Last month, I unexpectedly found myself caring for two older relatives during — what I had no idea would be — the end of their lives. Throughout an intense 6-week timespan, I became a primary care giver and dealt with doctors and nurses. Following the sudden death of one relative, I made funeral arrangements. Then, I dealt with different doctors and nurses at a hospital, a nursing home and finally hospice for the other relative. The second death was somewhat expected, after which I interacted with a different funeral home. It wasn’t the decision making that was hard, it was the reality of dealing with life and death. The 2 deaths were just 15 days apart. This was one of the hardest and most intense experiences of my life.
Dealing with life and death has changed me.
I’m sad and will be for some time to come. I also feel honored and blessed to have done the very best I could, with God’s help and guidance. Some days I can’t believe how much changed during that short time period. Although I’m relieved the intensity has ended, everyday things now seem trivial. How do you go from doing something so important to working a regular job, cooking dinner, folding clothes? From past experience with the death of loved ones, I know these feelings will fade in time.
As I contemplated what to blog about, my planned posts on genre or story form just didn’t cut it.
My experience is hardly unique. People deal with death all the time. I have always had great respect for medical professionals, in particular the care givers and hospice workers. What was so heart-wrenching for me is a true calling for those in the field. I thank God for those people.
It’s said that we reveal parts of ourselves in our writing and I’m no different. I’m a pantser by industry standards, an intuitive writer to the rest of my friends. I go with the flow, let my intuition direct the story line. My recent experience has colored my world and will color my writing. It has touched me in ways I can see and in other ways I may never recognize. I do know one thing. It has changed me and eventually will show up in my writing. Maybe in a hospital scene or an emotional scene with a character dying. Probably in an unexpected form.
My life experiences direct my writing.
My fiction includes material drawn from my dating life in my teens and 20s, from social interactions that took place years ago and I didn’t even know I remembered until I wrote them into a character’s life. Material comes from workplace people and happenings, from vacations, from my life. Sometimes, I’m surprised when these memories surface in my writing; sometimes I’m not. I never plan these scenes; they simply bubble up at the right time.
Here’s to my relatives who are now hanging out in heaven. I salute you. I miss you. I’ll be seeing you again soon, in the pages of my fiction.
Do accept my condolences. I can’t even imagine what it feels like.
Thank you. I appreciate the support.
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My heart skipped beats while reading your words. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your words of wisdom took me back to the raw feelings I went through while making decisions about life and death for my mom – throughout mysteries of dementia. The memories of the bittersweet ending while I held her hand and said goodbye will remain with me for a very long time. Knowing so much about dementia, I never say forever when it comes to memories. I agree with you – life experiences are what writing is all about, and makes it that much more real to the readers as they experience life through your words. Since you appreciate that about writing and admire Hospice workers, a good book to read, during this after I’ve said goodbye to someone dear timeframe, is “On Living” by Kerry Egan. Hugs to you – it is inspiring to me that you’ve found inspiration in the challenges you just went through.
Thank you for your compassionate words, Shelley, and the book recommendation. One of my relatives had Alzheimers so I understand. Like you, I was with him at the end, holding his hand. It was so difficult emotionally but I’m so grateful I could be there. You have a good day.
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You’re welcome. Yes, saying goodbye to Alzheimer’s is a difficult and long process. Hope you have a good day too and that you found some moments of healing as you wrote your words onto the page.
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