Before I dive into any book, I read the author’s dedication. Maybe you ignore it–flip right past it. That’s fine. But for me, it opens a window into the author’s heart. I love writing dedications, too. They’re the last thing I write, usually after at least a round or two of edits, and I think long and hard about who I’m going to dedicate that story to. Of course, my first book had about 70 names in it … mostly because I wasn’t sure I’d ever publish another book.
My most recent novella in A Log Cabin Christmas Collection has these words:
For Judy and Ann, first readers and faithful friends.
Thank you for your encouragement, kindness, and example of joy.
I’ve known Judy for years. Well … at least I knew of her. We’d gone to the same church since I was a kid, and her kids are about my age. But it wasn’t until I wrote my first book that we became real friends. When I asked my mom for feedback on the manuscript of The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn, she suggested I send it to Judy, a retired teacher. Judy graciously agreed to read the book, but I’m afraid her feedback was pretty minimal. It consisted mostly of “I love it!”
By the time Kenzie arrived on bookshelves, Judy was my strongest supporter. She’d also been diagnosed with cancer. Again. I remember clearly on the day of my first booksigning at our church back in Yuma, that she handed me an envelope. She’d been in pain the night before and unable to sleep, so she’d stayed up on the computer and printed off every online review and mention she could find of me and my book. She’d also asked her brother-in-law to paint the cover of my book. It’s one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever received.
By the time my second book rolled around Judy and her mom Ann were full-fledged fans of my books. But I was just plain fans of theirs. They had embraced me and my family, given my mom a friend she desperately needed, and treated my nieces and nephews like their own family. Despite her frequent trips to San Diego to see her oncologist, Judy remained a fantastically upbeat and filled with joy.
When it came time to write the dedication for my Christmas novella (a story that Judy and Ann had both read and approved), I wanted to show them just how much I cared and do what I could to reciprocate the love that they’ve shown me.
And then the books arrived. So beautiful and with that inscription just for Judy and Ann. I begged my mom to take Judy a copy of the book as soon as it arrived. Mom asked if I wouldn’t rather wait to give it to her myself, but I said no. I wanted Judy to see it as soon as possible. Ann says that Judy showed that book to every single person who walked into her house in the next week.
Less than two weeks later, Judy took a turn for the worse, and I didn’t get to see her again. She passed away last Monday.
I’m so sad to have lost a friend, but I am so grateful to have known her and to know that we’ll meet again in eternity. She loved God dearly, and that love flowed to everyone she came in contact with. As I’ve reflected on our friendship this last week, I’m reminded of her amazing example. Despite her pain and prognosis, she lived with joy, a joy that overflowed, spilling on friends and strangers alike.
And I’m so glad that I took the opportunity to say thank you to Judy before it was too late.
Who do you need to say thank you to today?