Synchronicity---I love the word. It is deliciously mysterious and difficult to define or fully understand. It was coined by Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist. He defined it as the acausal (without cause) connecting principal. Jung said this underlying connectedness manifests itself through meaningful coincidences. For some it can be simply a meaningful event. Others see that event as a sign of God’s presence. Some people, I believe, can develop an awareness of a flow of such events, making them feel in sync with what God has preordained. I have not yet achieved that continuous awareness, but I have experienced some events that seemed synchronistic. One incident in particular seemed a special gift, a privileged encounter with a most unusual angel.
In 2006, I visited my daughter, Patrice, in Midland, Texas, and was on my way back home. The plane taking me to Nashville, Tennessee stopped in Austin to take on passengers. I was engrossed in a book I planned to finish on the trip, but, for some reason, I happened to look up to see the flight attendant leading a man into the cabin. He was an elderly, light-skinned African-American, and, from the way she assisted him, I realized he was blind. He had on a spotless white suit, a flat-brimmed hat, and a starched light blue shirt. Was I imagining things or was he actually radiating some kind of light? No, it isn’t Ray Charles, I told myself, but he looks like he might be famous!
I looked up and locked eyes with the flight attendant and was not at all surprised when she brought him right toward me and asked if he could have the window seat beside me. I rose eagerly to let him get settled.
As I usually do, when someone sits beside me on a plane, I introduced myself. He told me he was Lonnie Graves from Satin, Texas and that he was going to visit his nephew in Nashville. He also volunteered that his nephew would be taking him to bookstores in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama where he would be signing copies of the novel he had written. From that moment on my attention was riveted to Lonnie Graves. Our animated conversation continued all the way to Nashville.
He said he would like to give me a copy of his book, but he had only one with him. The title, “Aunt Millipus and Her Will,” and the picture on the cover showing a wise-looking, middle-aged black woman sparked my interest. I knew I had to somehow get Lonnie’s book and read it.
We talked about his book and our families. I rarely exchanged addresses and phone numbers with a fellow passenger, but we both felt the need to do so. Lonnie told me he had another book to write, and I wondered if he would get the chance because he had confessed to being 89 years old.
The flight ended too quickly. I told the flight attendant I would guide Lonnie to meet his nephew. I reverently held his hand as I walked him toward the escalator that would take us to the baggage claim to retrieve our luggage. Lonnie’s nephew was waiting at the bottom of the escalator beside my brother, who had come to fetch me. Introductions were made, and we all went about the business of getting to our final destinations. However, I felt sure it was not the end of Lonnie Graves and me.
Soon after I got home, I found Lonnie’s book on Amazon.com, and ordered it. The story was about a woman with a triumphant spirit who survived great hardships in post-slavery days. I called Lonnie to give him my words of praise. After that we occasionally called each other to catch up, and I always asked about the other book he intended to write. Finally he told me that he had it all on tape, but the woman who had transcribed the first book for him was no longer available. She had moved east and taken a demanding job.
“I’d like to try to do it,” I burst out without giving a thought to all it would involve. Lonnie was hesitant. He just said he would think about it.
After a month or two he called back. I was involved in another project, one that was time consuming, but, when he asked me if I was still interested in working on the book, I immediately said “Yes.”
He sent me the first three tapes close to Christmas-time in 2006, but I didn’t get much work done until after 2007 began. Listening to the first tape, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Lonnie’s speech was difficult to understand. He spoke what I called “Texas Black.” Many times I backed up a tape, listened over and over, and then called him to get it straight. He wasn’t easy to understand on the phone either, but we always got past the difficulty. By spring I had sent him the first three chapters.
I did not finish typing the book until February of 2008. Lonnie and I had many conversations about points that I thought he should change, so we struggled back and forth before we came to agreements. One thing in the story he was definite about---a mystery that he did not want revealed until the very end. I was not sure we could keep the secret all the way through, but in the end we managed it. The plot was full of surprises. Once I was plunged into grief and another time totally shocked. The work was called fiction, but Lonnie declared that the facts were all true. The events of the main character’s life happened either to Lonnie or to someone he knew.
My brother helped me email the entire text to Lonnie’s publisher in Waco, Texas. I could hardly believe that the whole three hundred pages could get there instantly, but they did. After the book went to the publisher, we both expressed feelings of emptiness at no longer having the task to complete it. There were publishing delays, but “9 Days ’til Sunday” by Lonnie Graves was published in September 2008.
Lonnie was then widely known across Texas because, for many years, he had attended the Baptist Church annual conventions. He did not write the book to make money, but in Texas he had many admirers who wanted to read his book.
In subsequent times, at age 94, Lonnie claimed he was finished with his writing career. He and I agreed that “9 Days ’til Sunday” was no small miracle. Indeed, it was birthed through synchronicity.