I’ve seen a few couples in my life who are soul mates. Though I love my husband of 32 years with all my heart, we’re not—we’re too different.
My soul mate was my sister, Nancy. I’ve never heard anyone call a sibling that, but that’s what she was. The house we grew up in was a war zone and we forged a bond, protecting each other’s back. She was the little sister I was happy to have tagging along. When we grew up and out of that house, we moved in together. We worked at the same company and went almost everywhere together.
One year, when Detroit in April was dressed in dirty slush, she asked, ‘Why don’t we move to California?’ It didn’t matter that we’d never been there. It didn’t matter that I owned a house, or we had good jobs. The more I thought about it, the better it looked. So I sold the house, we packed all we owned into our two Pintos (the car, not the horse), and moved across country.
We settled and loved every bit of California. She called one day, asking me to go to the doctor with her. She was afraid, and my sister wasn’t afraid of anything. Dread seeped into my heart, because I knew it must be bad. It was. Advanced cancer. In her typical bulldog fashion she fought for a year, but there was no stopping this. When she asked if I thought it was okay for her to let go, I told her yes.
But I wasn’t okay with letting go, and I didn’t know it until she was gone. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever lived though. Those of you who have lost, know. Time doesn’t heal anything.
I vowed that from then on, I’d live enough for both of us. I went back to school and finished my degree at 40. I learned to ride a motorcycle. I now have 100,000 miles on my two bikes. I stopped telling myself I wasn’t good enough and began writing the story that had been in my head forever. My tenth book, The Last True Cowboy, was just released. I love them all, but the one that means the most is the book I wrote to my sister, Days Made of Glass. There is nothing autobiographical about the novel, but the bond between the two sisters is based on the one I shared with Nancy. I had to wait 15 years until I thought I was good enough to write it. I’m so proud of that book, and I’d like to think she would be too.
This year I turned 64—twice as old as my sister was when she died. I knew I had to do something to honor her; to let her know I hadn’t forgotten my vow. So, I went ‘Over the Edge’. For charity, I rappelled off a ten story building.
Hey, I’m a fat old lady, but I’m still in shape and I rappelled, way back in college. So I signed up, and my husband did too. November 30, we drove downtown. I walked up to the building, saw the fire trucks, and thought, WTH am I doing? But I’ve never backed down from anything, so I swallowed my fear and got in the elevator. They put us in harnesses, took photos, and sent us upstairs to train by hooking us up to ropes, and showing how the equipment worked, before stepping onto the ledge.
Now, let me tell you, it’s one thing to plan to do something crazy. But reality slaps you silly when they tell you to climb on a stepladder to the edge of a ten story building. Then instruct you to turn around and hang your heels off the edge and lean back. Yes, I was hooked up, knew what to do, and trusted the equipment. But still, survival instinct is STRONG. I closed my eyes, said, ‘This is for us, Nancy,’ and pushed off..
Turns out, that the edge was the worst part. Once my heart came back from redline, the view was amazing, and I enjoyed seeing the people, like large ants, walking below. I talked to my sister all the way down. It took me longer than my husband, and my knees didn’t want to hold me at the bottom, but I DID IT!
I didn’t know when I made that vow, all those years ago, how it much my life would change.. It’s led me to a full, interesting life that I’m so proud of. I highly urge you to push yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of—you may be surprised how far you go!
Here’s the dedication to her from my book:
My soul mate, Nancy, has been with me, through all of it. I feel her in the wind when I’m on the motorcycle. I’m sure she was laughing, watching me rappelling! This poem perfectly describes how I feel. I’ve used it as a dedication to her in Days Made of Glass:
For Nancy. Wherever you are, save me a seat.
Your absence has gone through me
Like a thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
-M.S. Merwin, ‘Separation’
This cowboy’s got one last chance to prove himself.
Carly Beauchamp has loved cowboy Austin Davis since first grade. Ask anyone in their dusty, backwater New Mexico town of Unforgiven, and they’ll say “Carly and Austin” the way some say “big trucks and country boys.” But after years of waiting for a wedding ring, Carly’s done with being a rodeo widow . . .
Austin never meant to put his career on the circuit before Carly. She’s always been his future, his one and only. But now that she’s moved on, he’s beginning to see where he went wrong, and he’ll do anything to win her back. The only thing is, Carly’s suddenly acting differently, and she’s definitely hiding a secret-one that will test the depth of their love and open up a whole new world of possibilities.