Monday, November 2, 2009

Notes Left Behind

Seldom do I get on the inspirational/self-help/miracle/find the easy answer/get rich quick/synchronicity book bandwagon. Much to the chagrin of many customers, I never read The Secret, the rampant popularity of which still baffles me. That's the book that asserts that if you think it, it will come to you. Want fame? Just think about it. Want good fortune? Kick back and wish it so. Sure, I am oversimplifying, but I am not alone in my skepticism. Sadly, my feelings about this book were in part validated a few weeks ago when three people died in a sweat lodge ceremony. The facts have not all been gathered yet, but the man who organized the sweat lodge, and promoted (for a fee) the practices held there, was quoted throughout The Secret. Does that make the entire book bad? Is guilt by association an all-inclusive way to judge someone or something? No, but the connection is troubling.

Onward. About that bandwagon....last week I saw a family being interviewed on a morning talk show, and knew that those inspired by Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture might seek out the book being discussed. It is sure to be a favorite among the soft-hearted crowd. In fact, I predict it will be one of our biggest sellers in the coming months. What impressed me was that the man and woman being interviewed hardly mentioned the book; as a matter of fact, they had to be prompted to promote it at the end of the segment. Their joy came from sharing the memory of their daughter,Elena. I ordered the book for the store, knowing full well that I would read the first chapter, and only the first chapter, just to get a taste, and then put it on display. Something about Elena's parents stuck with me, and so, one Sunday afternoon, and a box of tissue later, I closed the back cover.

Elena Desserich was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age five. Upon receiving the news that would forever change their lives, her parents, Brooke and Keith, made two decisions. First, they would keep a journal all about Elena. They were heading into a black hole, unsure of what waited at the core. In case Elena didn't survive, they wanted everything about her recorded so that her little sister,Gracie, could know her. Second, they vowed (I love this phrase) to squeeze every drop of sunshine out every single moment.

Elena understood that she was sick, but no one really knew the wisdom her little heart held. Elena's wishes were simple....a carriage ride, spaghetti at her favorite neighborhood restaurant, seeing one of her paintings hang in a "real" museum, a wedding dress, and a visit to the Eiffel Tower. All but the last were possible.

What kept me reading was the lack of sentimentality. Mom and dad took turns writing journal entries, focusing on the little questions, requests, and quirks that made their daughter who she was. The writing isn't refined, but it is honest. There are no great truths to be found here, just a simple story of a little girl who loved pink, and whose final request in life was to dance with her daddy.
During her illness, Elena wrote notes to her family. She hid them. Her parents find them tucked between the pages of her coloring books, hidden in drawers, canisters, and secreted into the tiny pockets of their messenger bags. Elena sealed only two notes in envelopes, one for each of her parents. Brooke and Keith say they will never open them. It comforts them to know there will always be one more note from Elena.
**********Here's the annual Halloween picture of my beast waiting for the trick-or-treaters. I spent a whole dollar on her get-up at The Dollar Store. She wore the horns for about ten seconds, but she had a grand time greeting space aliens, bums, and princesses.
Thanks for stopping by.

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