The fiction world is fueled by secrets. If no character had a secret, there would be no story to tell — at least, not many — because most often stories revolve around uncovering secrets, what people will do to keep those secrets from being uncovered, what the consequences are for letting the secret out both for the one holding the secret and the one discovering it, and how those secrets determine the lives of those affected by the secrets.

Some secrets the characters keep from themselves. Romance is a good example of this, especially in the pointless type of romance where the characters fight all the time to keep from letting themselves know the truth — that they’ve fallen in love.

Some secrets are silly. Again, romance is a good example, especially in the Hallmark Christmas movie kind of romance where the ultra-successful heroine goes back home to find that her first love has also returned. The secret they are protecting turns out not to be a secret at all but a misunderstanding stemming from their inability to communicate. An Affair to Remember is one such example and although it’s not a Hallmark movie, it’s just as silly — to me, anyway.

Other secrets are more serious — murders, hit-and-run accidents, hidden pregnancies, babies given up for adoption, false or forgotten identities, abuse that’s hidden by both the abused and the abuser, teen peer pressure that gets out of hand resulting in a tragedy that ripples for decades.

And some secrets are multigenerational — something one’s grandparents did, for example, that influences the current generation. Janeane Garofalo’s movie The Matchmaker is a good example of this, where a politician looks for his Irish roots in the wrong place.

(I am amused by my mention of movies since books are what I’m thinking of, but the sad truth is that I remember titles from movies I saw years ago and not the title of the book I just finished reading. It’s not a memory issue; it’s that I don’t really pay attention to book titles.)

All of these secrets make me wonder if everyone is hiding a secret, or if that’s just a fictional conceit. I can’t really think of any secrets in my life that would be enough to motivate a story of any genre. There are things I don’t talk about, of course — there’s no reason to bare my total past, especially the things I did as a child that I am ashamed of — but what small secrets I have are not enough to drive a story. I suppose there are things in my heritage that could be considered a secret since no one really knows the truth. For example, the story goes that my great-grandfather, an inventor and peer of Edison and Tesla, had two wives. One he locked in an insane asylum, the other he threw down the stairs, but no one knows which of those women is our great-grandmother. Not that it matters — we obviously get whatever instability we have from the paternal side.

It does give me a different perspective of the world, though, this idea of everyone hiding a secret. Because those secrets generally don’t devolve into murder and mayhem, I can continue to take people at face value.

But still, I wonder what all of you are hiding.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

“To Be Continued.”

I like checking the new book section at the library because I don’t have to try to remember if I’ve read the book before. I know I haven’t. What makes it even easier is if the book is by an author I’m familiar with. But that doesn’t mean the book is worth reading.

The last time I was at the library, I picked up the latest book by a writing duo who sometimes have some clever ideas or convoluted plots. This book wasn’t one of them. Well, it was convoluted — so convoluted it made absolutely no sense. It turned out to be a sort of series within a series. Generally, in mystery series, it doesn’t matter a whole lot what order you read the books. Sure, sometimes the character has a five-year old kid, sometimes they are pregnant with that child. Sometimes they are married or divorced or engaged to the same person. But once you get beyond the out-of-sync life of the protagonist, the stories themselves are stand-alone.

I figured this book would be the same, but no. As I got into it, I realized it was a sequel to a previous book — in essence, I was starting in the middle of the story. Even worse, there were four separate plot lines — none of which seemed to have anything to do with any of the others. I slogged through almost half the book, hoping that at least one of the sub-stories would catch my interest, but none of them did. In fact, I couldn’t even figure out which was the main story and which were the substories.

In frustration, I skipped to the back of the book, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was going on, and though I read a chapter or two toward the end, it didn’t seem as if there was a conclusion. And there wasn’t. At the end of the last chapter I found the dreaded words, “To be continued.”

What??? You mean I struggled through 416 pages (well, okay, 200 of those 416 pages, but still . . .) only to be met with: “The authors apologize for what is, at least in part, an inconclusive ending.” In part? No, was completely inconclusive, nothing was resolved in any of the plots. Then the authors added that everything will be resolved in “a concluding novel which we are writing as fast as possible.”

