie’s dog, Zeke and I would go for a long walk. And as we walked I would mentally envision the next 2 or 3 pieces. We’d head home, I'd open another Diet Coke and begin typing. All day long. And then when Susie came home, I would read her what I’d written. Incredible. Fun. Amazingly restorative.
Linda came through Savannah to pick me on Thursday, and I just smiled and smiled when I saw her. I’d written the book. Susie was already working on the pictures to match. 3 ½ days. It was nothing short of Godsend.
Here’s one of the meditations, a piece about Stories:
Our lives are filled with stories moving from moment to moment, from day to day. Our story, what was and is and what will be, is continually unfolding. The lessons that we have learned inform us and protect so that we don’t have to stumble and bumble along the way.
Grief doesn’t happen in isolation. Grief is interconnected to the stories within the stories throughout our lives. There is always a greater context. In my work with folks who were HIV+, I learned that there was not time to truly grieve the loss of one friend before another’s death. The image of a great tapestry sewn one colored thread at a time is helpful for me. In the picture created, there is a sense that one thread picks up where another ends.
Part of the preciousness of being human is the privilege of sharing our stories. Many of us shy away from the telling of our stories because we are afraid of overburdening someone else. As I move through this life, I am continually gifted by the privilege of carrying another’s story. I know that I’m carrying them for just a time. It is in this carrying of another’s story that I remember that I am not alone. Often in this act for another we are able to see our story in a new light. And in doing this, some part of our story can find healing as we hold one another for just a bit.
Last Sunday Linda and Gamma hosted a Book-Signing party here at the house. My heart was truly filled to overflowing with all the love in the house. Bets brought a gazillion drinks. Claudie was patiently sitting beside me helping me keep track of who had purchased which book and how to address the inscription. Susie, of course was taking pictures of everybody who came and all that was going on. Ray and Randy drove all the way from Savannah to celebrate. And the house was filled with friends who gathered to bless it. I will long cherish the circle that stretched all the way around the kitchen and dining room when we held hands to pray. I will long treasure the prayers offered as a blessing for this book. I guess I should have been surprised when 2-year Avery told Grandma Laura and Aunt Erin on the drive home that he’d seen my folks. Driving home Avery said, "Did you know Lesley's Mom and Dad were there? They said `hi' to me and they were very nice." I guess that should surprise me. But to be honest it doesn’t at all. Mom and Dad have been with me every step of the way through this past year.
3 ½ days to write it, 13 months to proof it and get it in print. That sounds about right. What a gift of time. What a joy to write. Wonder what the next chapter will bring?
Thanks to everybody for believing it could be and for supporting me in these past weeks. I am forever grateful.
Working as a Hospice Chaplain, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.