Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Thoughts

Happy Memorial Day! Oftentimes, this seems like National BBQ and Beer-Drinking Day (Which, actually, sounds like a very worthy holiday in its own right).

But, as much as I love grilled chicken and cole slaw, I do always find myself thinking of the people I've lost. At twenty-five, I've already seen more than one friend die too young. But the greatest personal loss for me has been my father, who died when I was seventeen.

The interesting thing is how much that loss has affected my writing. I haven't written a story since that included two parents. My novel, SHARDS, is based on my memories of losing Dad in high school (with extended what-if scenarios, of course, but some scenes are purely mine in the midst of the fiction). The independent reader book I wrote before was about a girl who has lost her mother to cancer.

The day that my father died, I was getting ready to go to the hospital. It was spring, and the lilac bushes in our backyard were fragrant, the scent drifting into the house on a soft breeze as I washed dishes at the sink. I heard the front door open and I knew. I walked slowly into the living room with the dish towel in my hand. My mother was in the doorway with her arms full of flowers carried home from the hospital.

And one way or another, I've been writing about that day for the last eight years. I guess we write what we know. But I worry that there's only so much I should write about grief, that I should try to branch out and talk about college, travel, marriage. I have such a wonderful life. Why do I always find this one subject slipping into my work?


Ana V. said...

I lost my mother when I was 18. She had been in the hospital for 3 months and the last month of her life she did not speak or recognize anything or anyone. The last night (I did not know it at the time) I went to visit her, her hands were really swollen. I asked the nurse why they were like that and she did not even dare look at me. This is when I knew my mother was going to die. I burst into tears and cried for a long time in the nurses lounge. I did not go back into the room to see my mother. My biggest regret, she passed away early the next morning. I regret not saying goodbye to her and wish I could go back and time and kiss her and tell her I love her, one last time.

I wrote for four years straight after she died, all about my emotions, not necessarily about grief.

Perhaps you can write a separate post about dying, grief and everything associated with it. Let it all out at once and maybe this might help and you may not feel to always write about. Then write about all the other wonderful things in your life that are a source of inspiration.

Guinevere said...

Thanks, Ana. I appreciate you sharing your story as well. I'll have to try your suggestion. I have to say, at least it's fueled some of my most memorable, powerful scenes... they are just some of the hardest scenes to proofread!