My daughter is a reader. Reads everything. Novels, poetry, history, cereal boxes. Doesn’t matter what it is. Most people pack clothes before they go on vacation. She packs books.
I encourage this. In an age when no one really reads anymore, it’s good to have at least someone out there whom I know will read my books, if not now then someday.
She dog-ears pages, just like me. Underlines those passages that particularly grip her and writes notes in the margins, just like me. A book is like a shirt, she says. You gotta break it in.
One thing drives me crazy, though. When it comes to a story, my daughter must always begin with the end. She reads the last page first, reads it carefully, looking as though she’s actually chewing the words for their taste. Names and characters don’t matter here, nor the setting. It’s the tone she’s after. The feeling. She’ll read books that lift her up and books that break her heart (an equal opportunity reader, my little girl), but she has to take a peek at the end first. Good or bad, she has to know what she’s getting into.
I tell her I hate this on principal, both as a novelist and as a human being. I say she’s robbing herself of something wonderful and magical. She’s denying herself a journey of the mind and heart and the chance to grow as a human being.
What’s the fun, knowing the end?
She shakes her head at me, says I don’t understand. She’s right. I don’t.
I was in her bedroom last night tucking her in. (“Tucking her in” = “Would you put that book down and GET SOME SLEEP?!?”) I heard her before I saw her. The bed is in the corner of the room, nestled into two corners, better lighting for her to read. A sniffle. Not the dry sort of allergy sniffle, the boy-howdy-the-pollen-is-awful-this-year sniffle snort. No, this one was wet. Snotty.
She was crying. She’s a cryer, my girl. Any commercial with a sappy score to it will do her in. To this day, I hate Sarah McLachlan just because those SPCA commercials she does sends my daughter over the edge. Sitting up in bed, hunched over a paperback. Eyes wide and glassy, a crumpled tissue in her hand.
“Calvin and Hobbes?” I tried. (Humor, my spiritual gift!)
“Bad one, huh?”
She nodded. “She just died. She DIED. It’s not fair.”
I didn’t know who “she” was. I supposed my daughter wanted me to ask. I didn’t. Don’t judge me.
“Maybe you should try to read some lighter fare,” I said. “You know, least at bedtime.”
“No, I like this one. This one’s good. And I know it’ll be okay.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I peeked at the end.”
I let her read a while longer that night. No sense in having to call it a day at a sad part.
But there are a lot of those, aren’t there? Sad parts, I mean. Vast sections of our lives that look and smell and seem purely tragic. Hard times that feel like we’re under God’s boot heel. Times of grief and anguish, when everything around you is shouting to just give up, it doesn’t matter anymore.
Don’t. That’s what I’m here to tell you. Don’t give up, because it does matter and I know it does, because I’ve peeked at the end.
I’ve peeked and seen a new heaven and a new earth, where death is no more and eternity has taken its place.
I’ve peeked and seen a final wiping away of our tears by a hand too large for this universe that brushes our cheek like a feather.
I’ve peeked and seen the end of every struggle.
You, me, we know how it all ends. And maybe that more than anything else is what gets us through the sad parts.