Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Dedication

So I'm working now on the rewrite of the book I wrote at age 12-13. And as I'm writing, I pause (as I do at some point in every book) and wonder to whom I'll dedicate it. But with this one, it wasn't much of a question.
Photo by Bangin

When I was 13, still working on that first draft, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. This was the first time cancer really invaded my life, and I remember pretty well the feelings that swamped me. There was denial that it could really happen, that it would be more than just something he beats. There was the startling realization that though I loved this man, my Pappap, intensely, I didn't often show it--for some reason, I was bashful about giving him hugs. Maybe because it was my sister who was Pappap's girl. There was the painful reality that while my parents and sister cried, I couldn't.

I could only go back to my room, close my door, and pull out a notebook. Words were my tears.

Though we had the diagnosis--though we knew it was in the bone already and inoperable--Pappap wasn't sick yet. It was easy for me to tuck it away that 8th grade year. Still. When I finished my book in the spring, I thought, I want to dedicate this. And so I wrote on the first page:

To Pappap

His name was Charles William Mulligan, though he went by Bud. And my pappap was probably one of the funniest people I've ever known. He always had a joke. He always played a joke. He would tell us, when we were little, that we had better trim out toenails, so the toenail fairy would come...and then go plant quarters in our pillows while we laughed. A down-payment, he said. He would tell some jokes so many times that they became part of our family, and we still occasionally break out in old punchlines.

And he loved stuff. He yard saled, he upgraded, he personalized. And on every single thing he kept, he would put his initials. His truck had CWM on it. So did his toaster. And the beer stein he never once used. And his other toaster. And his VCR. And his other other toaster. Another family joke, that. And so I knew, when I decided to dedicate the book to Pappap, that it would have to bear his initials too.

I'm not sure I understood, then, what it really  meant to put his name on my book. It was a nice thing to do. And when I considered this step--dedicating my first-ever novel--I just knew it was the right thing.

Then 9th grade came, and Pappap got sick. We got to know the hospital very well. We watched this strong man fail. Tears finally blurred my eyes when I saw him fumble to get a mouthpiece for a breathing treatment into his mouth--and when he couldn't remember anyone's phone number but ours and called my mom in a panic one day when he couldn't find my nanny (who was hanging laundry outside).

I learned, that year, what heartbreak is. I learned what it means to lose someone who was so integral to your life you thought you couldn't. I learned how to trust in God for a miracle...and then to trust Him even when you don't get the one you ask for. That's the year I started reading my Bible on my own, every day, instead of just when I had to in church.

That's the year I learned how to laugh to keep from falling apart, to find joy in the smallest thing--because that's what Pappap wanted. And it's the year I learned to hug all I can, while I can. Because no one lives forever.

I'd rewritten my book the summer before he died. This summer, with that loss still fresh, I tore up that first-first page. And I typed out a new one.

In loving memory of Pappap

Looking back now, I see how his life, his death shaped me. I see where it forced me deeper--into faith, into my heart, into my family. I see that, if he hadn't taught me how to laugh at everything, I could so easily have been too serious. I see that, if I hadn't known the pain of losing him...

I don't even know. I don't know who I'd be without all the reflection that forced upon me. I don't know what I'd feel. I don't know how I'd relate to this world where death plays such a part.

So as I made a new first page on this new version of this old, old book, no. It wasn't a question of to whom I would dedicate it. It was just a question of the right words to use. Because the book wouldn't be worth redoing without what I learned from him. I wouldn't be capable of rewriting it without the lessons his life and death taught me.

The ache of missing him has faded, but the memories haven't. I still talk to my kids about my pappap (that's what they now call my dad), and earn their giggles with the tales. I still occasionally look at his picture on the family shelves and hear his laughter. And I know that of all my dedications in all my books, this one is perhaps the truest.

It's a week to think about life and death, of sin and consequences, of victory over the grave. And it's a book that made me do the same, thanks to him. This is what my first page now reads (though it may yet get a tweaking, who knows.)

“To Pappap” was my dedication when I
first penned this novel at age 13.
After I had rewritten it at 14,
it said, “In loving memory of Pappap.”
Your life taught me to laugh in every possible moment,
your death taught me trust Him with all my might.
You helped make me who I am,
and I’ll always love you.


  1. Roseanna, this made me cry at your memories. He would be very proud of you, I feel sure. I'm happy for the things he taught you. And so happy that you learned to hug. I love hugs and can't get too many. I am at an age when I think about what kind of things my children will have to say about me. I hope one thing will be that they never doubted my love for them. Also that I taught them how important family is. And that I taught them to love Jesus and know how much He loved them. Can't imagine you writing so young and so glad you are finishing it and publishing it at last. God bless you and have a Happy Easter as we remember what it is celebrating. Maxie