“One day you will tell the story of how you overcame what you went through and it will become someone else’s survival guide.”
I don’t know who wrote that. I saw it on a poster with no credit given. But it’s a good description of how this book came to be and what I hope will be its outcome—its path and its purpose.
Here’s the truth of it: I didn’t set out to write anything. Much less a book. I still don’t see myself as a writer. Yet, here I am.
I went somewhere I didn’t want to go. I went through something I never dreamed I’d have to go through. I didn’t have a choice. I went there. I went through it. And now I’m telling my story.
My firstborn son died of cancer.
In those dreadful early days and nights after Jim died, the only thing I could think to do—when I collided with the morbid memories of his suffering and the unbearable ache of his absence—was to find some way to describe how I was feeling. So, I found a spiral-bound notebook and wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote.
I believed if I could assign words to the grief and pain, I might find a way to endure them. If I could bring those words into the light, it might make the whole thing bearable. Many of the words were dark and raw and angry and did little more than chronicle ten interminable years of wrestling and railing. But there were islands of hope and yes, there were words of light.
Through the gentle and generous encouragement of friends, I came to wonder if those words of light, which I discovered in the darkest of nights, might also help someone else endure the unspeakable realities of their grief and loss—that my voice might become someone’s “survival guide.” If so, then how could I keep those words buried in a stack of spiral-bound notebooks just because I didn’t see myself as a writer?
I’m taking a huge risk by plunging back into that bottomless pit of loss and dragging myself through that incessant slog of sorrow once again, unclear of the worth or usefulness of the outcome. I’m exposing my most intimate grief, with all its messiness and vulnerability, uncertain of its reception or the consequences it will bring. I’m giving a voice—my voice—to the unspeakable pain of death and suffering, unaware of who will hear me or how they will respond. Yet, in the face of all of that, I’ve decided it’s a risk I’m willing to take.
“One day you will tell the story of how you overcame what you went through and it will become someone else’s survival guide.” I guess my “one day” has come.