Message From The Author
Geralyn Dawson Makes Wishes Come True
With a New Book and the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation
I suspect readers familiar with my work will see THE PINK MAGNOLIA CLUB and think, here's another historical author who's abandoned us for contemporary women's fiction. My message is this: I had a really good reason!
Two years ago, I attended a wedding gown sale hosted by a
non-profit organization called the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation. I met its founder, Fran Hansen, and the stories she told me touched my heart and changed my life both personally and professionally.
The Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation's mission is
to provide metastatic breast cancer patients with a respite from
the emotional trauma of a terminal diagnosis by making possible
a joyful, memorable event with their families. By granting wishes, Making Memories helps families take a break from everyday trials and enjoy a special moment with their loved ones.
What caught my attention and imagination was how the foundation funds the wishes they grant. Making Memories collects donated wedding dresses, then sells them at gown sales across the country. Proceeds fund the cancer patients' wishes.
Imagine a hotel ballroom filled with thousands of wedding gowns in all sizes and styles, everything from a hand-sewn gown made in 1876 to never-worn designer gowns donated via "The Oprah Winfrey Show." I met Fran Hansen, Making Memories' founder, who spoke of the letters donors often include with their gowns. Her example made me cry:
A bride was riding in a limo to her wedding when she received a summons to the hospital. Her groom had suffered a massive heart attack and died. She spent the hour she was to have wed holding her groom's hand, he "dressed so handsomely in his tuxedo and me, dressed in my wedding gown."
With that, I had my first glimpse of the very human stories that are part of the Making Memories tale, and I knew I had to write this book. The foundation's Wish Director, Anna Nelson, told me about 14-year-old Lydia Bailey, who requested a wish for her dying mother. Making Memories arranged a trip for the entire Bailey family to tour lighthouses along the Oregon coast. This past April, I received an e-mail from a Bailey family member informing me that Lydia's mother had lost her fight, but that her Making Memories lighthouse trip had been a memory she treasured to the endand one her children will have for the rest of their lives.
Reading the thousands of letters that arrived with donated gowns, I learned that donating a wedding gown makes a memory, too. I laughed, I cried, sometimes both at the same time. I read letters of hope and courage, of healing and humor and faith and despair. I read letters from widowers, children, mothers, daughters, from brides whose marriages ended shortly after they began, and from brides who had celebrated their golden wedding anniversaries.
I discovered that giving up a symbolic treasure sometimes offers a healing opportunity for those whose wedding day dreams have dimmed. One woman wrote of her divorce and how now, she will "take this dress to the post office and let all the pain go, and smile while I visualize someone else starting a new life like I will when I let this dress go."
My novel took shape. I knew it must be a story about three women: the woman who donates her gown, the woman who buys it, and the woman whose wish will be partially funded by its sale. I wanted to write about a friendship that is formed when these women meet and how it transforms their lives. I wanted to write about three generations of womenone at the beginning of her adult life, another entering that emotionally daunting stage of life, middle age, and the woman who is facing the end of life with both grace and courage. And because I am a romantic at heart, I wanted to include the men in my ladies' lives, to be true to my romance roots and to give the book a HAPPY ENDING.
(By the way, my entire family now volunteers for Making Memories and we've made some lovely memories together. My daughter call us THE PINK MAGNOLIA CLUB. My sons prefer something less pink.) G
For more information, visit www.geralyndawson.com. Also don't forget to enter Geralyn's fabulous contest for a wedding gown quilt.
Inside THE PINK MAGNOLIA CLUB
Holly did hope to find a fishing lure or two to include with her father's birthday gift. Jim Weeks was a historian by profession and
a fisherman by avocation, so his interest in collecting antique bait suited him well. It also gave his daughter handy gift possibilities,
so when Justin saw an ad in the paper and suggested they attend
the show as part of their Saturday afternoon date, she had jumped at the chance.
Holly was so busy fantasizing that at first she didn't realize
they'd gone beyond the Bonham ballroom. It wasn't until they'd turned the corner into the hallway that led to the larger, Austin ballroom that her brain caught up with her feet. "Justin, you passed the show."
Justin sucked in a deep breath, then exhaled in a rush.
He closed his eyes, visibly braced himself, then lifted his chin and met her gaze head on. His nervous look had disappeared,
calm determination taking its place. "This didn't go quite like I had planned, but " He reached into his back pants pocket and withdrew a folded, tri-fold brochure. Handing it to her, he said,
"I thought we could shop for something other than fishing tackle here today."
"O-kay," she replied in a slow, tentative drawl. Paper crackled and Holly's hands trembled as she unfolded the brochure and
read: Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation. Making A Difference For Today. Leaving Memories For Tomorrow.
The old, familiar pain struck from out of nowhere and pierced
to the marrow, murdering her seductive mood. Angry and hurting,
she shook her head and shoved the pamphlet back at Justin.
"I don't want this."
Calmly, he turned the brochure over. His voice was soft and
gentle as he said, "I thought it would be a nice way to honor
Sounding pleased with himself, he added, "Your dad told me
the two of you were very close."
Holly's throat constricted and she blinked repeatedly in order
to read through the sudden tears that swelled in her eyes. Oh, God. What had he done?
Almost against her will, her gaze trailed over the words printed on the leaflet.
Dressed in bridal finery, a woman walks down the aisle to begin a new life. Now, thanks to the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation, a bride has the opportunity to help those men and women walking a far different paththat toward the end of life. By donating her wedding gown for resale by the foundation or by purchasing her gown at one of Making Memories wedding gown sales, she has the opportunity to help grant a wishpossibly a last wishand help make a memory for the family of a person with metastatic breast cancer.
Emotion clutched at Holly's heart, sank razor sharp talons into tender muscle. The brochure slipped from her fingers and floated to the floor as Justin tugged her slowly, inexorably toward the Austin ballroom.
Upon reaching the doorway, Holly came to a dead stop. "Oh, my God."
It was a scene right out of a fairy tale. The glittering ballroom held rack after rack after rack of wedding gowns. Thousands of dresses. So much white, in fact, that Holly felt snow-blinded. Snow-blinded and dizzy and oh, so afraid.
Time seemed to halt. Holly couldn't breathe. Memories from
the past swirled with dreams of a future destined never to be and
it hurt. It hurt so desperately.
Then to make matters even worse, in front of God and meandering bait collectors and a ballroom full of brides, Justin Skipworth, MD and man of her dreams, dropped to one knee and offered up
a black velvet ring box. "Holly Weeks, will you marry me?"
She heard gasps of delight from the crowd amidst a rushing, roaring noise in her ears. Pain. Fear. Confusion. Spinning wildly within her, a cyclone of emotion with yearning at its core. Yearning, strong and fierce and foolish.
There was only one thing for her to do.
Holly dashed toward the ladies' room to throw up.
If you'd like to make a wish come true, contact Making Memories at 303-307-5600 or visit www.makingmemories.org
For dress donations, send to:
Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation
12708 SE Stephens St.
Portland, OR 97233
For wish inquiries, contact:
Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation
Anna Nelson, Wish Director
232 S. Cole St.
Molalla, OR 97038
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