Life has a strange way of circling around. Thirty years ago, trying to cope with my husband’s death from cancer, I began writing journal entries that became my memoir Widow’s Walk. Flash ahead to 2020: different century, similar trauma. My partner was afflicted with Alzheimer’s, losing memory and speech . His long struggle was met by my desperate battle to keep our connection, to salvage the love. I began writing about this, because writing enables me to survive.This January he lost his valiant struggle. In June my memoir COME and GO, was published.
Sometimes I think writers are scavengers, grabbing what happens even with people we love as material for a story. With Widow’s Walk, I had to overcome overwhelming guilt because I felt as though my success was built on my husband’s grave. This time, instead of guilt , there’s anxiety. My memoir is so revealing – my complicated feelings, his humiliating debility, as well as what friends and family did – or didn’t do.
A lot of choices go into writing any book, including what NOT to say. For instance, I tried to tread lightly on a family member who gave almost no help, because I wasn’t out to use my memoir as a cudgel. But I was less gentle with my own conflicted feelings of rage and anger. I believe honesty is the only way a book can help others on that same challenging journey. “Thank you for helping me realize my feelings are normal,” is a message I’ve received from so many readers.
When I was writing that first book, hours alone were no longer empty holes in the universe, for there was something I wanted – needed – to be doing. A friend told me I was lucky because I had a “passion.” But that doesn’t have to mean writing. Just being able to communicate in some form – whether a memoir, painting, song, multi-patterned quilt that weaves its own story – is a blessing we can reap from pain. And recognizing those blessings is what survival is all about.
BOOKS: COME and GO – available at BookBaby.com (print and E versions); WIDOW’S WALK – Iuniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW – Xlibris.com; TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY – Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.
The pandemic has turned every life inside out, but we also have another epidemic: it’s called racism.
The images on TV are familiar: rubber bullets or worse, tear gas and pepper spray, used against people asking to be treated like human beings. I’ve seen this too many times, back to the days of Civil Rights protests. Yet I cling to fragile hope that something different may happen this time. Just as Covid has made us aware that we’re all in this together, I feel there’s more awareness of our common humanity. This latest killing of a black man has created a tsunami of pain and rage, not just in those of the same color, but all colors. When George Floyd’s brother spoke so emotionally about his brother, I wept. He has lost his brother and I, who recently lost my only sister, felt his pain as if it were mine. The difference is that my sister died in her bed, with her children by her side. George Floyd died in the street, surrounded by men who hated him.
In a strange way, social distancing has a reflection in the “us” and ”them” division long infecting our country. Yet as I see huge demonstrations in city after city all across America – and supportive throngs in lands far away – I have a stubborn hope that this time they may be heard. Despite a government that turns a deaf ear and a threatening fist, the country that’s burning may also become the country that’s united across every color line.
Edmund Burke famously warned, “’The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” But good men and women of all races are refusing to silently sit by. They are rising up and speaking out in voices that insist on being heard. Those of us who are unable to march can still contribute whatever skills we have – including writing blogs and op-ed pieces – to make the world aware that we must join together in a mutual battle against hatred and prejudice.
There’s no vaccine for racism, but may we find ways to heal both our viruses.-
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.