So yeah. I’m totally fangirling my fan, lol. But seriously…I received my first physical Fan-Snail-Mail! Squee!! An actual present!

Note: reblogging this to my new blog because it’s my favorite post and still touches me. Warning: long-winded and full of tears.

I’ve Got Mail!

My reader said she’s a fan of my books and dragonflies (my first series revolves around a red dragonfly tattoo) and wanted to send me something! I was so excited! I’d never received anything (physically) from a fan…heck, I can’t even believe I freakin’ have fans! So after giving her a wrong address (#TotallyTheHubsFault), and the package flittering around LOST for a week, my reader tracked it down and told me where it was and who was holding it.

So…her good intentions kinda ended up in kind of a mess to start, but today it was found, on the second floor of ‘The Tower’ at a ball-park, in the middle of a city I live very close to! So I got it! But boy was I in for a surprise. You made me cry, Betty Lou from New York… really cry…

So here’s the story. Today, Maya Angelou, a famous poet and more, died. She was 86. When I first set out to publish my first novel, I read hundreds of quotes. I knew I had found the perfect one for the front of my first novel, “Let Me Go,” when I finally came across this one from Maya: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

So if you have my first novel, that quote is there, right up front. I knew I would catch some flak for Let Me Go, but it was bubbling inside me, and I had to write it. I. Just. Had. To. So it was such a fitting start to that book. A story that wouldn’t be written if it wasn’t for my mother-in-law, Lea.

See, I unexpectedly left a long career in human resources to be her caregiver. She was bedbound and required 24-hour care and I was her CareGiver for 18 months. She also died at age 86, like Maya did… today…the same day I opened the package from a reader who loved the book with Maya’s quote in the front matter. Weird, huh?

Now the  emotional part…bear with me. Everyone knows when you move, there’s always that ONE thing that is irreplaceable that gets broken. Always. Well, for me, it was the picture of my mother-in-law that you see here. Her husband, Harold, kept this particular picture of his wife of 60+ years on his nightstand. It was his favorite. He took care of her with very little help until he was 85. Bathed her, changed her, cut her hair, cooked her breakfast every single day.

This was not easy for him as he had broken his back (twice) in the coal mines. He was not able to straighten up, he walked bent over, as if he were forever searching for something on the floor. He also had Black Lung from the mines. Truly a warrior and faithful husband until the end. He passed suddenly three days after his 85th birthday, with his head turned toward this picture, still on his nightstand. I inherited the picture, and his wife to take care of.

This was not an easy job. It nearly killed me. I lost 30 lbs and suffered terrible back pain from the constant lifting/rolling. But it was the most important and gratifying thing I’ve ever done with my life.

My MIL woke up from her delirium after I took her off of the multiple drugs they sedated her with, and she started talking again…watching TV, laughing (fighting and biting too, lol). But her spunky personality would sometimes emerge from under the dementia, and it was a joy to behold. I’d BEG her to talk to me…tell me about her life…laugh. Sometimes she went days without speaking, but when she spoke, it was worth hearing. It became a game for me to try to get her to laugh or talk. I danced for her with long flowing skirts twirling with my finger on my head, like a suspended ballerina, put on a cowboy hat and rode my son’s stick-horse, galloping around and around her wheelchair until she’d grant me the smallest smile. I watched my favorite movie with her, discovering it was the ONLY movie she’d actually really watch with bug open eyes, and I sang along with Dorothy at the top of my lungs as we watched her follow the yellow brick road for the 200th time.

For 18 months, this was my world. I rarely ever saw anyone outside this world. I lost touch with my friends, many of them work-friends, and was so exhausted and poorly-feeling, I didn’t want to be seen by anyone. I was basically a recluse at the house. She had to be turned and/or changed every two hours… So many days it wasn’t an option to leave. I had some help, more toward the end, but it was still a full-time+ job.

There are a few truly amazing stories that happened during this journey, and I may be writing the whole thing as a free novella for my 1st 1000 True Fans, later in the series. It truly is a heart-wrenching, beautiful story from beginning to end–and all true.

But I wasn’t a writer when I took care of her. I wasn’t a nurse, or a CNA, or someone that had ever done any of the things I had to do. I learned each day, and each day she taught me a lesson. I took it hard when she passed. I felt like I didn’t do well enough, like somehow it was my fault. I grieved for her, and my lost career, my lost friends, and my lost physical capabilities.

I saw a massage therapist (hello, Renew You) and a chiropractor, but I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go back to work because of my chronic back pain. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I had time on my hands. Thus, I used that time to write, with the picture of my MIL on my desk, watching over every word.

Let Me Go was born… And then the next, and I’m working on the third as well as a new spin-off series. My MIL unknowingly gave me a new career, one that was better than the one I had before. And one I could make a difference with.

I write about Survivors. I am trying to make a difference, and many have said I have (and I cherish those emails, PM’s, comments and reviews).
Lea's picture

So today, before I left to hunt down my mysterious fan mail, I was unpacking boxes from moving, and found my MIL’s picture. Cracked! 

I took it to my husband, crying…for the loss of the precious glass that was a part of the original frame and picture, and because I felt I had failed again, in keeping the picture of her safe. It brought back all the sadness from her passing. And I thought my hubs would be mad at me. But he wasn’t. He knew how much the picture and frame had meant to his dad, and to me, and he said he’d find new (old) glass to replace it. My MIL died at age 86. So, as I said, the quote in the book I wrote, only because the end of her life allowed me to start anew in something different, was written by Maya Angelou, who died today, also at age 86. Weird coincidence you say? Let me go on…

So then, still upset hours later about the picture, I try to cheer myself up by finding and opening my fan mail. My reader had pm’d me to tell me she had taken a picture (2) of a red dragonfly and its shadow–a Scarlet Darter, seen in Europe, originating from Africa. So I was expecting the snapshots. But what I got was the snapshots (Extraordinary! I love them!), and a beautiful cut-glass dragonfly statue, some wonderful dragonfly note cards, and finally two children’s books(?). I was surprised! I wasn’t expecting children’s books. I opened the first one, reading very quickly. It was a sad but beautiful story of dying, in which after dying, a nymph becomes a beautiful dragonfly that consoles her friend when the friend feels the blame for her death. Uum…hello?

The second book, “The Dragonfly Secret,” stars the same dragonfly in a story about loss (death) and change, as she discovers her special gift in death…by delivering a message to a little boys parents from beyond the grave. It’s a touching story. Here’s what made me cry: the dragonfly’s name…is Lea!! Omigod. My mother-in-laws name is also Lea!! Same spelling. And my husband shares the same name as the little boy in the book! I kid you not. I’m not making this up. True. Story.
My reader is not the author of these books, nor do I believe she knew anything about my mother-in-law, Lea Akers. I don’t know why she sent them to me, other than because the story revolves around a dragonfly, which we share a love for. I truly am gobsmacked. Thank you, Betty Lou for bringing this message to me… You’ve touched both me and my husband and we truly feel Lea had a hand in this, through you.

Sorry if this is a jumbled up mess of rambling, but that’s how my head feels right now with all of the coincidences. I feel as if Lea hand-picked Betty Lou to put this package together, send it to an un-explained origin wrong address, only to locate it TODAY, of all days–all the way from NY–and alert me as to its whereabouts ON THIS DAY…So I want to say again, thank you, Betty Lou from NY!

P.S. If you read this far, you deserve a gold star.

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