I am not sure why things fade from memory, while others live from moment-to-moment, still alive within your mind. Six years ago I lost a very dear friend. We were so close, it's hard to think we never actually met. Dawn Thompson breezed into my life, the belle of the ball - or so everyone thought. Despite losing her six years ago, she lingers, still very much alive in my thoughts.
People were jealous of her. It seemed she was winning every romance writers contest going. The world was her pearl. In the short time we had been friends, she sold her first book to Dorchester. Again more jealousy. She was smart, witty, compassionate, and a very astute judge of character. I think we all pictured her as being mid-thirties, English, and had the world in the palm of her hand. Dawn worked very hard to project that image, because she feared she'd never sell if people knew she was in her late sixties, confined to a wheelchair due to a tragic car accident. People judge so quickly on first impressions. She recalled an incident where she went to the RWA meeting of her chapter, and one of the bigger name agents came up to her and spoke about her writings, and possible representation. Then he came out with, "Are you going to be in that thing forever?" Dawn laughed about it in the retelling. But she was hurt, you could hear it in her voice. What can you say to an arse like that?
It was only during a silly fracas - Dawn and another striving writer getting into one of those silly internet group fights - that did I learn the real truth. Dawn's life, her talent as a painter, were destroyed by a horrible accident. She barely had use of her thumbs and two fingers, and she spent nearly 13 to 17 hours a day in a wheelchair. Dawn now painted with words. It was her escape from the crippling pain that tormented her every hour. That was the real beginning of our friendship. We were on Messenger constantly; I left it running and kept my phone by me, as Dawn was alone at night. Every night she told me when she was going to bed, wished me a "Goodnight, my dear." Every morning I got a good morning and a laugh. We talked on the phone often, and layer by layer I learned so much about this funny, special lady that life seemed to deal one blow after another.
But I think I learned the most about her through her books. There is so much of Dawn in her novels. I have discussed this with Candy - was she aware of how much of her was the fabric of her tales. We both agree Dawn was totally unaware of these elements. I recall our editor, Hilary Sares saying she cried when she read the scene of the trees that were alive in Lord of the Deep. A tree that ached to be a part of life, but with limbs rooted to the ground. Or the angel in Lord of the Dark -- a poor thing couldn't sleep because his wings wouldn't retract. Again, only to someone who knew Dawn closely would that make sense. Dawn had the hardest time getting into bed every night, hard time sleeping because of the legs that no longer worked, the pain that dogged her every moment.
Never have I known someone so valiant in the face of adversity, never have I heard someone laugh at all that life flung at her.
I miss you, Dawn Thompson, but you “gave” me your sister. Your last words to me was "Do not forget me." How could I ever forget such a bright light in this sad sorry world?