Tag Archives: loss

New Beginnings and Happy Endings by Sherrie Hansen

The old joke goes that someone asked Mrs. Lincoln, “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” The twentieth century version would be, “Aside from that, Mrs. Kennedy, how did you enjoy your trip to Dallas?”

Today is the 360th day of the year. There are five days left in 2017. For me, much of the year passed in a fog because in 2017 my father was diagnosed with leukemia and eventually died. When something that life changing happens, everything else is inconsequential. But the year did have some bright points, and I’d like to think on a few of those things as well as what I am looking forward to in 2018.

az-purples

In January, Mark and I went to Arizona for a Spiritual Life Retreat. It was a good way to start out the year and helped ground me for what was to come. Seeing the beautiful red rocks and hiking in the desert was an eye-opening  experience for me. Having grown up amid Minnesota Northwood trees, lakes and streams, I’d rarely appreciated the beauty of the desert – until we discovered Sonoran Botanical Gardens. We even saw a rainbow. A promise was a good thing, because even then, we knew something was wrong with Dad.

Food - melting moments

The first week of February, I celebrated 25 years of being open for business at the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, and my 60th birthday. We served Tomato Basil, Fresh Broccoli, Wonderful Wild Rice, and Potato Ham soups, egg salad and Monte Cristo sandwiches, Copenhagen Cream with Raspberries and my fancy homemade cookies. I hired a DJ and made up an eclectic set-list of favorite songs from 1957 on. It was a wonderful night and would be my Dad’s last time to come to an event at the Blue Belle.

baldners-dad

March brought a flurry of bad diagnosis and a roller coaster ride of hope and frustrations and searches for answers.

Zion - Sunset 2015 2

In April, Dad took his last “big trip” when he came down to Mark’s church in Hudson to listen to the M&MS and Zion’s worship team sing Life is Like a Mountain Railway, his favorite song. We practiced it several times for him because it made him so happy.

Ireland - flowers

In late May, Mark and I said goodbye to Dad at the ICU at Mayo. Dad had pneumonia. I hated leaving him, but we had tickets to Wales, Ireland and England. We compensated for our absence by calling him every night from whatever country we were in. We stayed at B & B’s, enjoyed taking photos of amazing castles, gardens, and beaches, as well as sampling delicious pub grub, smoked haddock, millionaire bars (caramel shortbread), meat pies, Battenberg cakes, and Irish stew. Our adventures on the Wild Atlantic Way along the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland inspired a new book, Seaside Daisy.

Ireland - daisy sea

Dad rallied and was still alive when we came home in mid-June. It seems like the whole summer went by in a blur. Dad had chemo and almost 70 blood transfusions. We almost lost him twice, once when he went into anaphylaxis shock and once when his platelets dropped to 1.7. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren came from all over the country to hug and cheer him on. Through it all, he kept his sense of humor and faith.

Dad - harvest

In the midst of the busyness, my new  release, Golden Rod, came out. I tried to promote it but my mind was on bigger things. In August, it became apparent that more chemo was not an option for Dad. The process of acceptance that we were going to lose him began. Dad said it was sure too bad he had to miss his funeral because he knew the music would be great (lively bluegrass) and he’d get to see everyone he knew. When he first mentioned having a funeral rehearsal, we thought he was kidding.

Dad - pick-up

Sept 7, we kids hosted Everett Hansen Day at the Farm. Nearly 250 friends and family came for a potluck, greeted by a joyous, smiling Dad. During the next two months Dad was able to stay at home, and as was his goal, watch the harvest come in. My brothers and sister and I took turns spending the night in the double recliner next to him and enjoying many late night conversations.

Dad - creek

October was spent doubling back to the Blue Belle to serve over a hundred Seasoned Pork and Parmesan Stuffed Pumpkins to lunch guests by day, planning and writing murder mysteries by night, spending Wed, Thurs and Fri evenings with Dad, and worrying about him the rest of the week when we were down in Hudson.

