and write it down.
I am in awe of them. When I read The Year of Magical Thinking, I was blown away by Joan Didion’s honesty and courage in relating the intensely personal loss of her husband. It’s unfathomably hard to face one’s own grief and put it on paper. A friend of mine is dealing with this issue. Having lost a child some years ago, she is struggling with the need to put it in writing and the inability to do so. It’s just too hard to face. Yet something compels her to want to write it down.
As writers, we feel the import of emotional events. As writers, we need to get these experiences and the accompanying emotions out for understanding, for healing. As writers, we see the universality of events and the emotions they elicit. And we want to share them to help others, to find community, and empathy. Yet as humans we shrink from the glare of our pain.
Every spring I think of my brother Tom. He died the day after Christmas, 1984, in an awful car accident. He was a “motorhead” and had ten cars. Ten! He wasn’t rich. He found good deals. Some of the cars didn’t run or ran sporadically. For a while he had a Jaguar XKE that wouldn’t shift out of first gear. The ’57 Buicks, the Porche 911, the Corvette convertible: these cars would winter in various barns and garages around eastern Wisconsin until the weather turned and the snow melted. Then they would appear with Tom behind the wheel.
“Want to take a ride,” he’d ask. I always dropped whatever I was doing. Once, he let me ride in the Porche as he tested a slalom track before a competition. Just writing about it now puts the sound of the engine in my ears, the smile on my face, and the tears in my eyes. Even after all these years. In fact, this is the first time I have written anything about him. My chest is tight and my stomach aches. I am a coward.
Yet I know now that I will return to him. Maybe not as memoir, perhaps I need the distance of fiction. Yet I feel the need…as a writer.
Marie saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 5:08 pm
I still grieve a loose from 1972. A friend just published her story about the loss of her husband. My mother lost her brother to suicide in 1969 and she still grieves. Please write about your brother, you will do him a great honor.
Mel saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 5:30 pm
Thanks for the comment, Marie. I’m going to give it a try.
Rhonda saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 7:06 pm
I instantly got a picture in my head of you taken a ride with your brother, and what fun that must have been. Thanks for sharing your memories.
Mel saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 8:30 pm
I appreciate you reading the post, Rhonda. Tom helped me buy the 442. I know you remember that car!
Sheila Good saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 7:07 pm
The lost of my best friend (of 37 years) is what prompted me to start writing. I began with my first blog, Friendshipofalifetime.blogspot.com. I didn’t worry about grammar or sentence structure, I simply needed to grieve and I have always dealt with emotions, best on paper. You can find some of these posts on my current website.
I think writing is catharsis for the soul. Enjoyed this post very much.
Mel saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 8:26 pm
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Sheila, and glad your friend led you to write. I look forward to reading those posts.
Your friend who lost her son saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 8:10 pm
Can’t see the computer screen clearly for the tears. You’re right, you should write about Tom.
Mel saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 8:27 pm
I guess it might be time…finally. we all come to the road in our own time, my friend.
Pete Gaither saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 9:39 pm
You will write about your brother again when it is time, and the genre will dictate itself. There is something so hard about writing of personal grief — a loneliness seeps in like a belly-crawling fog, obscuring our memories, filling up the empty distances we are forced to wedge between our grieving and embalming it forever with our words.
I wanted to write of losing my father who died at 92, but across that imposed distance, I saw that I actually lost him when I was born. Now I have to grieve us both to find my way back to his dying.
Mel saysFebruary 8, 2015 at 10:02 pm
Wow,Pete,a belly-crawling fog! Beautifully accurate. Hope we both work our way to filling in the distances. Thanks for the comment.
Nan Lundeen saysFebruary 9, 2015 at 1:50 pm
Yes, “we shrink from the glare of our pain.” Well put, Mel.
Mel saysFebruary 9, 2015 at 11:41 pm
Torie Amarie Dailey saysFebruary 9, 2015 at 2:52 pm
This is the first step, I feel, on the journey to writing the story of your brother as only you can tell it. The fact that you have taken this step and wrote this much shows you are healing. Sure, it may always ache but you can let your brother live on forever through your words – “as a writer” you can share him with the world. And I’ve no doubt someday you will. If you have to write him into fiction, then do so. Fiction or non he will live.
Mel saysFebruary 9, 2015 at 11:40 pm