One of my grandmother’s favorite sayings was “Everything happens for a reason.” In an article on the Psychology Today website, this phrase is described as a standard reply to “remarkable synchronicities.”
Although I’ve never totally bought into it, this bit of philosophy has come in handy to explain hard to explain events or “remarkable synchronicities” in my own life.
Like today, for instance. I was running errands in Fredericksburg Virginia, about an hour from my house, when I saw a sign for a small second-hand bookstore. Being a bibliophile, I just had to go in. The only person in the store was a woman behind a desk, who gave me a friendly smile when I walked in.
I wandered around, looking at the shelves of novels, well organized and arranged. I wondered if there were any books on local history—Civil War history, to be exact.
If you’ve seen some of my previous posts, you’re aware that I’ve recently written a book (You Dream Every Night That I am Home, published on Amazon) based on letters written by an ancestor of mine, a young man named John Williamson who was killed in battle during the Civil War. John was from Eckley, a coal town in northeastern Pennsylvania, and he died at the Battle of Charles City Crossroads (AKA Battle of Glendale or Frayser’s Farm), about 70 miles south of Fredericksburg in Virginia.
I found the history section and was startled to see a book titled Gone But Not Forgotten: Civil War Veterans of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Northeastern PA? I realized that John likely wouldn’t be in the book—he never made it to being a veteran, but I wondered if anyone else in his unit or mentioned in his letters might be. I took the book to the desk to buy it.
The woman at the desk was friendly. We got to talking, and she told me some interesting anecdotes about some unexplainable experiences she’s had, including one which occurred when she was a teenager. It was eerily similar to a story idea I’d just been discussing with my husband yesterday evening. When I told him later about what she told me he said, “That’s weird, that sounds just like that story idea you were telling me about last night.”
The “remarkable synchronicity” of hearing this woman tell me her real-life version of my story idea has given it some validity and provided me a with renewed sense of determination and purpose to tell my version of the story.
When I got the Civil War book home, I started looking through it and found not only a section about the Pennsylvania 81st regiment that John served in, but bibliographies for four men who were mentioned in John’s letters and who are in my book as well.
My head is still spinning. I mean, a book about Civil War veterans from northeastern PA, out of anywhere in the country? Down here in Fredericksburg, two states and over 200 miles from Eckley region? And hearing my story idea being told to me by someone who’d experienced it?
I’ve been vacillating between feeling exhilarated and a little goose-bumpy. If I go back and look for the woman at the bookstore, will she be there? If I ask about her, will I be told “No one like that works here”?
So, does everything happen for a reason? I don’t know about that, but it sure feels like I was meant to stop at that bookstore today.