Dad - casket

Dad died on November 7th. The actual funeral was everything Dad envisioned, with great bluegrass music. I started writing again on the 22nd, but switched to working on Daybreak in Denmark, a sequel to my first book, Night and Day, because the father character reminded me of Dad.

BBInn - heavy snow smaller

Gray December has been spent catching up on everything that didn’t get done this summer, trying to break out of the fog, and getting used to the “new normal” of not daily talking to Dad about what is going on in my life and hearing his jokes and advice. I’ve spent a lot of time crying. Comfort foods help for awhile and then make me feel worse. I am so thankful that I was able to spend so much time with Dad before he died, but the closeness has made it harder to adjust to him being gone.

bbinn-winter-2016

I think 2018 will bring more big changes in my life. I’m not sure what that means, but I sense it very strongly. I wonder where to go from here. Nothing is as much fun as it used to be, because I can’t tell Dad about it and hear his laughter or comments. Sometimes, I think I could just as well die too, but I have to finish Daybreak in Denmark first – as long as I’m half done already. We Hansens like to finish what we start, and like Dad, I find it very satisfying to watch the harvest come in.

Sunset 2014 Corn

I wish all of you happy endings in 2018. To those of you who have suffered losses in 2017, I pray you will find peace and joy in the New Year. Because it’s not the end, but a new beginning.

Daybreak in Denmark

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Why I’m Thankful that Writing is Good Therapy by Sherrie Hansen

Fine. I’ll admit it. Starting with my poetry writing days in the 1970s, I’ve worked through “issues” with old boyfriends, bosses, co-workers, ex-spouses, family members, random acquaintances and people I once considered friends by writing – most recently, using my imagination to transform them into hopefully unrecognizable characters in my books who can then be tortured, punished, rewarded, inappropriately loved and even killed.

Writing therapy is a wonderful by-product of being an author. With apologies to my brother, the psychologist, I believe it’s saved me thousands of dollars in counseling fees.

Dad - creek

Seriously, though – this Thanksgiving, I have many reasons for which to be thankful. I also have cause to grieve, having just lost my beloved father to leukemia on November 7th. My month has been filled with final foot rubs, long remembered conversations, and last words. My time has been taken up, not writing or trying to make a daily word count, but sleeping beside my Dad in the double recliner, rubbing his arm in the night when he didn’t feel well, and talking about “things” when one or the other of us couldn’t sleep.

Dad - daybreak

Days were filled with driving Dad around to his favorite farms so he could watch my brother bring the harvest in – for the first time, without him.

Dad - harvest

After Dad made the transition to his new home in heaven (which I truly believe is trimmed out in cherry wood, with crown moldings and one-of-a-kind solid wood doors that have a few knots, because while most people consider them a flaw, Dad thought they were “beauty-ful”), my days were spent rounding up a bluegrass band to play “Life is Like a Mountain Railway” at his funeral, making 18 dozen eggs into Hansen family sanctioned egg salad, and proofing Dad’s obituary and memorial flyers.

Dad - grandkids

I wouldn’t have missed a single moment that transpired or a single word that passed between us.

Earlier this fall, I fully intended to do NaNoWriMo, a writing challenge that asks you to commit to writing 1667 words a day for the month of November for a total of 50,000, or in my case, half of a book.

About the time my brothers and sister and I held a “Funeral Rehearsal” party for Dad that was attended by almost 250 people (at his request – he kept saying it was too bad he had to miss his funeral because the bluegrass music was going to be good, and he would like to see all his friends), I designed a mockup of a book cover and wrote a synopsis for Seaside Daisy.

Seaside Daisy

I’ve accomplished my NaNoWriMo goal for the last two years with Sweet William and Golden Rod and assumed I would do the same this year. But Seaside Daisy had nothing to do with Dad, and he’s all I can think about. Dad had never been to Ireland, where it’s set. He’s never lived by the sea, and to be honest, he probably would have thought Daisy was a flake.

