I have written for as long as I can remember. Early teenage angst, poems and songs in political protest and sensory delight. It has been a way through, almost over, the fray of my experiences. When writing, I perch on a secondary plane giving me a break from intense feeling, a perspective lightened and altered, a form of expression allowing my inside, out.
There are those who know, and those who do not (but will), that I have written a memoir in tribute to my parents and their final days. Oddly, it is also a tribute to death, an unyielding and strong force that will not be denied. No matter how long and hard you battle. There comes a time when the suffering is too great and a willingness to flirt with, even accept, her strict and rigid rule games seems the better choice.
Never was writing more in evidence than with my parents’ failing health and eventual deaths. Death is a harsh sounding term, I shudder when I think it or say it, a physical defense to a word meaning no more, permanently. Writing allowed me to be present to the hardest life events I’ve ever encountered. It gave me the shield (protection), the filter (thought changing), the lens (perspective) through which to view and remain. My computer or yellow composition notebook prevented drowning as well as any life preserver.
As my parents’ readied themselves to die, and I readied myself to accept their deaths, (a long and winding process for us all) I wrote. And parts of this writing, the painful and redemptive moments, sit within the walls of my book, the memoir (presently titled) Passing Through. My father and I had an agreement that he would compose the forward for the book I would someday write. In the hospital, days before my father was to expire, I asked him about the forward, offering to write it for him.
“Just dictate, Daddy. I’ll write down your words.”
“I can’t, Wen,” he said and with those words flew the dashed, life-long hope for a forward from one of the most important, influential men in my life. My heart flipped and bent, I remember the feeling more vividly than I want to. I was sitting in my Dad’s hospital room in a mauve chair by the door. A shift took place in my being. The loss was an attack, the flash before the gunfire. I was a wounded soldier going in.
Sometimes I hope I can sense, channel, the forward from him. Or from my mom. The hole in my heart pierced a veil of confidence. It is a new and different me that emerges from those trenches. The good news is I like me. I believe the words for the forward will show themselves. And most importantly, death has taught me how to live.