Talk about a total cheat! I don’t mind series (or even series within series) where there is an unresolved mystery that ties all the books together, such as in Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan series where Eve is always trying to find out what happened to her kidnapped daughter, but at least the main story in each of those books is resolved. To have not a single one of those four plots in the book in question resolved is . . . well, it’s a cheat.

There is a chance when the conclusion to the story comes out that I might read it. Or not. It depends on how much I feel like trying to figure out what clues I might have missed by not reading the previous books. Besides, the whole premise of the time-traveling portion of the book seems rather silly and too forced.

Luckily, there are other books in the library, both in the new book section and in the stacks so I don’t have to torment myself with books of this ilk.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Not Happy Ever After

I don’t often read romances, but I will in a book emergency, such as if I need something simple to read while waiting, if I’m not feeling well enough to focus on a more complicated book, or if I know I’ll be frequently interrupted. But I might be rethinking this policy and go back to my “no romance” stance of previous years. I just finished reading a particularly silly romance, where the woman owns a major hotel chain, is super rich, contented with her life, has good friends and a beloved godchild or two. What she doesn’t have is a man, though she’s not the one who feels the lack — it’s her friends who think she needs more in her life.

It turns out there is a man in her life — an employee who’s been in love with her for years. Frustrated that she doesn’t even know he’s alive (except as a valuable part of the organization), he gives his notice, then starts treating her badly. He doesn’t tell her what’s going on but expects her to intuit it. Knows she’s naïve when it comes to relationships (because when would she ever have had time for a relationship?) yet doesn’t make allowances for her naivete and expects her to be as knowledgeable as he is. He introduces her to his family, and when she gives an expensive gift to his sister who is getting married, he throws it at her and yells that his family is not for sale. He grabs her for a kiss and then pushes her away. All this is typical “grooming” behavior for a predator who wants to control another person.

By the end of the book, they are married and living in his house, he is running her company, and she is reduced to working part time. This is supposed to be a good thing because it allows her to do the things other wives “love” to do, like cook and clean and play around with hobbies. Yeah, right.

Since most of what I read are mysteries or thrillers (with a sprinkling of horror and science fiction), all I can think of is that this is the prelude to the real story, where he continues to distance her from her friends and ultimately “disappears” her.

In fact, Jeff once taped a movie for us that was similar to this extended story. The first half of the movie was all sweetness and light. The lonely young woman found someone who loved her and treated her well (unlike the fellow in the above book). She happily married him, moved to his gorgeous home in another state, and . . .

That’s where Jeff ended the movie. He cut out the part where the loving husband terrorized her before trying to kill her and so what was left was a nice, sweet short film of a misfit girl who finds her perfect fit.

Perhaps, in the end, that’s what this romance writer did — cut out the real story, got rid of the violence and terror, and left us with a short romance that was anything but sweet, and definitely not happy ever after!


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Where to Go from Here?

Lately I’ve been wondering where to go from here. I don’t mean geographically — I’m settled here in my house for the duration. It’s more about wondering what to do next with my life, if I want to keep doing what I’m doing, and if I need to do something more satisfying.

I am still blessed with a job that adds some structure to my life, and come spring and summer, of course, I’ll be spending a lot of time on my yard, an activity that makes me too tired to wonder if there is anything else for me.

But now, in the dead of winter, when I probably spend more time than is healthy inside — reading, playing games on the computer, and blogging a bit — I can’t help but question my life.

Reading is becoming problematic — too many novels are way over the top. Years ago, I used to enjoy Lee Child’s books, probably because contrary me had read a review that said women wouldn’t like the books, but also because Jack Reacher reminded me of a harder and less focused Kwai Chang Caine from the 1970’s television series Kung Fu. Whatever it was that appealed to me about Child’s character has completely disappeared. I’d given up reading the series long ago, but out of curiosity, I picked up the most recent book, and yikes. There is absolutely no redeeming virtue to either the badly written story or the character. Reacher has become a thug, pure and simple, a villain as bad or worse than any of those he tries to vanquish. The next book I read (by a different author) was just as bad, though in a different way. The characters’ actions seemed quixotic, unmotivated. They just did things, flashed back to the past way too often for any sense of story continuity, and yapped endlessly. Still, there are plenty of books that have enough of a plot to keep me reading, but it’s possible there will come a time that I give up reading again. Although reading often seems to be as necessary to me as breathing — and as effortless — I have gone through periods where I don’t read at all, once when I was young and depressed and books made me even more depressed, and again after Jeff died.