Daybreak in Denmark

On November 22, I made a new cover file and wrote a new synopsis for Daybreak in Denmark, a long-planned but still unwritten sequel to my first novel, Night and Day. It’s the right book for a time such as this. Dad was half Danish and traveled to the island of Als almost 20 years ago to search for his extended family, who we’ lost touch with after World War II. If Dad was still alive, I could ask him about the farming bits, and reminisce about the interesting things we did in Denmark.

Dad - porch swing

The father figure in both Night and Day and Daybreak in Denmark is a dear man, a retired farmer with a fun sense of humor. It will be my honor to incorporate snippets of my Dad’s jokes and quirky Minnesota ways into this book.

Dad - combines

As an added bonus, Jensen has a cantankerous stepchild to contend with in this book. Why this will be therapeutic for me is a whole other story, and one I shouldn’t go into here. But trust me, this character is going to be a well-drawn, expertly crafted antagonist.

If you’ve lost a loved one recently or need to work through another sort of emotional issue over the holidays, I highly recommend writing. Get it out. Put it into words, or at least try. Journal, blog, or write a letter to the person you’re having troubles with and then tear it up or throw it in the fire. Whatever. Writing about it helps.

Dad - funeral spray

I’m thankful I got to spend as much time with my Dad as I did. I’m grateful for the hugs, loving words, and other expressions of sympathy shown to me, my husband and my family since his death. I’m grateful to have been raised and loved by a man who taught me so much – by word and example. My dad wasn’t a writer, or even a good reader, but he was a great storyteller. He was also an expert at repurposing rejected “stuff”, and a talented creator of beauty-ful things. I miss him so much, but I treasure my memories and the gifts that he gave me, and for that, I am truly thankful.

Dad - casket

 

Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-six years ago, with the help of her dad, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in Northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now spend their time in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Golden Rod” is Sherrie’s 10th book to be published by Indigo Sea Press, a mid-sized, independent press out of Winston Salem, NC.
You can find more information about Sherrie Hansen here:

WEBSITE  http://BlueBelleBooks.com  or http://BlueBelleInn.com

BLOG  https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor 

Goodreads  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/author/sherriehansen

Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

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Recovering From a Loss

I’m trying to deal with the particularly devastating loss of my friend and neighbor, Marianne, who passed away Tuesday morning after a 29 year battle with cancer. Like sisters, we shared a great deal of each other’s lives and interests. She taught me so much about living fully, I know I will be okay, eventually, but right now I feel a bit lost.

There’s a heavy weight in the pit of my stomach not only for me, but in my sympathy for her family and special friends. Marianne was one of those rare people who was, to use the cliché, larger than life. She inspired everyone she met, with her empathy and understanding and by her accomplishments: award winning watercolorist, stained glass artist, tile artist, skilled gardener. She was humble, helpful, generous, kind and loyal. She made everyone around her happy. How does one recover from losing a friend like that?

I’m in, what people call, my senior years, so loss is not something new to me, but this one has hit me harder than all the rest. I think Marianne would understand that, but she also would want me and the other people who are having a difficult time right now, to carry on, be strong and strive to be the best we can be. She was passionate and determined like that.

For me, it’s been helpful to have some time alone to mourn and regather my priorities. But not too much time. Keeping busy is the next step. Particularly with something useful and helpful to others. I do have a volunteer job I love. Marianne taught me the importance of doing something nice for myself, as well. I love to read and I’m saving up for a Kindle. I’m probably one of the few authors who have never seen their own book on an e-reader.

I have a couple painting projects waiting. One is enhancing a mural I did several years ago of a rock wall in my sunroom, and another is a portrait of a Grecian statue for my new bathroom. I’d like to go back to stained  glass class and make some projects for my family. I just finished a jigsaw puzzle and I’m ready for a new one. And one of Marianne’s friends and I plan to continue doing some of the things we three used to do.

