By Art and Allison Daily
We first talked of writing our story because we wanted to preserve the truth of things for our sons, Rider and Burke. We wanted them to know the real story: of the loss of Kathy and Tanner and Shea; of their dad’s terrible grief; of the anonymous letter that brought us together; of the weird and wonderful relationship that has followed; of their own beginnings; and of the amazing life journey that we are taking together. As our ideas about a book began to develop we realized that we wanted to reach beyond our family and to try to touch others who have experienced personal losses. We could share our own pain and healing in the hope of bringing some understanding and comfort to others who find themselves on the same lonely road. And we could honor and remember Kathy, Shea, and Tanner in the process.
Talking about writing and actually doing the writing are two totally different animals. Art had a busy law practice, two growing boys, a wife he wanted to spend time with, and an admitted reluctance to feeling his way back into an agonizing time to tell the story. The catalyst we needed appeared suddenly and unexpectedly. Allison began waking up in the middle of the night with the sense that she was supposed to write something down. She would go to the computer in another room and type it out, pecking away with her index fingers at amazing speed. Often it was a recounting of something from Art’s life with Kathy, Shea, and Tanner, as scenes and events were shown to her. She would e-mail her writing to his office at 3:00 a.m. or whenever she was finished, and Art would read it the next morning. The accuracy of these narratives was often startling because she hadn’t been there when they took place. As you’ll find in the book, when Allison comes into your life angels in one form or another start showing up all over the place, so these midnight visitations and the writings they produced weren’t all that surprising. Clearly, though, our angels wanted this book written. There really isn’t any other explanation.
And then Pam Houston stopped in Aspen on one of her travels to meet Allison, who had been e-mailing her out of the blue. We ended up having one of the more memorable dinners of our lives. Pam listened to the story and told Art to write it down, that it needed to be told, that it would make a difference. Art asked her where he should start it, and she told him, “at the beginning.” The following Saturday morning he went down to his office for what would be the first of countless weekend mornings in front of the screen, and he wrote the early pages of the book under the simple heading, “The Story.” Art began to appreciate the process of experiencing again the events of that time-sometimes dissolving in tears, sometimes glowing with joy.
We decided to try to weave our writings into a single story but to tell it in our own separate voices. We found that when you think, feel and write very differently, choosing which pieces to include and which to put aside, what order they should appear, and how they should be tied together, is a serious challenge. Yet we rarely argued about these things, even if one or the other of us had to swallow our pride from time to time, and Out of the Canyon gradually emerged from the mist. We had no outline to guide us, but we had a common desire-to make a difference in the lives of others who are grieving, to bring a measure of faith and hope into the darkness that follows great loss. If we touch even a few, it will all have been worthwhile. More than a decade has gone by since Art’s accident, but the human heart has not changed. This feels like the right time to tell our story.
Rider and Burke probably made the greatest sacrifices of all. They spent a lot of mornings with a sleepy mother and a lot of weekend days without their dad. Yet they knew all along what we were doing, and they wouldn’t have let us quit if we’d tried. They’ve been very much in our hearts as we wrote this book. Early on Art read them some of the tougher chapters. Now they have the rest of the story.