I could, of course, go back to writing my own fiction, but that is anything but effortless. Besides, I have yet to think of any characters that would keep me interested in their plight for the year or more it would take me to write the story. Oddly, although I am a writer, I have no real yen to write another book, probably because blogging scratches the writing itch and keeps me satisfied.

As for the game I got addicted to — I’m becoming unaddicted. It’s not as compelling as it was in the beginning, but I still play because it gives me a break from reading. And from thinking.

My knees are doing well, but not quite well enough to allow me to do the hours of roaming I used to do. I still have hope that my roaming days will return, but only locally. I used to spend a lot of time hiking, traveling or at least thinking about where I want to go, but my wanderlust, like my writinglust, seems to be sated.

Where I am falling short is on the social front. When I moved here, I jumped feet first into the social scene such as it is — going to the senior center for games and an occasional lunch, attending community dinners, joining various groups. When The Bob put a stop to all that, I reverted quite happily to my natural quasi-hermit state. Eventually, I started back in with one of the groups, but although I know I need the social interaction, I’m not sure I want to continue. The group is growing, which is good for them, but not so much for me. I get claustrophobic around too many people, and it takes all my energy to keep from running away. (The only reason I don’t is that generally I get a ride when the meeting is out of town and so have to wait until the end before I can leave.)

I am aware that my life is already too restricted, yet I’m secretly thinking of restricting it even more. Even if I don’t voluntarily make changes to restrict my activities, age and circumstances will eventually change things. For now, I am quite content with my quiet days, but it’s certainly not surprising that I’m wondering what’s next.

Luckily, it’s only two months until spring (though almost four months until spring planting), and then I’ll be too tired and too busy gardening and taking care of my yard to wonder where to go from here.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Body Farm

I’m reading a book about the body farm. In the first paragraph the name of the place was capitalized — Body Farm — and I wondered who Body was. In my mind, I pronounced it Bodie rather than Boddy, which mistake I immediately had to laugh at. I mean, I knew the book took place on the Body Farm. I knew it was a mystery written by the fellow who founded the Body Farm, and yet, there I sat, momentarily mystified by the identity of Body and wondering what we were doing at his farm.

I’d heard of the Body Farm before, probably the same way most people did — from a book of that name by Patricia Cornwell, back when I thought she was an okay writer. For some reason, I had the idea that the Body Farm was owned by the FBI since they use it for training exercises, so it came as rather a surprise that the FBI doesn’t have their own body farm but use existing ones.

The first body farm was created for the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Center in 1981 by Dr. William Bass. Apparently, after a janitor cussed him out for storing a dead body in the restroom, he went to the dean to find a better place to keep the corpses he was studying. He calls the field (behind the football field, of all places) where the bodies were left to decompose “Death’s Acre,” but “The Body Farm” is how it is generally known. The FBI has been training there for 24 years as part of their Recovery of Human Remains course. There are now seven such “Bodie” farms in the United States, but Bass’s was the first.

The place is intriguing to read about, but even if I wanted to see the place, I couldn’t — they don’t do tours because if all the people who wanted to see the place were allowed in, researchers would never get any work done. Also, I’m sure, having sightseers tramp through the place would affect what they are trying to accomplish — studying how the human body decomposes under various conditions, which helps with identifying bodies as well as learning the time and manner of the death. Anyway, even if I could handle the gruesome sights, I probably couldn’t handle the smell. Over 400 different compounds are given off by a decaying body. Interestingly, the bodies of people who die during or shortly after chemotherapy decay a lot slower than normal, which leads to the question of whether chemotherapy is a sort of live embalming process.

This is all very macabre, I know, but it started with a mental mispronunciation. And speaking of macabre — like most people who read a lot, I had (have) a huge vocabulary. I remember once a father of the kids I had just babysat was driving me home, and I mentioned that something was “mackaber.” He laughed and laughed, which embarrassed the heck out of me. How was I supposed to know how the word was pronounced? And anyway, if linguists can’t even agree on pronunciation — some say it’s “mikaab,” others “mikabruh” — why is “mackaber” so outrageous?