Writing this has helped me form my sense of direction. So Marianne, I pledge to try my best to become a little more like you — to Aspire to Inspire before I Expire. Rest in peace my precious friend.

Marianne

Marianne

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Robbed!! — by S.M. Senden

My neighbor called the other day to say he had been robbed.  Just the thought sent a shudder through me.  He told me they had broken into his garage, breaking the door, and into the car, prying open the door and doing so much damage the old car was considered totaled by the insurance company, forcing him to get a new used car.  It seems our neighborhood has been the target for thieves as another neighbor said they took the copper from their AC, causing more damage than the copper ws worth.

One of the worst feelings we can experience is being robbed.  Someone violates our sacred space, our home, and takes away things that do not belong to them.  I have been robbed a number of times of late, and it is a feeling that leaves me looking over my shoulder, and has prompted me to keep a hammer close at hand, in the case I have to confront someone who has broken in.  I do not own a gun, and do not want one.

Though I write about murder, I do not want to kill anyone, not even a robber.  I may want to rearrange their knee caps and have them think twice about coming back here again, but I don’t want to kill them.  However, I do want them to hurt for the violation of my space and safety that they breached.  I do believe in Karma, even if I don’t get to see their payback, I believe it will come their way sooner or later.  Karmic payback can he the worst experience!

A sad note to the first robbery I suffered was that my grumpy, drug abusing neighbor sat and watched making no move to call the cops as they hauled off things from the porches.  Mostly they got old tools and ladders.  The thieves came back a number of times to see if I was stupid enough to replace the items and leave them out in the same places for the burglars to come back and take them again.

When I discovered what had happened, I called the police.  I have become good friends with the police recently.  The police say they can do little about this sort of crime unless they catch someone in the act.  We have a good police presence in the area, and my house is three blocks from the police station, yet, they can not be everywhere at once.

I look for the lesson, and for what I can do with this negative experience to turn it into any sort of positive at all.  It is an experience that I do not want repeated; however it can be put to use as I create characters and situations.  My sense of loss, violation and a lingering fear that I may not be safe in my own home are frustrating feelings that can help me write a better character, add depth to a scene and dialogue.

These robberies have left more than the invisible, psychological scars.  Sadly the damage the thieves leave behind in their wake is a problem that leaves the homeowner having to shell out money to replace and repair what they ruined.  As I cry in my beer about my dilemma, I thought some good comfort food would help get through the conflicting emotions firing inside of me as I write this blog.  Below is a great recipe for a pizza that will do less damage than the thieves.

NO    DOUGH    PIZZA   

Crust
1 (8 oz) package of full fat cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Topping
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
toppings – pepperoni, ham, sausage, mushrooms, peppers
Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350.

Lightly spay a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. With a handheld mixer, mix cream cheese, eggs, pepper, garlic powder and parmesan cheese until combined. Spread into baking dish. Bake for 12-15 minutes, our until golden brown. Allow crust to cool for 10 minutes.

Spread pizza sauce on crust. Top with cheese and toppings. Sprinkle pizza with garlic powder. Bake 8-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.

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Happy New New Year! by Pat Bertram

champagneWhen I looked at the day on my cell phone yesterday and noticed it was the 31st, my first thought was, “New Years Eve, already?” It felt good thinking that this year was over and that a new one would begin in just a few hours, but then the truth sank in — this year would not be over for another eleven months.

This has not been a good year so far — not the worst by a very wide margin, but not good, either. It began inexplicably with tears, and grief has been with me most of the month. (In less than two months, it will be three years since the death of my life mate/soul mate, and that anniversary looms large on my emotional horizon.)

