It's been some type of week. I had a small cookout on the fourth, after two days of very sad news.
Two people I looked up to in some way passed away, within a day of each other.
On July 2, the entire literary community suffered the loss of the incomparable Francis Ray. I was well acquainted with Ms. Ray, because I saw her at the three Slam Jams I have attended to date- 2008, 2011, and 2012. I remember her as a kind, gentle person, someone who always had an encouraging word for me as an aspiring author, and as a newly published author. She always looked so proud at the Emma Awards, as we came together to honor our favorites. That is how I'm going to remember her, smiling and happy.
Then, early on the fourth, I received news of the death of my distant cousin, Tonya Davis. Even though Tonya and I were distantly related on my father's side, I spent a very, very pivotal year at her home in Virginia. The year was 2004, and I was staying with her while my new husband trained in parachute rigging at nearby Fort Lee. She was a gracious hostess to my young, awkward 20 year old self. My 21st birthday happened while I stayed with her. She invited my husband, a total stranger to her, into her home. At the time, she was a busy working mother of two teen daughters, but she took me in anyway, fed me, entertained me and my husband. She never asked for money, and I was hard pressed to get her to accept it when I tried to pay for her hospitality.
But what was so important about the time I spent at Tonya's home is this: she MADE me finish the draft of my first novel, Skye's the Limit. She demanded a chapter a day in exchange for food. While she and the kids were gone to work and school, I toiled away on her office computer. By the time I left in November, I had a finished draft. The book wasn't published until 2009, but I dedicated it to her. I really can't say I would have ever finished it without her.
I don't have a picture of Tonya, and I'm sure you've seen a thousand of Francis over the past week or so. All I can say is losing these two people within a day had me "feeling some type of way."
I wondered about life, about love, and what it all means. The people we meet in passing, or the people we spend only a short time with, can have a profound effect on our lives. These two women did just that, and they have my everlasting gratitude.
So, for Tonya, and for Francis, safe travels to that heavenly realm- until we meet again.
Until Next Time,