So many things that happened during the course of writing this book and right afterwards seem like more than mere coincidences. I finished writing the 32nd and final chapter of Finding Grace on December 1, 2011, after laboring on it for four and a half years. The very next day, December 2, I was able to accompany my husband on one of his trips to Europe, for the first time in the 15 years he'd been flying internationally for his airline. And where do you think this trip was headed? To Nice, on the breathtaking French Riviera. So on our second day of sightseeing, we took a train ride over to nearby Monaco to visit the old stomping grounds of who else but Grace Kelly, the Hollywood actress cum princess--and my main character's namesake!
Finding Grace also has a section that deals with the Holocaust. In January of 2012, I was able to travel with my husband to Europe on a second trip, this time to Amsterdam...and while we were there, we took a tour of the Anne Frank House, which was a truly affecting experience. I couldn't believe that the first two times I ever rode in the back of a plane that my husband was piloting overseas, these destinations with so much meaning for me, because of how they tied in with the book I'd just finished, were the ones I was lucky enough to visit.
Those two experiences got to me, but not nearly as much as something that took place in late July, just about the time the book was ready to go to print, at my family's 2nd Annual Camping Palooza. During the weekend reunion with my mother's family, there were some special items set out on a table--some of my late maternal grandmother's paintings, some jewelry and other valuables, old letters and photos--that my mother and her only other living sibling wanted to pass on to the next generation in our family. So my siblings and cousins and I were encouraged to look over all the stuff and see if there was anything we wanted to take. My eyes fell on a dingy-looking little off-white hinged jewelry box, and I absentmindedly opened it up. I couldn't believe what I found inside. Sitting there on faded turquoise velvet were two very small, round, ornately-decorated glass-topped cases (tarnished and obviously quite old) with tiny relics inside them. Inside one of the cases, a small strip of paper had this typed on it: "S. Teres. a Ies." "That must be a relic of Saint Therese of Lisieux!!", I thought. The other had a strip of paper that read, "Ste C. Laboure"--and not only that, it came with an official Church document (dated 1955, with a signature and a raised seal) identifying the tiny bone fragments in the case as "sacris Reliquiis Sanctae Catharinae Laboure" (in Latin: sacred relics of Saint Catherine Laboure) and further describing them as "ex ossibus" (from the bones).
|The holy saints' relics, sitting atop a pre-publication galley of my manuscript.|
|A close-up of the relics.|
I definitely need their assistance these days as I struggle with feelings of both elation and terror, now that a lifelong dream of mine has actually been realized and my book is out there, open to scrutiny and criticism. I find myself sending up this silent entreaty: "Saint Therese of Lisieux and Saint Catherine Laboure, PRAY FOR ME!"