I particularly remember the macabre debacle because that was the last time I ever spoke out loud a word that wasn’t in the common parlance. Now, apparently, I can’t speak common words in my own mind without recurring laughter, even if it’s my own.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Writing For Fun

Several years ago, I participated in a round-robin writing project where everyone took turns adding to the story. It frustrated me because it seemed as if many, if not most, of the writers made a point of changing characters or adding ridiculous elements, making it impossible to create a cohesive story. So I got the idea of doing a project like that, but each person got to create their own character and no one could change it without their permission.

Getting people to agree to participate was fairly easy. Back then, there was a site similar to Facebook, but for writers, so everyone I knew online was interested in writing. Getting them to follow through, however, was a completely different story. Even before we started, people wanted to change things.

My idea was that a horrendous crime was committed in the neighborhood, and I wanted to show how everyone was affected, but oh, no. That would be a boring story. Huh? We hadn’t even started so how would anyone know it would be boring? Besides, they were writers. They could make it not boring. Still, they decided it had to be murder mystery, which was in no way at odds with my original plan. Because if there is a crime in a novel, there has to be a resolution, right? I thought that went without saying.

My publisher at the time was one of the participants, and he said to me, “The hard part for you will be to relinquish control.” Again, huh? The point was for us each to be in charge of our character, each to post our segment to the blog on our assigned day, each to keep with story so that each segment followed the timeline in order to keep from making blunders that couldn’t be fixed. (In a novel written offline, obviously, one can edit at the end, but in a blog novel, as this one was, there is no editing afterward. It is what it is.) But almost no one did what they were supposed to. I ended up having to remind people when it was their turn, had to edit their hastily written segments to get rid of the worst of the typos, had to post the segments to the blog myself because no one wanted to do it.

So, the hard part for me was not in relinquishing control but being forced to take control. That was so not fun! Still, we did a did a trilogy, and by the third one, the authors that remained were very good, so that one was a bit more fun for me.

Afterwards, I tried to do a different collaborative novel with other writers, and again, before a single word was written, people wanted to change things. Instead of a mystery, we ended up with a sort of steampunk anthology with loosely connected stories. As it turned out, the person who insisted on steampunk dropped out, but by then we were committed to the story.

What has made me revisit all this is that I’m considering doing a blog novel, but with myself as the sole author, which should make things a lot less stressful than trying to do it with other people. I also like my original idea — how a certain crime affected people in a neighborhood. Did it make them revisit their life choices? Did it make them grateful for what they had? Did they decide to move away? Were they the one who committed the crime, and were they glad or sorry they’d done it?

One of the problems with the first such project was that each person had to write as if their character could have done the crime, but at the same time, make it possible to prove they didn’t. That could be the same problem here, but it’s possible the crime wasn’t committed by one of the neighbors — I won’t know until towards the end anyway. I want to try writing a story where I don’t know the end, to just follow along with the characters and see what happens.

I still have other commitments — my job, for one — which makes it harder for me to want to commit to a time intensive project like a blog novel, but at least this gives me an idea of what to start thinking about.

And maybe, this time such a project would be fun for me.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Stay Warm!

No wonder autumn seems like such a short season — it is. Summer borrows from fall to extend the torrid weather a couple of more weeks, and winter butts in on the back end, shoving the temperate season out of the way so it can get in a few early weeks of cold and snow.

According to the calendar, winter doesn’t arrive for another 32 days, but according to the weather, winter is already here. The high yesterday was about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and although we only got an inch of snow yesterday, there was enough ground cover to warrant sweeping. And then, to clinch the winter encroachment, the temperatures last night got down close to zero, with a minus 7 windchill factor.

I was going to mention how cold it felt, but to tell the truth (as I try to do), I barely noticed the chill since I was outside only long enough to sweep off my front ramp and to check my mailbox. The rest of the time I was snuggled inside where it was warm.

Luckily, it warmed up to a sizzling 41 degrees today, so I was able to go to the library and replenish my stock of books. One of the books was on hold for me and I was about thirtieth in line (though admittedly, most of those people were from other libraries, and like most libraries, this one is jealous of its new books and holds on to them for about three months before sending them elsewhere), but sometimes being a good patron has its perks. Since this was Saturday afternoon, and the library doesn’t open again until Monday afternoon, the librarian let me check out the book ahead of the next person in line. Although she didn’t stipulate that she wanted it back early, she knows she’ll get it back quickly. Now that gardening season is over, what else do I have to do with my time but read?