It’s not just the grief upsurge that has made this a hard month — there have been too many disappointments and setbacks for such a new year. Friendships have ended, new hopes have not been realized, blog and book rankings have fallen. There have been some good things. For example, I was notified that Grief: The Great Yearning came in second place for a book award, but any pleasure in that recognition was destroyed when I got a follow-up email telling me I’d been demoted to third place. (I’m still reeling from that one. I’ve never heard of anyone being demoted before.)

I need a new start, and I’m going to make one. In a way, every day is the beginning of a new year, but today is also the beginning of a new month, which seems an auspicious time to begin anew. So . . .

Happy New New Year! Wishing you a great new start and much happiness during the coming months.

***

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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing.

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Grief: The Great Yearning by Pat Bertram

I never  set out to write a book about grief,  but I was so lost, so lonely, so sick with grief and bewildered by all I was experiencing, that the only way I could try to make sense of it was to put my feelings into words. Whether I was writing letters to my deceased life mate/soul mate or simply pouring out my feelings in a blog or a journal, writing helped me feel close to him, as if, once again, I was talking things over with him. The only problem was, I only heard my side of the story. He never told me how he felt about his dying and our separation. Did he feel as broken as I did? Did he feel amputated? Or was he simply glad to be shucked of his body, and perhaps even of me?

I wrote this letter to him exactly two years ago today. It shows some of the collateral effects of grief, such as the questioning, the yearning, the inability to make decisions. I did end up making a lot of decisions during that time. I decided to give up our home, get rid of about half of our things, donate his car to hospice. (I let them have him; it seemed only right to let them have his car.)

I still miss him, still hate that he’s dead, still question the meaning of life and death, still feel his absence like hole in the universe. I never expected to feel this sort of grief. Never knew it was possible.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 6, Letter

I started crying today and couldn’t stop. I had to go to town to break up the crying jag otherwise I might have cried all day. I’m glad you’ll never have to go through this. I cling to that thought—that your death spared you ever having to grieve for me. We did so much together, and now our paths have divided. I can’t yet follow you. Are you gone? Snuffed out forever? Or does something of you remain somewhere? Are you warm? Fed? Have plenty of cold liquids to drink? Thinking about what happened to you makes me sick to my stomach still. The days after your diagnosis went by too fast. I still can’t comprehend your suffering or your dying.

I sometimes hear noises out in the living room when I am in the bedroom, and my first thought is that it’s you. It comes as a shock when I realize . . . again . . . that you’re dead. I truly don’t know how to get along without you. Or, more accurately, I don’t want to get along without you. You were my life for so many years. I wonder what my future holds. Love? Success? Failure? Loneliness?

I still can’t decide if I want to get rid of almost everything we own or put it in storage. I know I’ll hate having reminders of everything I’ve lost, but perhaps there will come a time when our things bring me comfort?

I don’t know what to do about your car. Keep it? Sell it? Donate it?

I don’t suppose you want to hear about these indecisions, but they do loom in my thoughts. I talk to you all day, but when it comes time to write you, I can only think of such trivialities. Yet that’s what our life together ended up being. I wanted only the cosmically important things to be part of our shared life, yet it devolved into basic survival, errands, household chores. I’m keeping up with the chores. Sort of.

When I was at the grocery store, the clerk asked where you were, so I told her. She hugged me and cried with me. Not enough tears have been shed for you—no amount of tears will ever be enough—so those tears gave me comfort. Your life—and death—shouldn’t pass lightly.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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Introduction to “Grief: The Great Yearning” by Pat Bertram

Grief: The Great Yearning, the book about my first year of grief has finally been published. I wrote this article during the summer following my life mate/soul mate’s death, long before I ever knew my writings about grief would be published, but with the addition of the last paragraph, it made the perfect introduction to the book. Grief: The Great Yearning is available from Amazon, Second Wind Publishing, and in various ebook formats from Smashwords.

Death came in the spring.

