Thank you for bringing me here.
This line from my sister’s novel Tiger Pelt has been on my mind this past week. A year ago today, a dear friend died. This evening I will gather with Carla‘s friends and family. We’ll have dinner together and we will celebrate her life and the many ways she touched our own. At the end of the week, I will attend the memorial service for another friend who died almost a week ago today. Peter was one of the finest human beings I have ever met. I feel honored to have known him and to have called him a friend.
It’s been a rough year, if I’m being honest. I’ve been trying to prepare a celebratory post about Tiger Pelt, which is launching today, but I’ve been reeling with sadness and stumbling my way through the week. This past year, a beloved uncle and aunt also died, a close friend moved far away, and we worried about the health of our elderly parents. In a moment of overwhelming anguish I declared to my husband that I didn’t want to know any more people. Knowing people sets you up for sorrow.
Many years ago when I was in graduate school I ended a relationship with the person I thought I was going to marry. I was completely undone. My oldest sister rushed to my side to be with me in my misery. I wailed to her that I wished I had never met the person in the first place. I could have spared myself so much grief! I had invested so much of myself into the relationship, only to be left with a heart that was literally throbbing with pain. My sister told me that despite the hurt, I shouldn’t wish that time away. She said that every experience – good and bad – creates the layers and depths that make you more of a human being. One day, she told me, I would realize that the relationship had been a valuable one, and for all the pain I was feeling, my life would be fuller and richer because of it. I didn’t believe her at the time, but she was right of course.
In Tiger Pelt, the two main characters experience loss after terrible loss. Toward the end of the novel, Young Nam clasps the hand of Hana, whose life has intersected with his own in painful, and even destructive ways and says, “Thank you for bringing me here.” In this line he acknowledges the truth of what my sister once told me long ago. I think this is what I love most about this novel. The protagonists endure unimaginable suffering, but they choose hope, love, and gratitude over despair. You may cry when you read Tiger Pelt, but you may also laugh and be inspired by the strength of the human spirit. Hopefully, the stories of Young Nam and Hana will settle into your hearts forever.
And so I end with this. To Carla and to Peter, who both inspired me with their character, integrity, and spirit: Thank you for bringing me here. You are now a part of my heart and my story. I am better for having known you and I am so grateful.