When I got the phone call last week about Beverly's death, I was stunned. I wandered around numb all day, unable to focus on anything. Heck, I'm still wandering around in a daze. That's a typical reaction to grief, and I'm no stranger to the grief process. I've gone through it with my divorce. But I had to lock down so many of my emotions for a number of reasons during the divorce. I'd bottled everything inside to the point of physical illness. I was beginning to wonder if I was even capable of crying anymore.
I learned the answer to that very quickly. I've cried more over the last week than I have in the last two years. Maven LJ made reference to age and giving birth to the Playfriends. Well, folks, I COULD have given birth to all four of the others (though PC reminds me she'd have been the illegitimate child since she was born a little over 5 months before I got married). Beverly and I weren't that far apart in age, and her death has made me ponder my own mortality.
As I stood at her memorial service and watched her family, I saw how much not only her children adored her, but her children-in-law. Like Beverly, I have a daughter-in-law, and Beverly was a wonderful example of how a mother should treat her son's wife. Her daughter-in-law's name was always preceeded with the words "sweet" or "precious." And I saw first-hand just how true those words were when I met Beverly's daughter-in-law. The love went both ways.
I was quite familiar with the name Beverly Barton before I ever joined Heart of Dixie. I was working as the review coordinator for Writers Unlimited and had reviewed an anthology containing a novella by Beverly. It was a spin-off from another of her books and I tracked down that book to see what had led up to the events in the novella.
Then I found her Silhouette Desires and Intimate Moments and began reading any of her category backlist I could find. Somewhere along the way, I rekindled a love of writing, found out about RWA and Heart of Dixie and joined both. I was warmly welcomed by Beverly and the following year became one of "The Children." Heck, a couple years ago she even dedicated a book to me and the FBI agent I put her in contact with. What an honor. Somewhere along the way, I discovered another side to Beverly -- the side that wrote damn scary books with serial killers and psychopaths.
My favorite Beverly moment was in October of 2006. My sister had driven here from her home on the coast of Georgia and we were going to travel the Natchez Trace from just west of Tuscumbia, Alabama all the way to Natchez, Mississppi. I suggested we stop in Tuscumbia to visit Ivy Green, the home of Helen Keller. Tuscumbia was also home to Beverly. And since we were going to be finished at Ivy Green around lunchtime, I called Beverly early that morning and asked if my sister and I could treat her to lunch.
She graciously agreed to meet us in downtown Tuscumbia at The Palace, a renovated and refurbished drugstore and soda fountain, where we ate and talked and laughed and were made to feel special as only Beverly could do. She also brought us both a copy of an anthology, which contained a novella by her. It was titled "Sugar and Spice." She apologized for having to cut lunch short, saying she had to get back to the computer and her work in progress.
When I emailed my sister last week to tell her of Beverly's passing, she replied with this: "I’m glad I was able to meet her and share her joy for living. I’ll always remember her signing off for lunch with an 'I’ve got to go cut somebody’s head off now' statement."
Yep, that was Beverly -- the genteel southern lady who loved her family and friends dearly and who could cut someone's head off on the page and leave you quaking with fear as you read about it. It never ceased to amaze me how that sweet, grandmother could write such deep, dark, gritty books. But she did. And she did it well -- well enough to hit the New York Times list. Her most recent romantic suspense, Dead by Morning, hit the shelves yesterday, and I was at the bookstore early to buy my copy. I may never read it because the trailer on her website was scary enough. But by damn, I'll do my part to help that book hit the Times list.
I sat on my patio sipping a glass of iced tea Sunday evening as the sun went down and the stars appeared. I know Beverly is up there at the Pearly Gates making sure everyone gets a warm southern welcome and wipes their feet before they step inside. Then she'll remind them to write thank-you notes to God and St. Peter for inviting them in. She was a friend, mentor and example of the Golden Rule -- do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
I'm reminded of a quote from Christopher Robin to Pooh.
Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
Beverly reminded me of that often with hugs or smiles or handwritten notes. And I promise I will always remember.
P.S. Instigator is guest blogging at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales today. Pop over and tell her hi.