Ashley Wynn was one of the first people to ever write to me about any of my books. The first time was when she was still an English major at the University of Arkansas, Monticello. She enjoyed my books. She enjoyed the way I wrote gully dwarves in The Rose and the Skull.
Ashley wanted to be a writer, too. We talked about writing, about the processes, the frustrations, the joys. She loved to read, and once she sent me some books she thought I would enjoy. I did enjoy them. She had excellent taste in fiction, and I don't say that just because she liked my books.
One day, she surprised me with the news that she had become a mom. So we began talking about parenting and kids and the joys and terrors that come with them.
When I started this blog, Ashley became, really, my only semi-regular commentor.
A few months ago, Ashley told me she was going to be a mom again.
Today, I got an email from her significant other, Jeremy, telling me that on April 10th, Ashley gave birth to a little girl. But Ashley herself is no longer with us.
Ashley was so young, so alive. She loved her son. She loved Jeremy. She loved a rousing good story. And now she's gone. Just that quick.
I never got to meet Ashley. I wish now I had made the time to do so. She lived in Arkansas and even came to Memphis on occassion. I should have made the time, for her, and for myself.
I am reminded of an apocryphal story about the death of guitarist Duane Allman. He died in a motorcycle crash at the age of 24. Duane was one of the best guitar players around and was well on his way to immortal fame and glory. After his death, the Allman Brothers released an album called Eat a Peach that had a peach truck on the album cover, and thus the legend was born that Duane had been killed when his motorcycle hit a peach truck.
The story isn't true, but the legend of Duane Allman's peach truck led to an observation that is true. This observation, or philosophy of life, was made by another person I've never met but who I consider to be a friend - Bartcop. Bartcop says, you never know when you're going to meet a peach truck with your name on it. So while you're here, eat a peach.
Or to borrow from T. S. Eliot, dare to eat that peach, Mr. Prufrock. Don't measure out your life with teaspoons. Don't be afraid of the mess. Don't be afraid to bite the fuzz. Inside a peach life is sweet and beautiful. Bite! Bite and let the juice run down your chin.
While you still have the chance, hug your friends. While you still have the chance, kiss the ones you love. While you still have the chance, grab your kids and hold them tight and tell them you love them and always will, no matter what.
Don't wait to meet the people you want to meet - find a way. Don't wait to be who you really want to be - find a way. Don't wait to make the world a better place - find a way.
While you still have the chance, eat a peach.
Eat a peach for peace.