Twenty-one years ago the Box Elder Chapter of the League of Utah Writers compiled a Christmas book. At the time the book was printed noted poet Ellen Paul served as president of the group. Author Bethany Chaffin (Legacy of a Long and Gentle Season, On Extended Wings: The Art of Writing Poetry, Jenny’s Window) served as president elect. Bethany lived and breathed writing, and instilled a love of the craft in countless starry-eyed wannabes—I was one of them.
This morning, as I thumbed through the little volume, I was taken back to a time of excitement and anticipation. Save for a couple of articles in a high school newspaper, my story’s inclusion in the book marked the first time my work had appeared in print—it was dead last, but it was there. Under Bethany’s tutelage, I felt certain my future as a writer was bright. Little did I know my life would take on perilous twists and turns that would push my path to publication years into the future.
Back to the book.
Reading the narratives of Christmases past, most forgotten in the last two decades, I came upon a haunting tale that had nothing to do with Christmas, and everything to do with hope.
The details of this particular story, and the life of the writer, have never really left my mind.
Kathlyn was bright, beautiful—a model. She had every going for her, or so we, those in her writing class, believed. I remembered that when I first read her story, "An Early Winter’s End," I was impressed with her writing prowess, envious of her ability to evoke raw, pure emotion. The compelling piece tells of a woman named Karen who thought she had run out of options. After being pulled from the frigid waters of a lake by a mysterious old man, she discovers divine love and protection are never far away.
Not long after the Christmas book was printed, Kathlyn committed suicide. The circumstances surrounding her death were confusing, even disturbing.
There was little hope to be found.
For months afterward, there were those who wondered about possible foreshadowing in the story—was Kathlyn really talking about herself when she refered to Karen? Was there a message that could have, should have, been unraveled in order to save her?
Today as I read "An Early Winter’s End" I found a shred of hope I missed when reading it twenty years ago:
“Sir, pardon me, but who are you?”
His smile vanished. He looked at her solemnly, his eyes pierced her soul. “Someone you need to know better, Karen. With time and a little help you will.”
I have faith that, like Karen, Kathlyn has ultimately discovered that divine love and protection are indeed never far away.
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