"Yes! What fun. What's a book blessing?"
"I just made it up. We won't know what it is until after you create it."
As soon as UPS delivered three cases of books to the house, I morphed from inward-focused writer to outward-focused promoter. Where to sell. How much to charge. Tax deductions. Return on investment. Dollar signs and signs of failure. I needed Kate Guendling to redirect my world view back to why I write what I write.
Kate creates ceremonies. She'd convinced my analytical mind that ritual had the power to transform. I knew she'd infuse the book's promotion with love and generosity. That's her magic.
She organized everything. Inside a church sanctuary, she arranged twenty chairs in a circle. (Twenty chairs was a guess. We hadn't known how many to expect, but exactly twenty people attended.) One of the chairs was fancier than the others. For me! There was a table in the center of the circle, just big enough for two baskets of loose beads, and a copy of my book. On a stage behind my chair, a piano and a projection screen.
Kate held up my book, while explaining how the next hour would proceed. And then Annette Olsen sang to me. Have you ever had a hero? Someone whose talent makes you speechless and gushy? And your mouth hangs open in unflattering ways and you don't even care? Annette (who also composes, plays piano, guitar, and drums) is my hero. She sang to me. Twice.
I read a couple of essays.
"Now here's a message from a couple of people who couldn't be here," Kate said. Victor James Dougherty and Nhien Vuong appeared on the screen. They performed a freshly minted "Ode to Dawn." The two busiest people I know had taken time to write a song and make a video––for me. It was like getting the lifetime achievement award at the Oscars.
Kate walked to the table. She picked up a bead, threaded it onto a leather string, and told me what my writing meant to her. She invited the others to follow suit. They did. Spontaneously. Unrehearsed. Unprepared. One by one they walked to the center of the circle, selected a bead, and strung it onto the leather. The bead represented their blessing to me. "Your words struck a chord." "Your stories hit home." "Your story made my son and me talk about our relationship." "You're writing about my life." "I love you." "I'm choosing this green heart bead because you opened my heart." They mentioned favorite essays. They quoted me.
I was in awe of them. I listened, and thanked, and hugged, and grinned. But I tell you what, I can't find a new way to describe the feeling. Transcendence cannot be put into words. Even the word transcendent.
At the end, Kate handed me the gift they'd created bead by bead: a necklace made of blessings. The ritual marked my transition from inward-focused writer to other-focused woman filled with humility.
A piece of me died that night. The piece that's ruled by doubt. Church, candles, music, tributes, blessings. To everyone who attended, thank you for the best funeral ever.