At the beginning of March, the doctors said that Jeff, my life mate—my soul mate—had inoperable kidney cancer and that he had six months to live. He had only three weeks. We’d spent thirty-four years together, and suddenly I was alone, unprepared, and totally devastated. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the wreckage of my life. It wasn’t just he who died but “we.” There was no more “us,” no more shared plans and dreams and private jokes. There was only me.

Other losses compounded the misery. I had to sort through the accumulation of decades, dismantle what was left of our life, move from our home. We bereft are counseled not to make major changes during the first year after a significant loss—one’s thinking processes become muddled, leaving one prey to faulty logic and rash decisions—but I needed to go stay with my father for a while. Although he was doing well by himself, he was 93 years old, and it wasn’t wise for him to continue living alone.

I relocated from cool mountain climes to the heat of a southwestern community. Lost, heartbroken, awash in tears, I walked for hours every day beneath the cloudless sky, finding what comfort I could in the simple activity. During one such walk, I turned down an unfamiliar city street, and followed it . . . into the desert.

I was stunned to find myself in a vast wilderness of rocky knolls, creosote bushes, cacti, rabbits, lizards, and snakes. I’d been to the area several times during my mother’s last few months, but I’d spent little time outside. I hated the heat, the constant glare of the sun, the harsh winds. After Jeff died, however, that bleak weather, that bleak terrain seemed to mirror my inner landscape. Wandering in the desert, crying in the wilderness, I tried to find meaning in all that had happened. I didn’t find it, of course. How can there be meaning in the painful, horrific death of a 63-year-old man? I didn’t find myself, either. It was too soon for me to move on, to abandon my grief. I felt as if I’d be negating him and the life we led.

What I did find was the peace of the moment.

Children, most of whom know little of death and the horrors of life, live in the moment because they can—it’s all they have. The bereft, who know too much about death and the horrors of life, live in the moment because they must—it’s the only way they can survive.

During the first year after Jeff’s death, I lived as a child—moment to moment, embracing my grief, trying not to think about the future because such thoughts brought panic about growing old alone, trying not to think about the past because such thoughts reminded me of all I had lost.

And so went the seasons of my soul. The spring of death gave way to the summer of grief, and grief flowed into the fall and winter of renewal.

Grief: The Great Yearning is not a how-to but a how-done, a compilation of letters, blog posts, and journal entries I wrote while struggling to survive my first year of grief. As you journey through grief, I hope you will find comfort in knowing you are not alone. Whatever you feel, others have felt. Whatever seemingly crazy thing you do to bring yourself comfort, others have done. And, as impossible as it is to imagine now, you will survive.

***

Pat Bertram is also the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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Respecting Language

My mother died almost exactly three years ago. To understand the humor rather than the pathos behind that sentence, I’ll have to tell you a bit about my mother. She spoke with perfect diction, in unstilted, unaccented English, and she loved words and word games, especially the kind of game where you take a word or phrase and find as many smaller words as possible. For example: in “almost exactly” you can find most, call, cell, yell, exact, alas, etc. (Me? I hate that game, perhaps because I could never win when I played with her.)

It came as a shock to me when I realized as an adult that my mother was a first generation American who grew up speaking a language other than English. I always knew that, of course, but as a child you accept your mother for who she is without seeing her in the broader context of life. We often think of first generation Americans as people who have a rough time speaking English (or who speak rough English), but neither she nor any of her siblings had a hint of that other language in their voices.

She raised her family with a respect for language. No slang at our house. No “ain’t” or “we got no” or any other example of language slippage. My parents were strict, and we children seldom talked back, but there was one thing we all argued about with Mother: “almost exactly.” She claimed “exactly” had no degrees. A thing was either exact or almost. The rest of us knew the truth: there is a world of difference between almost and exact. And therein lies “almost exactly.”

Though occasionally I use “almost exactly” in speech, I try not to use it in my writing. It’s one thing to use such a construction when talking and something else entirely to commit it to the permanency of writing, and I don’t want to meet her on a cloud in some afterlife and have her start in on that old argument with me again.

