Sunday, November 22, 2009

When the Muse Says 'Just Do It'

Death is real. It comes without warning. No one escapes it. Soon my body will be a corpse!” ~ A Buddhist passage

When my brother Jimmy died unexpectedly 3 years ago, I wrote his eulogy. My brother Danny died a month later and I wrote a poem describing how removing his breathing tube, IV, and other interventions was like taking Jesus down from the cross so that he could be released from his suffering and be allowed to die.

My brother’s deaths rocked my world to the core. Jimmy’s eulogy and the poem I wrote for Danny became the foundation that my first book was written on. It was as if all the writing I had done before their deaths led to that one point and with a fire set beneath me and the Muse announcing "On your mark, get set, go!" There was no time for research or to calculate the story, I just let it dictate itself to me. Each day’s writing was like a journal entry, field notes from the trenches of grief’s frontline, I wrote.

I questioned why I was writing the book; who did I think I was, writing a book, and who would want to read it? This is what I wrote in the introduction called “Down in the Hole:” Since my brother’s deaths, life has had a sharper focus. There are things I can see that I couldn’t see before. If I can describe what I see from inside this hole, will it help others when they are down in one? What place is this? How deep does it go? I want to know. I’ve never been here before. Can I make something constructive out of the powerless feeling of loss? Am I digging my way out, word by word? I’m writing Jim and Dan’s story because after living this story, no other seems worth telling, because what else can I do down here, because there’s nowhere else to go. I’m writing Jim and Dan’s story because I’m proud of their story. I want to shout from the rooftop how irreplaceable they are.

You see, I had no choice but to write the book, and I must have done something right because it’s being used in a death, grief and loss class at Radford University, and many people have contacted me to tell me how much the book has meant to them.

The irony of The Jim and Dan Stories is that I’m a better writer (not to mention a better person) for having written it, but it took writing it to be able to say that.

The above originally appeared on my blog on April 10, 2005.

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