Sunday, December 19, 2010

Writing Tip #2

As I reshape my daily schedule to allow more writing time, I find myself digging deep into memory to write my truth.  At the same time the evil censor kicks in telling me what I can and can't write.  That's when I turn to the godfather of writing instruction and cling to the life raft of his words:

“You’re under no obligation to ask all your brothers and sisters and cousins how they remember the family saga. They will all remember it differently; there’s no one authorized version of the shared past.

William Zinsser, Writing About Your Life – A Journey into the Past (p. 112)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sandra E. Jones

Sunday, November 28, 2010
Dear Sandi,
I write these words on your deep blue sofa in the company of your loving friends, my loving friends – the Uptown Writers – and my heart aches for you. We gather to write, to cry, to remember because you wanted us to write today. A final request. We make scribbles on pages damp with tears.

I don’t know how to say good bye. I have never learned this lesson. So I write a letter, just as I wrote to my sister and then to my father.

 I’m wearing my orange T-shirt. I tell you this because you would want to know. You always said it was a good color for me. I know that the next time I go shopping I will look for more oranges, earth tones, the colors of autumn, the colors of this season of thanks, this season when you were taken from us.

I don’t remember the day we met. It’s hard to admit, but I was so wrapped up in my insecurity about joining your writing group I fear I hardly acknowledged anyone’s presence. I do remember your 60th birthday at Camp Long shortly after I joined the group. You were beautiful and you were exhausted, yet you encouraged all to enjoy the evening, enjoy each other, enjoy life. I admired your strength even then, not yet knowing, not understanding the gravity of your condition or the determination with which you were fighting for your life.

I wish I had known you before the illness. I did not know the healthy Sandi, the cancer-free Sandi. Still I was fortunate to know the fighter, the woman warrior who endured more suffering than most can imagine, the woman warrior who maintained a sense of humor, that wry cleverness that at first I struggled to understand. You fought and won for four years – with style, with humor, with grace.

The fight is over. I do not know where you are now. I have no belief system that explains death through comforting promises. But the sun has just shone bright through your window onto the bowed heads and moving pens of the writers gathered here, and I know that for this brief moment you are here with us.

Through your fight, your determination, your humor and your total absence of self pity, you taught me to get on with my life, live it to the fullest, and let go of the pain and insecurities of the past. That’s the curse of a memoirist – always digging in the past turning the soil, trying to find worms of truth, of understanding. But by turning the soil of the past, I learn to live stronger in the present just as you lived in the present during these short years I have known you. You were always present, always at the writing table, always listening to our collective words, always ready with a nugget of encouragement. Now there is an empty chair at our table but your spirit is alive in the hearts of the writers seated there.

Good bye, dear friend. I will miss you. I will remember you. Always.