On the other hand, it might be nice.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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Let It Be

I know you’ve seen the video, everyone has. It’s been emailed and remailed, Facebooked and Twittered, blogged and Gathered, clogging cyberspace with the message: Let It Be. At first I thought that perhaps this was the answer to my confusion over the death of my mate of thirty-four years. Just go on with my life and let it be. Forget my grief. Forget the pain of losing him. Forget trying to make sense of it all. Just . . . let it be.

My second thought as I continued watching this very looooong and repetitive song (Sheesh! What was Paul McCartney thinking when he wrote it? Not much, apparently) was how my mate would have enjoyed seeing all those faces as they are today. We have so many of them in his movie collection, and they are always that age, the one they’d reached when they made that particular movie (such as a much younger Sherilyn Fenn in The Don’s Analyst or a very young and fit Steve Guttenberg in Surrender).

My third thought was let what be what? And that’s where the thoughts stalled — in a semantics word jam.

I finished watching the video, thinking nothing, just watching the parade of faces, but now I’m wondering if Let it Be is really a philosophy I want to embrace. It seems too accepting of life’s vagaries and not enough of . . . well, embracing.

The whole purpose of going through grief is to process the pain and the loss, to mend your shattered life and heart so that one day you can embrace life in its entirety once again. I haven’t dealt with all these months of tears, anger, frustration, emptiness, loneliness, pain, just to spend the rest of my life letting it be. I want to let it be me — the one who’s strong enough not to have to simply let it be.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,  and Daughter Am I.

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Christmas Without

The calendar hanging on my wall will not stop its relentless march toward December 25th. Steadily, the days move toward the holiday like an ant toward a grain of sugar.

Even before tragedy struck my immediate family twice this year, I have occasionally looked at Christmas as a time of year when the emphasis on what I do not have dominates the holiday. Some years I did not have enough money to indulge in gift-giving the way I wanted. Other years I was without time to enjoy the season.

This year I am without two members of my family. Christmas Day will be heavy with their permanent absence.

As a writer, I indulge in the emotional side of situations. Because I cannot touch a reader’s heart with a visual display of sorrow, joy or any other emotion, I have to depict them on paper in such a way the reader will emphatically connect to the story and character.

Christmas Without is relatable in the same emphatic way. Each of us has had one or more holidays without something important to us, whether it’s family, money, or even the spirit of the season. We can all relate to a Christmas we simply wish to get past.

Strangely, I’m beginning to feel the tingling of a little Christmas spirit. This year, in the midst of the biggest “without” of my life, I’m starting to experience the wonder of the season. The decorations lining Main Street are brighter and the carols sound more beautiful. The smell of evergreen is stronger and the taste of eggnog is more delicious.

I feel the losses of my loved ones deeply and without pause. Although my thoughts are full of longing for the impossible return of what was once my reality, I feel a sense of calm serenity.

I will try to carry this calm serenity into my writing. For a time recently, I included a major character’s untimely death in all of my stories. During those periods of dark prose, it seemed the only way to write. It was the only thing that made sense since I was (and still am) living the reality of my fiction.

At the start of December, I began to feel different. Whether it’s the seasonal holiday goodwill or the calm remembrances of better times, whatever has happened is good for me and good for my writing. I have started to fill my characters with a little more joy and hope, and a little less sorrow and despair. Where death was once running like an unseen cloud throughout my stories, the hope of life is slowly taking its place.

The holiday season is bustling with good intentions and warm feelings. I am saving my “withouts” for New Year’s Eve when I will reflect on loved ones I miss with all of my heart. I will reflect and then I will begin to look forward.

I wish you all a Christmas Without “withouts.” I wish you a season of peace and comfort. If you cannot muster cheer for the holidays, embrace its tranquility instead.

I will.

J J Dare, author of Joe Daniel’s “False Positive” and “False World,” and numerous short stories

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