A few weeks after my husband died of what’s commonly termed “a lingering illness,” I went for a walk with a friend. Since she worked in publishing I tried out my idea on her: I wanted to write a book about what other people go through navigating the “crazy world” of doctors and hospitals. What did she think? I asked. Without hesitating, she said: “Write your own story first!”
Five brief words that changed my life. For I followed her advice and wrote a memoir which became published as “Widow’s Walk,” launching me on a career as an author. This wise inspiring friend, who pointed in the direction that rescued me from despair, was Eleanor( Lee) Hochman, an esteemed author and translator. Our friendship spanned more than 50 years. Recently she became increasingly frail with numerous medical problems. Last week I was scheduled to give a poetry reading. I went into the city earlier hoping to see Lee first. I phoned ahead of time and heard her son’s voice: “My mother just died.”
I stood there on the street crying uncontrollably. Dozens of people walked past, but they were all strangers. Lee was nowhere in the world. I was engulfed in the loneliness that death leaves in its wake.Yet in an hour I was scheduled to give my poetry reading. How could I possibly read? But it was too late for the Poetry Forum to find a substitute for the program. I could hear Lee ‘s no-nonense voice saying, “Just do it. “
She was not only the brightest woman I knew, but mixed intelligence with common sense. I’m tempted to list her impressive professional accomplishments, but that would take up several blogs. it’s the intersection of loss and writing that I want to speak of. This blog was originally designed to be about both those themes,,but I have straddled them clumsily. Yet they are so often intertwined in life. I used to think coping with the illness and death of someone I love would make writing impossible. But they can feed upon one another. I think of another friend, who died years ago, but came to belated life in a story I wrote, as did my father in a loving portrait despite our difficult relationship. The stories are my gifts to them.
I have lost so many that I joke I know more people in the next world than in this one. As we become aware, a door closes behind us with each loss,to rooms we can never enter again. How find the strength to enjoy life, much less be creative?
An answer came when I arrived tearfully at the Poetry Forum that day. I told the director what had happened. He said: ”I’m not going to tell you where’s there’s life there’s hope, because I don’t believe it.””
“That doesn’t help…,” I started to say.
He held up his hand.”What I do believe is the opposite, where there’s hope there’s life.”
May we esch find our own ways to feed the flickering flames of hope.
BOOKS:”Widow’s Walk” -available at iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” -Xlibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” and “Role Play”- CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; “Maya’s Magical Adventures” – Amazon.com