When I read of Pat Conroy’s death, I prayed it was not so. In my continued prayers since learning of his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, I imagined Pat fit, healthy, and miraculously healed by the prayers of his well-wishers, readers and fans.
Pat deserved to be well. Pat needed to be at the next book festival, filling literary minds with encouragement, humor, and his painfully honest recollections. The book world could not survive without Pat’s pink-cheeked smirk, wry humor or masterful manipulation of words. Yet, this dark day, we must find a way to do so.
Pat was my author. It’s hard to describe why, or how, he became ‘my’ author. It likely started where every literary love affair begins, in a book. Water is Wide was my first foray into Pat Conroy’s world. It was love at first read. After that, I devoured everything Pat wrote, and attended every reading, festival and signing where I might feast on his opinions, learn a literary trick, hug greatness.
I think a quote from Pat’s My Losing Season- A Memoir describes my feelings best-
“The great teachers fill you up with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life. I wanted to follow Mr. Monte around for the rest of my life, learning everything he wished to share or impart, but I didn’t know how to ask.”
I had the good fortune of breathing the same air as Pat Conroy many times. So many times in fact, that a few friends asked if I was a Conroy stalker. Every greeting from Pat buckled my knees, and quickened my heart in a fan girl manner that made deep questions on writing, survival, and other important life issues, impossible.
Pat was always patient and gracious despite my goofiness. He laughed when author Mary Hood (who’d witnessed my breathless approach) told me to, “breath” from a nearby signing table at the Savannah Book Festival. He teased me as we took a photo together, making up tales of knowing my mother in high school, and having a great time with her (wink, wink). He greeted my daughter and I at the opening of the Mina and Conroy Fitness Center as if we were long lost family, delivering a peck on the cheek that made me swoon.
As a fellow abuse survivor, and writer, Pat represented for me, the hopeful idea that I might someday capture the brutality of my own childhood in a prose that prickled reader’s skin and healed their hearts.
To open a Conroy book is to watch Pat slice a vein, and bleed precisely and eloquently on every page. Pat Conroy was a beacon for the beaten down, a man who reigned over a kingdom of readers with the touch of a healer.
He was my author, and I miss him already.
Blessings for Pat’s loving wife Cassandra, his family & friends,
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Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U