Sunday, May 31, 2009
Losing A Tree
I am in New York City attending BEA - Book Expo America. I was here to sign two books: The North Star (Candlewick Press) and Tess's Tree (Harper Collins).
On Friday I checked my voice mail messages and heard one that that shook me... it was made from the cell phone of my friend, Gretchen who I knew as Gari ever since we met 20 years ago in California, but it was Gari's cousin. Her message explained that Gari had passed away last week. She had just celebrated her 43rd birthday. She left a number to call for more information about a service which will be held in two weeks time.
I'm glad my brother, Paul, was with me. The news struck me hard.
It occurred to me, as the weekend unfolded, that the two books I was signing were soothing signals from the universe.
"The North Star", a book about a young boy on an increasingly challenged journey who lands in a deep swamp. Gari struggled most of her adult life with alcohol. I learned last night that she died from cirrhosis to the liver. When I first met her, she was beautiful, funny, adventurous, but the swamp pulled her into a dark place. We lived on different coasts, but we often chatted, especially when things were falling a part for Gari, but I felt good to be a part of her "constellation" - cheering her along the journey. I sit here wondering what more I could have done. I know that addiction has a grip from the inside, but I also know that those around a person struggling can help shine some light on which way to go.
The other book I was signing was "Tess's Tree." A book about loss. A little girl loses her favorite tree to a storm and she grieves deeply. The way the family copes is to have a service for the tree. Family and friends gather in the yard where the tree had stood. They each share memories of the tree and what it meant to them. It eased Tess's heart to see so much love for one tree. Her tree.
I "connected the dots" - the "cosmic dots" and realized that both of these books were speaking to me... at the perfect moment. The power of story to help us understand the mysteries of life, to help us cope, to ease our hearts is a gift we can give each other and ourselves.