‘Tis the season for love. For sharing love. For receiving love. For finding the love we all desperately need. Though it’s been said many times before, it still rings true: All you need is love. As the final days lead up to the Orange Karen Anthology short story submission deadline (December 15th), we hear from Tess Thompson who talks about the little things in life that help us find light through the darkness.
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Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart. ~ Anne Frank
It is everywhere. Bad news. This autumn two high school friends lost their children. Another friend had open-heart surgery at 46; another lost his battle to cancer at 44. Our recently retired pastor at my church is fighting a brain tumor.
My little daughter is struggling in school. My mother’s been ill for months. My marriage collapsed, after twelve years.
My friend, Karen DeLabar, almost died last June from toxic shock. But in what can only be described as a will made of fire and steel, she survived. But every day since has been a struggle of gigantic proportions: excruciating pain, fatigue, and the latest in a long list of miseries, detoxing from pain medications.
And huge medical bills.
Last week, I have a sleepless night after a particularly difficult day in this journey called divorce. In the morning, after I take the girls to school I come home and crawl into bed. I watch the rain falling in sheets outside the window, the gray clouds low in a despairing sky. I think of all the ways hearts have broken yesterday and last week and last month. There’s my own heart, shattered and aching, all my dreams washed away like the rain that runs out the gutter and onto the sidewalk. I question everything. I call out to God, why? I wonder how any of us survive in this world of uncertainty and pain and struggle. I marvel that we all continue to get out of bed each and every day and fight our battles. Because on this day, I cannot.
And in the dim light, I understand only this. Despite all the bad, love continues to show itself. For me, just then, in the middle of my hopelessness, it comes in the form of several phone calls and texts from friends. Are you okay? Why weren’t you at Zumba? I love you. You will get through this, I promise. Go get your mail.
So I do. With all that love like a force, I propel forward. I do something normally so simple but so daunting in this moment. I get the mail. And in my box is a package from one of my dearest friends – an early Christmas present – a necklace with these words: “The story of friendship is written on the pages of the heart.”
And it was enough to save me. Love, there, showing its face to me in the midst of my anguish.
All of us in Karen’s circle of friends were terrified when she was in a coma. Now, we worry and fret during her long recovery. We wonder how to help. And yet, we know we’re limited. We cannot take away her pain. We cannot pay her medical bills. We cannot take away her sleepless nights.
But hear this. We want to. Because we love her. And because we’re good people. When love and good people are in combination, it makes something called hope. I know this, too – most human beings, despite our flaws, are good. We are made to love one another, both in partnerships, and families and communities. It is the best of who we are.
Some of Karen’s friends organized this anthology as a way to help with her medical bills. Will it make a dent? Who knows? But ultimately it’s not what matters most.
What matters most is how love appears despite low-hanging clouds. It is all there is. It is the only thing to hold onto in illness and loss and uncertainty. It is all that can bring us from the dark into the light.
My friend made it through his open-heart surgery. He’s home recuperating as I write this. I’m grateful.
I write this on his Facebook wall:
I love you. That is all.
It is enough.
Tess Hardwick is a novelist, essayist and mother. She studied acting at the University of Southern California and enjoyed many years as an actress and director in Seattle before writing her first play, which won the first place prize in the Burien Theatre’s new works series in 2001. After several productions of “My Lady’s Hand”, one of which she directed, she decided her sensibilities were better suited to novels.
After several years and many rewrites, her first novel, Riversong, was picked up by Booktrope Publishing and released in April of 2011. In October of 2011 it became the number 1 Nook Book. In April and May 2012, Riversong was in the top 20 bestselling Kindle books, and number 1 in the Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense categories. Since then, readership of Riversong continues to grow and is known amongst her friends and family as “the little book that could”.
Like her main character in Riversong, Tess is from a small town in southern Oregon. She currently lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington with her two young daughters and their wild but lovable dog, Patches.
In March of 2012 a book of reflections on life’s past, present and future called Write For the Fight was released through Booktrope Publishing. A collaboration of 13 writers, all proceeds for Write for the Fight go to breast cancer research. It was in the top 10 Inspirational category on Free Kindle books in June, 2012.
Tess just completed her second novel, an ambitious historical fiction set between 1918 and 1934 in Alabama and Georgia, inspired by a story from her great-grandmother. She is currently working on a new novel, also historical fiction set in England during the Great War.