If you have followed my blog on writing, you know that I’ve shared a few personal things here. You may also know that I write often about creativity. I don’t believe in writer’s block; I don’t even use the term. I’ve experienced being stuck. But being a creative person, I also believe that, in most cases, I am the most experienced person to get myself unstuck. I’ve never been stuck for too long: Until recently. But I’ve also walked through something I never have before. The death of a parent: my Dad. I’ve experienced losses. But the death of a parent is different. I’m not a person who does well with death. Nor am I a person who hides those emotions…so I’m sharing some of them here.
Sometimes feelings speak louder than words
When things like tragedy, death, or disaster crash into our lives, emotions scream and words whisper. I remember that after September 11, 2001, I didn’t write much about it for about a month. Images and emotions can be impossible to express in the beginning. My Dad’s death is new (less than one month) and there are other challenges that are going on as well. But, I know a few things. I know he appreciated hearing from me. Before I hung up the phone he’d say, “Thanks for calling.” I know my Dad didn’t always understand what I was doing with my writing, but he believed in it. He thought that it could be successful. And I know more words will come. He is a part of who I am.
We write and we live by extension
In the same way that a writer feels that the keyboard is an extension of his fingers or that the pen is an extension of his hand, on some level we all still feel like we’re extensions of our parents. I worked hard to become my own independent person, but with him no longer here, part of me still feels like the little boy who looks up at his Dad and wonders what it was like to be him. And even when you know you’re running well, you still want him to be there when you fall.
Working and writing through the sense of lost
No, that’s not a typo. People often say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” And it it’s a fine phrase, and tailor-made for the occasion. But I’ve discovered that with a parent or anyone who has provided guidance, you don’t just sense the loss, you also feel lost (and Google maps are no help at all). Regardless of how independent or how old you are, you feel like you’re suddenly in a car that is a little off-balance, or like a writer trying to write with letters missing from your alphabet. It takes time for your heart, mind, and spirit to grasp this new, uninvited, reality. And it’s hard. During such times, if verses don’t fly from your fingertips, it’s OK. They’ll be back. In the meantime listen for the words.
Mark time and make time…
Yes, the death of a parent is a life-shaking experience. We mark life by big events, marriages, birthdays, and deaths. We live life by making time for the big and the small experiences, because in the long run, the things we think are big often turn out to be small, and vice versa. One “big” event I remember as a kid was getting up with my Dad on many Saturday mornings before anyone else was awake. We’d go grocery shopping. He’d tell me not to let him forget some item, and often, later that day, we’d realize we’d both forgotten it. Jokingly, he’d tell me, “Aww, you were supposed to remind me.” After shopping, we’d sometimes stop at the diner across the street for a quick lunch (before the butter and ice cream could melt). It didn’t dawn on me until I was older that he’d saved aside just enough for me. I usually ordered a hot dog and fries. Often he’d only get a cup of coffee, and then fix himself a peanut butter sandwich when we got home. Make time for those big and little moments that matter to you. Make a difference in the lives of the people you care about. And if you’re a writer, don’t forget to record some of them, because reading about some of those things might matter for someone else too. If you think these words might be important to someone you know please share them.