Well, if it warms up into the fifties next week as the weather forecasters are anticipating, I will have to mow my lawn one last time, and probably even water since a scant inch of fluffy snow doesn’t amount to much moisture. (The average snow-to-liquid ratio in the USA is about 13 to 1, yet in the dry west, it’s closer to 50 to 1, so that 1” of snow we got yesterday is about .02 inches of moisture, a far cry from the .50 inches per week my grass needs in the winter. To get that .50 inches of moisture, we’d need 25 inches of the light powdery kind snow we often get. No thank you!)

Luckily (I think) when the frost comes and stays around without warming up during the day, I won’t have to worry about the grass. And who knows, I might eventually have to give up on the lawn altogether. Now that the Bermuda grass has gone dormant, leaving a wide perimeter of brown grass around the green, I can see how much that weedy grass has encroached in only a year.

But this wasn’t supposed to be a discussion of my lawn. It was supposed to be more about my visit to the library and how I knew just about everyone who was there today. Apparently, I wasn’t the only reader who had finished all their books in record time and needed to restock. It made for a nice social occasion, though actually, I’ve been plenty “socialized” lately. After last week where I agonized about attending a luncheon meeting only to have it postponed, this week I simply went without a second thought. Then yesterday, a couple of friends came to tea, and today, before the library visit, I talked to another friend. Whew! As a hermit, I am somewhat of a failure, though I still do spend the bulk of my time alone.

And, since I’m updating you on various matters — weather, library, grass, socialization — there’s one more thing. I mentioned that I updated my operating system to Windows 11. It also seems to have updated MS Word at least to a certain extent. Although this version is much the same as my previous one, there are small differences that keep me on my toes.

I just noticed that the heat keeps cycling on, so whatever warmth the sun brought seems to have dissipated, and we will soon be down to tonight’s low of 11 degrees. Yikes.

Stay warm!


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

I Love to Write Day

Today is national “I Love to Write Day,” so here I am, writing. To be honest, I’m not sure if I do love to write anymore; if I did, I’d be spending more time actually writing than simply thinking about writing. And I do spend a lot of time thinking about writing — wondering if I will write another book, and if so, what sort of story I would write, and mostly what I would do with the book when it’s finished.

How much I wonder about what to do with a book I have not yet written, don’t even have a clue as to plot or character, for sure makes me wonder how much I actually love to write. If love of writing was the key, I’d be writing, regardless of the disposition of the finished product.

What I need more than anything is a story I can get involved with and to be interested in for the year it takes to write, and so far, I haven’t found it. What I would like — to the extent that I would like anything to do with writing — is to get immersed in a world that is completely different from the one I live in, to become a character completely different from who I am, to tell a story that only I could tell.

I’d also like to write in a different way from I’ve always written, perhaps as diary or blog, where I discover the story, the characters, and their fictional world as I write. With all of my novels, I needed to know the antagonist, the protagonist, the basic conflict, the beginning, and the end, and then the creativity came in how I got from the starting place to the finish line. The closest I’ve ever gotten to writing without even a sketchy idea of where I was going is Break Time, the collaborative novel I did with friends from the Five Eyes countries (United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Britain). Break Time didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. As with the first collaboration I created, the Rubicon Ranch mystery series, the project was derailed halfway through because although it was supposed to be an online novel, those involved were more interested in getting it published than in keeping with the original intent.

So what if I did that sort of project by myself? Write a novel online as a blog — as a daily diary — creating the world and the characters as I wrote. If I did it online, I certainly wouldn’t have to worry about the disposition of the novel — it would be published online in blog segments as each was completed.

I’ve also been contemplating using the tarot cards as my story finder — to do readings for my characters to see who they are as well as daily or weekly readings (depending on how often I want to update the story on the blog) to see what they are doing. For an additional interest point, I could post the cards I used to write each segment of the story, which would give an added depth to those who can do their own reading of the cards, relating it to the blog segment.

