It’s a bit maddening as a writer not to find the words.
To live within the silence that fills inspiration’s absence. When no new, fresh ideas spark a stream of words to life. When I sit at my laptop, start a sentence, erase it; start again, erase again. Or worse, all that fills the page are clichés. When words don’t feel true.
It’s been a long year and a half of writer’s silence. Silence filled with loss and longing. Silence of grief.
I believe it’s the collective loss and grief we are all experiencing together in this continuing pandemic. And a longing for the complicated mix of return to things we loved and hope for a change because of what we’ve experienced.
Each of us has our own individual story too. And so much of mine has been bittersweet. Memories of times filled with light and joy pierced by incredible sadness at the losses that filled my year.
The memories of parks and walks before our beloved Rosie was snatched by a coyote last summer that ended her beautiful joyous life.
Hundreds of flashes from the past, of comfort and happiness in the house I grew up in, and often returned to with my husband and sons over the years, before it was put up for sale and sold last December.
Memories of a lifetime with my sister Karen before she had ALS, before she left us last November.
Every time I look at the favorites list in my phone to text or make a call, I see Karen’s name there. I know I’ll never use that number again. Never call to talk about our days, how the kids are doing or plan family vacations. Knowing we can’t hang out, laugh over old photos, cry together, celebrate each other, makes my heart hurt.
One of the most poignant moments of the last year was one night in October. I was visiting Karen for a few days and she asked me to help her get ready for bed. Such a simple ask, for a very routine habit. But for someone with ALS it meant doing for her what she was no longer able to do for herself. What her caregivers and family had been doing for months. The evening ritual of washing her face with warm washcloths, holding a bowl beneath her chin as she held the electric toothbrush that brushed her teeth, leaning her forward to undress her and pull a nightgown over her head. Gently pushing her head up when it fell forward. I understood how profound these acts were. I was slow and careful, present in each moment, every movement imbued with love. When I’d tucked her in, I bent over to kiss her forehead. And couldn’t stop the tears. What a gift she gave me that night, with such grace.
Another was a FaceTime I had with her in November. I was in Colorado helping pack up our family home in preparation for my dad and my sister Kristine to move. I went room by room, sharing with her the last look that we’d have of our childhood home. Doing that made us both speechless, throats choked with tears.
And if saying goodbye to the home that held such love, such light, wasn’t enough, this year was the year to say goodbye to Karen too, even though we thought we’d have more time with her. I keep looking at the last text I sent her the day she died that said, “Sending hugs,” hoping she saw it, hoping she felt them before she passed quietly away.
And it is hope that helped me through the months of struggle and sadness, to believe that I would be able to write again. And when I did, it would be to share these thoughts and memories. I hoped that when I was finally ready to share my story there would be a community to listen, to stand with me. In silence with full hearts. Whether you knew my sister, or had been to my childhood home, or had met Rosie, or not, you’ve known loss too.
Thank you for being that community, for bearing witness.
I’ve finally found the words. And they feel right and true.