Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Write for Your Life

The death of my grandfather almost 11 years ago is one of the moments in my life that has left an indelible mark. I knew instantly when my mother was finally able to reach me at work that something horrible had happened, although she never really said what. A giant black hole opened in my heart, that honestly has never healed.

My grandfather was a rock in my life - someone who encouraged me to be anything I wanted, who knew to just hold me when I had "that look" on my face, who loved me so much that he separated out the orange, yellow and green jellybeans into a separate container because I liked them least. Some people called me spoiled, I knew I was loved; absolutely and unconditionally.

But he left my life suddenly - fell over from a massive heart attack while sitting and reading in his chair. My grandmother had gone into the basement to do laundry and came up to find him on the ground - already gone. We didn't get to say good-bye, we didn't get to say "I love you," we didn't get to say anything.

That's when I started writing again. I was convinced that no one knew the pain that I felt, the sense of loss, the anger. So I wrote to get it out of me, to try to move through the stages of grief that everyone said was "natural." And after I wrote for me - I tried to write for others. To tell them what they meant to me or if they hurt me, to say I was sorry or to say "I love you."

The hole began to heal with the birth of my first niece six years ago. This amazing creature came into my life, with a middle name to honor my grandfather, and suddenly not much else mattered. Being able to see her grow and to experience life anew with her (and Sydney and Zoe and Brody who followed) has given me new reason to write.

So Anna Quindlen's column in Newsweek this week has ripped at my heartstrings. It covers the movie "Freedom Writers" (that I have yet to see but have it on my list!) but more importantly it talks about why we write: "writing can make pain tolerable, confusion clearer and the self stronger."

But we lose something in translation with writing - email gets misconstrued, people write in code and never say what they mean. People are afraid to put something in writing because it could be used against them. We write (or don't write) for all the wrong reasons.

Quindlen leaves us with a powerful message:

Think of all those people inside the World Trade Center saying goodbye by phone. If only, in the blizzard of paper that followed the collapse of the buildings, a letter had fallen from the sky for every family member and friend, something to hold on to, something to read and reread. Something real. Words on paper confer a kind of immortality. Wouldn't all of us love to have a journal, a memoir, a letter, from those we have loved and lost? Shouldn't all of us leave a bit of that behind?

Amelia writes every day. This thrills me beyond belief and I hope that she never loses that joy for putting her thoughts to paper. In the meantime, I write for her and Sydney and Zoe and Brody each and every day as well. They are not spoiled - they are loved.

1 comment:

NYC Teacher said...

I didn't read Quindlen's piece, but I'm so glad you included it in your blog post. The WTC quote really resonated with me. Thank you.