Is this something that would keep me interested for the duration? I don’t know. Obviously, considering how seldom I am updating this blog, I am quite content not to write at all.

But things change.

And who knows what the future will hold? Not I, that’s for sure.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Real Life Beach Read

The term “beach read” started out as an advertising gimmick for books published in the summer for the beach-going crowd. They were non-challenging books, a bit frothy and fun, and could be almost any genre as long as the story was good enough to keep one’s attention but not so serious it would spoil one’s vacation. Nowadays “beach read” seems to be an actual genre, generally a romance or woman’s story that takes place at the beach. In a typical beach story, three sisters who are all at a crossroad in their lives end up at the family’s beach house, often to figure out what to do with house they jointly inherited in the hope that a sale will help solve their various issues. The book ends up with all their problems being resolved as well as the three disparate and far-flung sisters reconnecting and reestablishing their sisterhood.

My sisters recently came to visit, and I couldn’t help thinking I was living in a real life “beach read.” They weren’t here to help resolve the issue of our parents’ house because that had been taken care of eight years before. (Oddly, they just happened to be here on the eighth anniversary of our father’s death, but it was our mother we toasted with her favorite Bailey’s Irish Cream.) And anyway, this house is a done deal — it’s mine and mine alone.

We had no serious issues to resolve, and no true crossroads, though both sisters are dealing with a change in their circumstances, and the visit allowed them a respite from their respective issues. We had reconnected as sisters during our first “three sisters” weekend, but we haven’t all been together in the intervening four-and-a-half years. And rather surprisingly, this was the first time ever the three of us spent the night alone under the same roof.

To be honest, I was a bit nervous about hosting this gathering (three women and one bathroom seemed an untenable equation), and I didn’t know how generous I’d be about sharing my house. But it all worked out well, perhaps because they didn’t stay long, just a couple of nights. It was fun being with people who had known me most of my life (I say “most” because one sister is eight years younger and one is twelve years younger). And it was especially nice solidifying our sisterhood.

Even though I live in a town way out on the prairie, we even managed to spend some time at a beach!

The body of water — a reservoir — is huge, 30 square miles, and is adjacent to a 13,100-acre state park. Obviously, there wasn’t a whole lot of the place we could explore in one afternoon, but we managed to see several beautiful areas and take some stunning photos.

Unlike the characters in a beach read, I don’t suppose any of our lives were changed by the visit, but it definitely was a special time for all of us.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

That Notorious Villain Mr. Death

I received an email with sad news today: a dear friend is coming to the end of her days. A year and a half ago, the doctors said she had only two months to live, but she managed to survive happily and with grace all this time. But now, the cancer is too advanced, and chances of her surviving much longer are slim.

One of the saddest things about living to a certain age is that death seems to have become a constant presence. So many people I’ve been close to for years are gone, and those I’ve met more recently, are also going. I’ve only known this woman about three years, but despite a bit of a language problem (she spoke English with an accent I had a hard time understanding), we became instant sisters. And now I’m about to lose one more person to that notorious villain, Mr. Death.

I seem to be beset by death today. I spoke to another friend, a woman who lost her husband to The Bob, and she mentioned she’d checked a couple of my books out of the library. She had tears in her eyes when she said that my books on grief were the best books she’d ever read on the subject. It’s good to hear that, of course, and I am glad I was able to help in any way, but I would have been even gladder if none of us were in the position of knowing so much about grief in the first place.

Interestingly, she’d recommended my books to another recent widow, and that woman went to the library, but instead of checking out my grief books, she got one of my fiction books. That would have been my choice! It’s hard enough being steeped in one’s own grief without adding another person’s grief on top of yours.

I was glad to know they got the books from the library. I’d donated the books, and I worried that if the books sat on the shelf too long the librarians would get rid of them. (In other places, I’ve seen new books donated by their authors that ended up on a sale rack for 10 or 25 cents, and I didn’t want my donation to go to waste. Luckily, so far, the library has kept them.)

I’ve been gradually shifting away from the original topic — the sad news about my friend — but truly, what else is there to say except that I was honored she considered me a sister and how sad I am that she’s nearing the end. My heart (and a few tears) goes out to her husband who has so devotedly taken care of her the past couple of years.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.