Small Losses and Great Losses

I lost something today. It wasn’t important in the grand scheme of life and death, but it was important to me. It made me feel good, for one thing, and it was perfect, for another. I can cobble together a replacement, but I will never find the joy that I did in the original item. It was a symbol, in a way, of my struggles to create a new life for myself, and now . . . well, now the symbol is gone. But only the symbol. My new life is still here. I am still here.

In two days, it will be the fourth anniversary of the death of my life mate/soul mate. The fourth anniversary of my new birth. I’ve come a long way in those years, so much so that I’m not sure the woman I was would recognize the woman I am today, but the inexplicable loss of this symbol reminded me of that other loss, the most important one I ever experienced, and I can’t stop crying. I haven’t cried for him in a long time. When I think of him, I don’t try to hold on to the thoughts as I have in the past. I just let them drift away. But today, when I felt that sick sinking feeling of an inexplicable loss, I was reminded once again that he is gone.

Sometimes it feels as if he’s been gone for decades, yet in some respects, his being gone is still very new. My plans, my thoughts, my dreams continue to be tinted through the dark glass of his goneness. Someday, as he recedes even further from me, the influence of his absence will wane. Or perhaps not. The truth is, it’s his death that inspires my life. He faced the end so courageously, I can only face my life with as much courage. In a strange sort of way, his death set us both free, he from pain, and me from being tied to an invalid (which he would have hated — he always told me that if he ever became incapacitated, I was to walk away. But I couldn’t). A small life, a life of not much, a life of not trying new things would dishonor that act of freedom.

I no longer expect him to call and tell me it’s time to come home, as I did for the first couple of years after he died. I no longer feel his vast goneness from my life, yet I always miss him. I’ve stepped back from the abyss of death, back into a celebration of life. I’m adding so much to my life — friends, excursions, dance — that I feel silly at times for still yearning for one more smile from him. I guess if I want smiles, I’ll have to generate them myself.

And I will. Just not tonight.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Do You Want People Studying Your Book in School?

After watching the movie, “The Jane Austen Book Club,” which followed several couples whose stories mirrored those in Austen’s books, I decided to reread Sense and Sensibility. While plowing through the incredibly long and obtuse introduction to the book, I couldn’t help wondering what Jane would think of it. Did she really mean to say all the things the author of the introduction said she meant to say? How would she feel if she found out that kids were studying her book in school and adults were studying it in book clubs? Did she mean her books to be studied? Or did she mean for them to be read?

I can’t think of anything more terrible than having my books taught in school. Well, of course I can think of a lot of worse things. On the list of world horrors, it comes pretty far down on the list. And, on a personal level, not being read at all would be worse. But still  . . . I think it would be dreadful for kids to sit in a stuffy classroom, bored out of their skulls, trying to figure out what I meant.

On the bizarre off-chance of that every happening, I’ll tell you right now what I meant. I meant for people to enjoy the stories. I meant for people to be taken away from their mundane lives for a couple of hours. I meant for people to read themselves to sleep and to wake up thinking about my world. And after all that, if I got anyone to wonder about the truth of anything my characters say, so much the better.

Did I have a theme? Did I use words in a certain way to create moods? Did I use symbols, such as lemon drops, as shortcuts to explain emotions? Of course I did. But including those was more for me, to keep me focused on the story. Because that is what I write. Stories. Not books to be studied, but stories to be read.