“Before I die I want to feel a great sorrow. This, perhaps, of all my wishes will seem the strangest to the reader. Yet, is it unusual that I should wish to have had a complete life? I want to have lived fully, and certainly sorrow is a part of life. It is my belief that, as in the case of love, no man has lived until he has felt sorrow. It molds us and teaches us that there is a far deeper significance to life than might be supposed if one passed through this world forever happy and carefree.” From the essay Before I Die by Edmund Carpenter.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been aware of a deep and abiding love for my mother. She has always been my best friend, my anchor, my sense of home. With just a few softly spoken words and a band aid, she could mend my cuts and scrapes and later, as my wounds grew to include broken hearts, she could soothe those, too.
When I graduated from college, I moved from Chicago—where I’d grown up—to San Francisco, where my parents have moved just before I started school. Over the years, I spent most of my free time with her, lunching and shopping, or just hanging out playing backgammon and talking. We traveled and had many adventures together. We became closer than ever.
In August of 1999, I received a call from my father telling me my mother had been rushed to the hospital. She’d been vomiting up blood all night. I was living in Napa at the time, and I drove as fast as I could to the hospital. When I arrived, she looked at me, tears brimming in her eyes and said, “I knew you’d come.” And I saw the fear disappear from her eyes.
She spent three months in the hospital that time, and at one point they told us that we needed to make funeral arrangements—she would be gone within 48 hours. My sisters had all arrived by then, and we sat vigil around her, and six weeks later, we took her home. The doctors said it was truly a miracle—there was no medical explanation for her survival. We had loved her back to life.
I got another year and a half with her after that, and we made the most of it. But every time I kissed her goodbye, I’d cry all the way home, wondering if it would be the last time I’d see her. She was frail, and she was suffering. And it was impossible to watch.
I held her while she passed, and it was peaceful. And heart breaking. It was the most beautifully tragic moment of my life.
My mother was not only my best friend, she was my soul mate. The truly great love of my life.
It would be years before I began writing. I’m now working on my fourth manuscript and the one thing my readers can count on is a strong mother-daughter bond in the story. It’s what I know, it’s a part of me.
As writers we tend to write about what we know. Intentionally or not, we weave our experiences into our words. I believe that our best writing comes from our pain—from the challenges we’ve overcome, from the suffering we’ve witnessed or endured ourselves, from surviving great loss. What could be more authentic?
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How have your experiences shaped your life? Have they changed you? In what way? If you’re a writer, where do you find your inspiration?
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