There’s a hole in my heart today. That’s not a medical diagnosis–there is an empty spot inside me because on Monday, September 13, my friend David Thompson, as Kinky Friedman would put it, “stepped on a rainbow.” How did I meet David? I walked into a bookstore called Murder by the Book in Houston, somewhere around fifteen years ago, and there he was to greet me. I love mysteries, read them, review them, attempt to write them, so I have spent a lot of time in that store, and through the years David became much more than a book seller to me, and to many other people all over the city, the country, and the world. He loved books, and it didn’t take him much time at all to know what each customer wanted, could make spot-on recommendations on what other books they might like – he never missed with any of the books he recommended to me. If he read a book by an unknown writer and liked it, he would often call and ask the writer to come to the store and do a signing-even if said writer lived in Brazil or Thailand.
MBTB has been my home away from home, my main source of a social life, the place where everybody knows my name … Carolyn Hart, one of the big names in mystery, had her first signing at the store, and one of her series features a book store based on MBTB. Lee Child, writer of the wonderful Jack Reacher thrillers, is long past the stage where he needs to do any touring to promote his books, but he makes a point of coming to the store with each new book. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of stories like that. The whole staff is wonderful, but David is the one who livened up the room and warmed the heart of everyone who ever met him.
A few years back, a lovely redhead named McKenna Jordan joined the staff. It took me awhile to figure out their relationship – David could get irritated and frustrated, and he often took it out on McKenna. She dished it right back. I figured they either hated each other or were in love. They were married in a Scottish castle two years ago.
My aunt told me what happened when my mother became a widow at age twenty-two. Her first husband died in WWII, leaving her with a little girl not quite two years old. When Mother got the dreaded yellow telegram, she walked home from the post office, handed it to her sister, and shut herself in her room. For two weeks she sat in a chair, not eating, not sleeping, not speaking. I know she is grieving for my father, who died last Christmas, but he was 89 and they’d spent 65 years together.
I’m editing this bit to explain why I mentioned my mother’s widowhood. The morning of my father’s funeral, her granddaughter asked her which was more difficult, to lose a husband so young, after just a few years of marriage, or to lose one after so many years together. Mother didn’t really have an answer – she said she’s always wondered what life would have been had her first husband lived to a ripe old age, but she knew she would miss Dad after so many years of marriage. I know what she felt in her heart, though. She did, and does, grieve for my father, but it is not the soul-shattering pain she felt so many years ago when that yellow telegram came.
McKenna and David should have had another 50 years to carry out all their plans and dreams. Life is not fair. We are not promised that it will be, but things like this are so very wrong and sad, and my heart breaks for all of David’s family, but most of all for McKenna.
I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll turn to my stash of quotes and poetry to end this post.
Lawrence Binyon wrote a poem called The Fallen for the British soldiers who gave their all in the Great War. I have adapted it slightly:
He shall not grow old
As those who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary him,
Nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember him
David Harkins wrote these words:
“You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he has lived…”
Dear David, I am both smiling and shedding tears. I hope there is a big bookstore in Heaven, where you can guide the other angels to books they will like, and maybe even send spiritual encouragement to writers on earth who might need a little help in writing their books. Here’s a hint – me You can have long discussions with all the writers you’ve admired, those already there and those to come, and you will make Heaven a much brighter place to be. I will miss you always, and whenever I look at my Tigger doll, I will think of you. All of us will do our best to support and comfort your beloved McKenna and your other loved ones, and we will shamelessly spoil Jack, who must be wondering where you are. Goodbye, my friend, you will be greatly missed. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.