I remember watching the video on Instagram. Daughter Konnie told me about it. “Tommy is very ill,” she said. “They thought it was Covid but it isn’t.”
The boy that I know as Tommy is the man tens of thousands know as Rivs, that guy who runs those marathons. I don’t remember when I first met Tommy. A high school classmate of my youngest, he just always seemed to be around, infusing the house with laughter and energy.
Tommy’s dad and I had formed a friendship when I was a local new reporter. We talked about his work as manager at the Port of Umatilla, about local communities, and the people within it. But our friendship also extended to our respective faith traditions and our love of books and writing. We also had both faced trauma early on with the loss of our fathers.
Years before Tommy fell ill, Kim told me that Tommy’s wife, Steph, wanted to be a writer, wanted to write a book.
I didn’t know Stephanie Catudal, except through the stories of my daughter, Konnie, and the stories Kim shared. Konnie drew inspiration from Stephanie’s athleticism, often telling me what an amazing mom and athlete she is. Kim always spoke of Steph in terms of writing ambitions.
However, it wasn’t until Tommy fell ill with a rare cancer that initially presented itself with symptoms imitating Covid that I began to read Stephanie’s writing myself.
Hundreds of thousands of us who loved and admired Tommy turned to Steph for updates on his health. I don’t have the words to explain the challenges both Tommy and Steph and their daughters faced. It was Steph”s ability to write in such a raw and yet, poetic way that drew me into reading her posts about their journey.
I could call Kim at any time, and did, to discuss what doctors were saying. But it was Steph’s writing that I turned to for insight into the challenges they all faced. My heart hurt so for Steph, for Tommy and for their girls. As did the hearts of tens of thousands of people who’ve been inspired by Tommy and Steph over the years.
I often say that the beauty of writing is that it gives us the ability to bring order to the chaos of life. I certainly saw that in Steph.Writing gave Steph a means to take something so very terribly difficult and terrifying and wrestle it into poetry and prose that has ministered to so many of us sitting on the sidelines of their lives.
As I read, I kept marveling over her stubborn, unrelenting hope in the face of the most dire of situations. This girl needs to write this story in a book, not just online, I told my daughter.
Yes, Konnie agreed.
About the same time that this was going on, a dear friend who I had worked with when writing for Zondervan announced that he was striking out to form his own literary agency, A Drop of Ink. I loved Tom Dean from the first time we met at Zondervan. He was by my side when my book Will Jesus Buy Me a DoubleWide? was released. A writer couldn’t ask for a better promoter of their work.
When he’s not advocating for authors, Tom is a runner. He is always clocking his runs through snow, sleet, and unbearable heat.
Tom would so get Steph’s story, I thought.
But first, I needed to know if Steph was even interested in writing a book. So at my daughter’s prompting, I reached out to Steph. We arranged a phone call and following that I put Tom in touch with Steph.
And lo, and behold, today I received the announcement that Steph’s book is now available for pre-order. Everything All At Once (HarperOne) is available for pre-order at any Indie bookstore or online wherever you buy books. It’s already #1 on Amazon. I’m sure it’s destined for the New York Times Bestseller List.
I tell you all of this because I want you to order this book immediately.
I tell you all of this because this story is going to be one of the most important reads of this year.
I tell you all of this because I want you to know that each of us has the power to help one another.
I tell you all of this because sometimes the most meaningful thing we can do is to introduce our friends one to another.
I tell you all of this because I have the deepest love and respect for Tommy and Steph and their ability to not rise about despair but to walk alongside it and still hold tightly to the hand of hope.
That’s my prayer for all of us – that we always cling to hope.
But trust me on this, Stephanie says it all so much better than me.