Authors: Richard Paul Evans
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s I wind up this journey, my own as well as Alan’s, I wish to thank all those who helped me cross this country, especially my very talented daughter Jenna for her companionship, navigation (both literal and literary), research, and overall brilliance in helping me craft Alan’s journey.
Thank you to my agent, Laurie, for her immediate enthusiasm for this series.
I wish to thank those at Simon & Schuster who have done so much to push Alan along: Jonathan Karp, Carolyn Reidy, Trish Todd (and Molly), Gypsy da Silva, Richard Rhorer for suggesting the title of this book, and the Simon & Schuster promotional and sales teams. Thank you to David Rosenthal, who was there at the beginning of the journey and believed that this series was precisely what America needed at this time.
I wish to thank Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe for helping
to spread the word about this series, as well as Hoda and Kathie Lee.
Blessings to my staff: Lisa Johnson (the angel midwife), Diane Glad (thank you especially for all your help in Florida), Heather McVey, Barry Evans, Doug Osmond, and Cammy Shosted. Thank you to my dear friend Karen Roylance for helping me brainstorm and believe in the mission of this series.
A special thanks to my neighbor, Joel Richards, for sharing his stories from Vietnam. (You’ve become an action figure to me.) Thank you to Karrie Richards, Madison Storrs, Natalie Hanley, Ally
, Kelly Glad (again!), and Alexis Snyder for their assistance with medical research, as well as Ronda Jones for advising us on Danish names, Earl Stine for sharing with us his experiences of biking the Keys, and Ted and Alease at the Inn at Folkston for their warm welcome.
To Karen Christoffersen, the widow of the real Alan Christoffersen, I hope this series has helped heal your heart and kept your love close to you.
Thank you to my family, Keri, David, Jenna and Sam, Allyson, Abigail and Chase, McKenna, and Michael. And Philly. You are my hope, comfort, and reason.
Most of all, thank you to my beautiful readers around the world, who have made this walk possible—especially all those who have gone outside themselves to tell their friends, families, and colleagues about the series. (Please don’t stop!) Without your sharing, we never would have reached so many people.
In memory of my parents, who taught me to walk
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive at where we started
And know the place for the first time.
—T. S. Eliot
When I was eight years old, three days after my mother’s funeral, my father found me curled up on the floor of my bedroom closet.
“What are you doing in there?” he asked.
I sat up, wiping the tears from my face. “Nothing.”
“Are you okay?”
My father, who was never comfortable with outward displays of emotion, had no idea what to do with a crying boy. “All right, then,” he finally said, rubbing his chin. “Let me know if you need something.”
“Why did she have to die?”
My father looked at me pensively, then took a deep breath. “I don’t know. We all die sometime. It’s just the way it is.”
“Is she in heaven?”
I could see him struggling between telling me what I wanted to hear and telling me what he believed. Even at my age I knew that he didn’t believe in God. Finally he said, “If there’s a heaven, you can be sure she’s there.”
“What if there’s not a heaven?”
He was quiet for a moment, then he tapped his index finger against his right temple. “Then she’s here. In our minds.”
“I don’t want her there,” I said. “I want to forget her. Then it won’t hurt so much.”
He shook his head. “That would be worse than hurting.” He crouched down next to me. “It’s our memories that make us who we are. Without them, we’re nothing. If that means we have to hurt sometimes, it’s worth it.”
“I don’t think it’s worth it.”
“Would you wish that she had never been your mother?”
“No,” I said angrily.
“To forget her would be exactly that, wouldn’t it?”
I thought about it a moment, then said, “Will I ever see her again?”
“We can hope.”
As hard as I tried not to, I broke down crying again. “I miss her so much.”
My father put his hand on my shoulder. Then, in one of the few times in my life that I can recall, he pulled me into him and held me. “Me too, Son. Me too.”
Imagine that you are sitting on an airplane, holding a pen a few inches above a blank journal page. Now imagine that whatever you write will be read by hundreds or thousands of people. Just imagine. What will you write? Will you share some hidden piece of yourself with those unseen souls? Will you impart some wisdom to help them on their journeys? Are you arrogant enough to believe that anything you write could possibly matter? I suppose that’s where I am right now.
My name is Alan Christoffersen, and this is the last
journal of my walk across America. For those who have been following my journey from the beginning, you know where I am, what I’ve seen, and who I’ve met. You know about my broken heart, the love I’ve lost, and the one I hope to find. For those who have been walking with me, we’ve been through a lot together. And we’re not through. Not by a long stretch.