In the overflowing silence that lingered beyond the last notes of music, I felt the magnitude of those two words bubbling up inside of me. They filled my senses. Overwhelming. Breathtaking. Like the feeling you get when you stumble upon some secret place of wonder. Not a bustling tourist trap full of noise and cameras and t-shirt vendors, but a secluded masterpiece, something to enjoy all alone in the silence. Something far too special to whoop and holler and dance around about.
So instead I just sat there, letting the feeling linger and swell, until it spilled over and breathed out of me in an awed whisper, more for myself than for anyone else listening:
“I finished the book.”
After two and a half years of research, writing, more research, rewriting, and what seemed like endless rabbit hole-wanderings looking for important but evasive details, Lily and Freddie’s story was complete.
(And yes, those of you who follow my Facebook page were probably expecting this blog post on Saturday. I was planning to get it out then, but I was so busy working on updates for my website that I ran out of time. Better late than never though, right?)
One great side-benefit of my exhausting NaNoWriMo marathon experience in November, was that I figured out the way I like to write. Slowly, artistically, savoring each sentence and polishing it to perfection. And that is how I decided to write this final chapter.
I sat in the living-room, near the big windows, in my favorite chair. I used my new noise-blocking headphones, which allowed me to give Lily and Fred my undivided attention as we experienced this last, special moment together. And for my sound-track, I knew there was only one choice that would do. The song Fred used to always say belonged to him and Lily.
I let the song play over and over again as I wrote, feeling the music carry me away, back to an era that I have become so familiar with in the past few years, I almost feel as if I once lived there myself. Back to a little house in Florida, where two people shared a love big enough to span an ocean, and strong enough to last a lifetime.
It was a sacred place to tread.
And though of course I had no way of timing how the song would play out, it seemed almost natural that as my hands fell still at the end of the final sentence, the last notes of the song died away and the music fell silent as well.
The end of the song.
The end of the story.
And the beginning of a whole new journey.
Because you know, often that magical, awe-inspiring place you come to in your wanderings is only the pathway to another journey. And as any writer can tell you, “finishing the book” is the not he same as being finished with the project. Now comes the editing, the proof-reading, the formatting, the cover design. And all of that has to happen before you truly have a finished book to put into the hands of your readers.
But I’m excited. Because although there is still plenty of work to do, I feel that the greatest challenge is now behind me. I have taken the family stories, the fragments of history, the dates and the times and the memories, and stitched them all together into one tapestry. It is done. There have been plenty of moments, along the way, when I struggled. When I doubted I could really do this. When I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I’m so glad, looking back, that this book the Lord gave me to write was not something I just thought up myself, but had a life outside of my pen. A real life, that was filled with meaning for so many people who remembered Lily and Freddie, and wanted to see their story written down.
Why is that important? Because there were times that, if this had been just my own project, I’m pretty certain I would have given up entirely. There were times I wasn’t having fun. When I was exhausted, discouraged, and ready to throw in the towel. Then I would remind myself that I knew the Lord had given me this task to complete, that He was helping me along in the process, and that He would give me what I needed to accomplish it.
But sometimes, even that wasn’t enough. Sometimes I was so frazzled, burned out, and sick of the whole thing, that I was ready to convince myself it really was my own project, that the Lord wasn’t really interested in it, and that it wouldn’t be a big deal if I just gave up.
But there was always one last life-line to grab when that happened. When I’d almost talked myself into believing that it wouldn’t really matter if I dropped it. That’s when I would raise my head, throw my shoulders back, and think to myself,
“No. I can’t stop now. I promised Sharon.”
So thank you Sharon (and Susan) for being the reason I still kept going even when nothing else would have done it. Because I knew that even if the story didn’t matter to me (at that particular dark moment) and even if it didn’t matter to God (which of course it did, but sometimes I doubted it), it always, always mattered to you.
And now I’ve accomplished a project that has taken me longer than anything else (other than schooling) that I’ve ever attempted. Because of that, I know I can do it again. With another story. Even if the next one I write really does just come out of my own pen. I’ll know I can see it to completion, even if it takes 3 years next time. (Though I sure hope it won’t.)
I’ve done it once. So it can’t be impossible.
Thank you both.
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Did you know Lily and Fred personally? Comment below! I’d love to hear how they touched your life.