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.