The dedication page…
When it came to my latest novel, Hollywood Lost, there was absolutely no problem identifying the person I wanted to cite in the dedication. So while “the who” was easy, the real issue was how to adequately paint a word picture of this remarkable young woman in just a sentence or two.
When I met her, Shelby was a freshman at Ouachita Baptist University. Barely five feet tall, this cute brunette was a force of nature. She walked in the door with an “awe shucks” attitude, and even though she did nothing to demand attention, you still couldn’t take your gaze off of her. In other words…she owned every room she entered.
I once described Shelby as squirrel because she would dart from place to place, idea to idea and project to project faster than anyone I’d ever seen. Yet she finished everything she started. She was a talented artist, writer, and dancer. She was imaginative, funny and compassionate. I have only known a handful of people with her drive, enthusiasm and character.
Shelby was also the most giving person on the campus. She was constantly looking for ways to praise others. She lifted up the downtrodden and thanked everyone she observed doing any act of kindness or goodwill. She made people laugh, think and even sing. She was the caretaker of the misfits and yet the most popular kid too. She was known to say, “Smile away your troubles and they’ll burst like a bubble.” And she smiled away a lot of folks’ troubles, and if that didn’t work, she offered to carry their burdens.
Some folks are candles, some are flashlights, a few are spotlights and then there was Shelby…she was a beacon. By simply being herself she changed hearts, attitudes and lives. And then one night, when she was just twenty-one, she went to sleep and never woke up. And suddenly the world was a much darker place. For a moment it was as if the air had come out of life’s balloon.
I cannot begin to describe the sadness I felt as I contemplated this young woman’s death. A death that even an autopsy could not explain. It overwhelmed me and left me numb. Then I considered the profound affect she had during her life. I thought about all the people she’d had touched, inspired and motivated. As I looked around campus, as I observed those who had known this young woman, I saw Shelby everywhere. Because she lived every moment of everyday with the expressed goal of making a positive impact on others, she was not really gone. There were countless people of all ages carrying around Shelby’s remarkable spirit in their actions and attitudes. That’s how deeply she impacted everyone she met.
So how do you sum up a life like that in a simple book dedication? Perhaps, of the millions of words I’ve written, this was my biggest challenge. In truth, though I spent hours writing and rewriting that dedication, I never did do her justice. In the end I just wrote a brief portion of what she had stamped on my heart during her all too short life.
To Shelby Rebekah Seabaugh, whose spirit lit up every room she entered and who positively changed every life she touched. No one defined joy as completely as she did.
Writing a book is not that hard, but composing a dedication is impossible when it’s focused on a person who blessed me and countless others in ways beyond my abilities as an author to describe.