Grief is a sacred journey

An IPPY Award and a Promise Kept

DSC00106“I probably won’t go to the award ceremony,” I said to my brother Jim when I told him Leaning into Love won the Gold Medal IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) for Aging/Death & Dying. The IPPY is considered one of the highest honors for books published by independent publishers.

I’m not a city person,” I said, “and the book gets the award whether I go or not.”

“Are you kidding?” Jim said. He’s had many honors in his long academic career. “When did you get an award like this? When did anyone put a medal around your neck? You have to go.”

I couldn’t remember receiving an award since high school. He had a point.

Outside the Providence with Amy (photo by Jill Swenson)

Outside the Providence with Amy (photo by Jill Swenson)

I read a few blogs about previous IPPY ceremonies and expected a crowded, fast-paced affair in a well-appointed hall with an open bar. The noise was a challenge, so I turned my hearing aids off and wandered around. The bar was the most crowded place in the room.

I saw joyful faces that couldn’t stop smiling and laughing. I saw beaming, teary smiles from people clutching their books against their chests. I saw how the tired ones looked for a place to sit and the young ones in their impossibly high heels couldn’t sit still.

Amy Opperman Cash of Larson Publications and Jill Swenson of Swenson Book Development met me in the Harvard Club lobby to accompany me to the event. My brother had given me a two-night stay at the Harvard Club. “I don’t get to do nice things for you often enough,” he said when I protested. “It makes me happy.” Jill who’s been with me on this book journey since 2011 came from Wisconsin. Fortunately, Amy and her co-publisher and husband Paul Cash were in the city for the 2015 Book Expo.

Amy, Jill, and Randy before the crowds came

Amy, Jill, and Randy before the crowds came

After the award ceremony began, Amy handed me an IPPY gold medal sticker. “Thank you,” I said silently to the Great Mother Who Gives and Takes. I carefully put the sticker in just the right spot on the book. Then Paul handed me a glass of red wine.

I watched as people received their awards with smiles and tears, applause and cheers. Some chose to be photographed alone. Most chose to be photographed with either the man or the woman presenter.

20150527_192645The screen flashed my book and name. The announcer shook my hand, draped a heavy gold medal around my neck, and showed me to another spot for photos. I stood between the woman and man presenters feeling small, out of my element, and very protected.

I leaned into the love offered by Amy, Jill, and Paul. I gobbled sweet text messages from my sons and friends. I let it in that my book had received an award I hadn’t dared imagine. I celebrated.

DSC00094“Are you sure it isn’t a mistake?” I had asked in April when Amy called to tell me the news.

“It’s not a mistake,” she said with a laugh. “You won a Gold IPPY.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.” Truth is, I’m more comfortable with hard knocks than awards.

I imagined my beaming mom at the ceremony. She thrived on achievement and loved every award I got in high school. I imagined my husband Vic hugging me and smiling with proud soft eyes.

DSC00108As they took the official photo, I flashed a V for Vic. For victory, too.

“I’ll find a way to be all right. I’ll make a good life for myself,” I said to Vic over seven years ago, a few weeks before he died. I leaned over his hospital bed and looked him in the eye to make sure he knew I meant it. I had no idea what my vow would demand.

Promise kept, dear Vic. You know I love to keep my word.

***

Have you received surprising recognition for something you’ve done? Do you expect good things to happen? How do you manage disappointment? Do you feel uncomfortable sharing success? I’d love to hear your stories.

For other posts about what I’ve learned about love, self-acceptance, and friendship from writing Leaning into Love, see A Love Note from Beyond and I Thought I Could.

21 Comments
  1. Hi Elaine,
    Your story brings such a wide smile to my face and a really warm feeling in my heart. What wonderful recognition for you, and what joy for your friends as well! Thank you so much for sharing the journey and all your thoughts along the way. Congratulations to Amy & Paul & all your family.
    Love and Mazel Tov always,
    Myra

    • Thank you, Myra. It’s been seven years tomorrow since Vic died. It bends my sense of time from yesterday to forever. Lots has happened since then.
      I always love hearing from you,
      Elaine

  2. Congratulations Elaine! Your brother, Jim, was wise in convincing you to attend. Aren’t you glad you listened to him? I’m so happy to see your wonderful book receive this well-deserved recognition.

    • It’s always good to listen to our older siblings. They still know best. Thanks for your encouraging words, Jeanne. You make me blush.

  3. Vic knows that you have made a good life for yourself. I applaud your efforts all along the way, including your yielding to the joys of a sudden rise to success.

    • Thank you, Marian. It’s a happy moment and I’m taking it in. As we all know, those sudden rises to success are usually followed by a sudden drop back into obscurity. I figure my job is to keep writing. We have our marching orders.

  4. I’m so happy for you Elaine. Your story and hard work has paid off in great ways. I love the ‘V’ sign, and I see you are wearing the ‘red shoes’. Congrats again. <3

    • Thank you, Debby. I’m enjoying this little spurt of celebration. More important, I feel the stirrings of a next book (too early to know for sure). I hope this will be a summer of quiet and new ideas. Your productivity inspires me. I’m grateful for your support.

  5. This is the most touching post I’ve read all week. Congratulations, Elaine. I know Vic would have been very proud of you.

    • What a lovely thing to say, Ann Marie. Yes, he would have been proud. It’s so odd having this small success constructed on the ruins of Vic’s death, but life is full of interesting twists and turns.

  6. Beautifully experienced, written, and shared, Elaine.

    I just purchased the second copy of your book to be sent to a friend and am borrowing the first copy back. 🙂 I know I’ll love it because I’m a fan of your blog, and I’ve already learned so much from you.

    I’m so glad you ventured out to the big city and took in the award — and the whole experience. That V sign was perfect!

    • Thank you, Shirley. Sweet to know you’re sharing my book with others and I’m glad you’ll read it yourself. I’m sorry you’ve had a big loss in your life recently. Losing one of my dear women friends in the 1990s transformed my life.

      Yes, V for Vic and also the victory of a promise kept. That was a last minute gesture, not a planned one, but I knew right away it was about the promise more than victory of winning an award.

  7. I just love this, Elaine. I’m so glad you went to the ceremony! Such an honor and well-deserved recognition for all of your hard work. I know a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into your wonderful book. You’ll treasure this memory for years and years to come.

    xoxoxo

    • Thank you, Ann. I went because it was too good to miss, but it couldn’t have been a worse environment for hearing aids. But that’s all forgotten in the memory, as you hint. I only remember the gratitude, big smiles, and weight of that medal around my neck.

  8. I see the red shoes and I’m very proud of you!

  9. Congratulations Elaine!! Thanks for sharing your story. I think in general most women could learn from your story and celebrate successes even if it feels awkward…your book is amazing and you deserve it!’n

    • How nice of you, Haydee. I am not practiced at accepting praise and immediately begin my list of reasons why I don’t deserve it. I’m getting a little old for letting that ancient complex (known to so many women) rule my life. It’s delicious to be affirmed for going public with my celebration, so thank you. I wish you well.

  10. It is so good to read about your big moment getting the award. I wish I could have been there to see it in person but I am not a city girl either. Anymore. I’m so glad it worked out wonderfully for you. Cheers!

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