About a week before the Great Pandemic of 2020, before Ramona Corona came a-knockin’, I spent an enjoyable morning with the lovely ladies of the Alpha Mu Delta sorority. They asked about the process of writing a novel and what I’m currently working on. The usual questions. 

As for "What's next?", I simply stare with incredulity. Seriously? This took me 3 years. Nothing is next, I'm on permanent sabbatical.    

But I've got an answer for "What's it like to write a book?"

We've all been quarantined for a week or two at this point. Extend that to 3 years. That's how it feels to write a book.  

Sitting in the basement of a local library with two dozen members of an artistic sorority, mostly over the age of 60, the discussion quickly turned to living with depression and how women cope with loss. I was overwhelmed by their love and support for me, and I imagine their strength has carried many men for many years! 

Most came up to me after my reading and we chatted privately. Of all my book signings and readings so far, this was my favorite. They thanked me for sharing my story but I was the one in awe because they each had shared a part of themselves with me.

Sadly, I had to leave early because I had another event planned. I drove an hour north to host another book signing at Barnes & Noble in Colorado Springs, where the staff once again rolled out the red carpet. They love local authors, mainly because we bring friends n' family who buy lots of coffee!. Although the Barnes & Noble event was a bust, only a few people showed, I learned a great lesson:

    I'm done with book signings and will focus on book readings and discussions. I don't care about selling copies at random bookstores, but rather only interested in listening and receiving heart-felt hugs from new friends.  

I’ll always be grateful to Harvard Square Editions for allowing me, through this book, to offer hope to the world. But is that all, has HOPE become my clichéd response when I don’t know what else to say? Merely an empty gesture, lost in the chorus of Stay Strong or Be Here Now or Hang in There. 

Throughout the day, several women had asked me the same question. "Who is this book for?"

I usually gave a long answer. “Suicidal teens. Mental health care professionals. Survivors of suicide. Family members. Those who have tried and those who have died." The list is long.

The sorority ladies who approached after my reading wanted a few minutes, a real connection. I'm always happy to give so I didn't hesitate. It’s like they were testing me, wondering if we had experienced the same pain. They were trying to decide if I am vulnerable, a safe place to confide in. Within 20 seconds of meeting each of them, they opened up and I heard their stories.

One lost her husband to suicide, the next a brother, the next a son.  The men in their lives were still managing to hurt them. The last lady to have a copy signed was the most obstinate. She had been waiting impatiently, ready to pounce.  

Dressed all in black, she crossed her arms and frowned. “Why would anyone want to read a book on suicide? I mean, who is this book for?”

“For you.”

She cried, maybe for the first time in years. I think she had been holding in the pain for so long, growing angry every time someone else brought it up, silently blaming herself for her husband's death. Maybe our encounter gave her the permission to grieve, to dwell upon her loss, to brush over the pages and find some answers.

Maybe I offered hope.