|Toni Cauble, author of Alabama Baby|
This fifth conference of my online writers critique group is meeting in the same place as it's been every time we've met, on the banks of the Potomac River in a state park in Sterling, VA. This time, however, the conference is a bit more special as it has been dedicated to one of our members who died last August.
Toni Cauble lived in LaGrange, GA. She died there of pancreatic cancer after a valiant fight. Never have I seen anyone who faced death with such courage with a dose of humor tossed in. She saw specialists in several cities, had faith healing women visit in her home and even traveled to San Francisco to attend a special faith healing session where she believed she touched the hem of Jesus' robe. She became weaker and weaker, but she had a goal to reach and she dipped into hidden reserves of strength that maybe even she wasn't aware she had.
Her goal was to finish a novel called Alabama Baby. She continued to write and edit chapters, submitted them to our group one by one. She didn't only submit her work, she also critiqued dozens and dozens of submissions of the other members. Perhaps it gave her a reason to get up each morning. Maybe it helped her rise above the pain and sickness she dealt with on a daily basis.
Sadly, she died before the final chapters were written. What do you do with an almost finished book? Toni's husband emailed back and forth with Joyce, the moderator of our critique group. And suddenly, four people took on the job of finishing the novel for Toni. One lived in Ireland, another in South Africa, one in San Francisco. The fourth worked on what the three had written and helped put it in final form. Then, Toni's husband took over. He worked to see that the book was published. Toni's dream came true months after her death.
This year, our conference is dedicated to Toni Cauble. Her thoughtful husband sent a big box of the finished hardback copies of Alabama Baby. There is one for each writer who is attending the conference as a gift. After our dinner last evening, one member who knew Toni personally, spoke about the time Toni spent as a member of our group, the book she wrote, her goals and dreams and also had some kind words for Toni's husband, Zim. And yes, it felt like her spirit was with us. Others added some of their own thoughts and stories about Toni.
I have my copy to take home where I will read it and think of the woman who wrote it. And the four who finished it for her, keeping it as much like Toni's writing style as possible. Whenever I think of strong women, Toni will be high on the list.