Annie's Going Home is a "Go"

Thanks to the unbelievable self-sacrifice and discipline of my loving parents, I now have the financial resources to publish Annie's Going Home. I have signed a contract to do so in honor of Annie, my Mom. Production begins this fall. Based on Molly's Pollywogs, I would guess that publication will be complete sometime in the summer of 2014.

Today marks the nine-year anniversary of Vincent's death. I remember a father at Bo's Place expressing concern that he might someday forget his child who died. I could not understand that worry. Well, now that Vincent has been dead more than half as long as he was alive, I think I understand. I never forget Vincent, but on occasions like today, I wonder why I'm not more emotionally devastated as I was early in the grieving process. It's not really that I have forgotten Vincent; it's just that I've learned to live with (and sometimes suppress) the pain.

I once described this as recovering from surgery. At first, the wound is obvious, and the pain must be managed with powerful medication, and the patient must remain hospitalized and cared for in a sterile environment. Over time, the patient can go home, treat the pain with over-the-counter meds, and change his own bandages. Eventually, the medication is no longer necessary, and life resumes.

But the scar remains forever as a reminder of what is missing.



Annie Has Arrived

The "Annie" in Annie's Going Home went home on Saturday, May 5, 2012, at around 3:15 pm, surrounded by children, grandchildren, and caregivers, who recited prayers, read psalms, and sang hymns to soothe her on her journey.

We had the most wonderfully uplifting services for Momma. I was tasked with putting together pictures. As I searched through video from reunions in 2003 and 2004, I ran across footage of Momma saying that these reunions were her "living wake." She knew her day was coming, but she thought it would come sooner than it did. We were fortunate that she was so wrong. As my niece observed during the service last night, it took a long time for Mom to be reunited with Dad in heaven because, as he so often had done, "she took the scenic route."

My sister read Annie's Going Home during the wake. Since the story is based on my mother's actual interaction with real people who were important parts of my life who have died, including my son Vincent and my sister Mary, I would have been too emotional to complete this myself. I am grateful that she had the strength to share this with the visitors for me.

A few people told me afterwards (I'm paraphrasing) "You are such a good writer." Now, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I will agree that I believe the two stories I have completed are quite well done. However, I also acknowledge that the sources of these compliments were hardly free from bias -- especially considering that the story was written for the very precise moment at which they heard it. However, for some reason, I felt inauthentic in accepting the title of "writer." I have tried "writing" stories, and I have yet to complete one of those tasks. With both Molly's Pollywogs and Annie's Going Home, I feel that my part in the stories has been to assemble the words around life experience. My strength lies not in creating stories from scratch but in translating observations of life's difficulties into meaningful and cathartic metaphors. To date, I have only accomplished this task when inspired by quotes from people I love. My daughter Molly's comments to me after her brother's death inspired the first book. My mother Annie's comments to me about her own eventual death inspired the second book.

We concluded the wake with my brother (fellow author George Comeaux) leading the entire community of visitors in a dance. My parents loved to dance together, and my mother continued dancing with her sons, grandsons, brothers-in-law, sons-in-law, and anyone else who asked even after my father passed away. George invited everyone to join hands and dance a sort of a tamed-down jig as we sang "Lord of the Dance," which is a positive, spirited hymn.

Momma viewed this coming event in her life as a positive, spirited occasion. My amazing brothers and sisters honored her life by making this such an uplifting event that my jaw hurt from smiling so much afterwards.

"Dance, then, wherever you may be."




Annie's Going Home - Postponed

The publisher has granted my request to postpone production of Annie's Going Home. I made this request so the timing will better coincide with family priorities. I am anxious to get started on this project. I am hoping to begin during the second quarter of 2011. If so, the book will probably be complete in late 2011 or early 2012. Annie (my Mom) will be 93 in January 2012, God willing.




Annie's Going Home

Tate Publishing called me this morning and notified me that they have accepted Annie's Going Home for publication. Based on my experience with Molly's Pollywogs, the book should probably be available in about a year.

This one is dedicated to my Mom. She inspired the main theme of the story when she visited my son's grave with me shortly after he died. As we were leaving, she turned to him and said "Goodbye, Vincent. I'll see you again soon." She was 85 then; she's 91 now. The thought of Vincent's Maw-Maw taking care of him in heaven gave me great comfort and peace at a time when I wondered how I could possibly survive.

That's Momma.




Boomerang Books -- Grandparents' Grief

I had my first official book signing today at Boomerang Books in League City, Texas. There were three ladies who came to buy Molly's Pollywogs because they had seen the interview with Jennifer Reyna on Local 2 News during the 4 pm newscast on Thursday. One lady had recently lost a relative to the war in Afghanistan. Another lady knew me from my church.

The most touching -- and emotionally draining, but in a good way -- experience was with a lady who had lost her young grandson to cancer within the past year. She was kind enough to sit with me and share her experience.

We parents tend to think only of our own pain when we lose a child. This woman reminded me of my own mother's grief at the loss of her grandson -- my son Vincent. Shortly after his death, she visited his grave with me. As we were leaving, she spoke to Vincent. She said, "I'll see you again soon." She was 85 at the time.

Those words from my mother comforted me greatly. They also reminded me that a parent's greatest pain is the suffering of her own children. My mother was grieving the loss of her grandchild, but like the woman I met today, she was also hurting deeply because of the pain her son was enduring.

I wrote a second book to help my siblings and myself accept my mother's eventual death. It, too, is an uplifting look at what awaits us, and it was inspired by my mother's faith and strength. My experience today with this other devoted mother and grandmother has inspired me to submit it for publication. I have no idea whether it is meaningful to anyone outside my own family. My hope, as with Molly's Pollywogs, is that those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will find comfort in the story.

It's called Annie's Going Home.