A Time to Mourn

I don’t want this to sound too depressing, but a friend of mine recently lost a close relative and is finding it hard to deal with. It is, so far as I know, the first time she has lost anyone close. I remember losing my mum’s aunty in the same way. She was the first to leave (from the close family that I grew up in) whose death actually registered with me. I was old enough to feel it. My uncle had died when I was 13 but I saw him rarely and he wasn’t as close as she was. He was only 45 when he died but even at the end of someone’s long life it is often still hard to accept. I guess, knowing she was 90 and had lived a long life, it made it a little easier to know she was gone to her rest having had a ‘good innings’ but she hadn’t done much with her life beyond caring for her aging mother. She never went anywhere, she didn’t travel. If she saw the other side of town she was doing well. She had never been abroad, never married, never had children, never even had a relationship. I think she might have been engaged at one time but had broken it to look after her mother. She was the eldest girl and that’s what you did in those days. She had been in service when she was younger, worked for Marks and Spencer when it was starting out as the Penny Bazarre. Her life had narrow horizons but if she wasn’t happy, she said nothing about it. She had been a part of my life from babyhood and I missed her terribly. When my grandparents both died within three months of each other, though, it struck me much harder. A big part of my life simply came to an end and it hurt far more.

There are expected stages to grief, categorized and observed and recorded by psychologists and scientists and accepted the world over as the way humans mourn. Known as the Kübler-Ross model, it cites five stages that we go through in order to cope and deal with the experience. However it should be noted that not everyone goes through all five and not necessarily in the same order anyway. I certainly didn’t. I remember the denial and acceptance but nothing in between. Our reactions are as unique as we are. We can experience denial (It’s not happening to me/I feel fine), anger (why me? It isn’t fair! Who is to blame?), bargaining (I’ll give anything if…), depression (I’m so sad, there’s no hope, what’s the point?), and/or acceptance (everything will be fine, it’s inevitable), but no matter how you travel through it, let no one tell you how to behave or what you ‘should’ be doing. Your way is your way, allow it to happen to you as it will. Take each day as it comes and deal with it in your own time. And never expect too much from yourself. Give yourself time.

People are more than the sum of their parts; we all are. Memories are the things we are left with and the trinkets people leave behind can be the triggers to those memories. My grandparents were a big part of my life. I was born in their house which had been in their possession almost since it was built. All their children had been born in it. It was a Council property, though, and because they had never bought it, it returned to the Council when they died. I hated that because as far as I was concerned, it was theirs, suffused with their memories and mine. They lived throughout the war in that house, celebrated birthdays and anniversaries and births, mourned deaths and dug for Victory, looked after me there when mum was working, had me to stay when I wanted to, taught me to cook there, told me stories there, I laughed and cried and cheered and sang there. But at the end of the day, it was only bricks and mortar and people are not there, but are in your mind and your heart. Many bricks make a house, as they say, but many hearts make a home. That was so true of my life.

I will have to write their story one day. I am working on my family history at the moment, finding things out and piecing things together. I have gone as far back as 1745, and I am learning new things every time I do the research. All those lives, all those memories, all that lost information. I am the descendant of farmers, a ship’s captain, blacksmiths and teachers. I know nothing about them, other than what my mother can remember of those who were part of her life. I have no idea of their hopes, fears, ambitions, expectations or loves, of what kind of people they were, if they were kind or bad tempered or generous or stupid. They were people just like me, though, human beings working and existing and loving and laughing. I am their immortality.

One of the things about the human condition is our ability to experience things in our own unique way. We often rail against death, we want to live so much. “Do not go gentle into that good night,” as the line from the Dylan Thomas poem goes, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” It has oft been the subject of poetry and prose. That famous line from Blade Runner, spoken by the replicant (robot) Roy Baty, comes to mind. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glittering in the darkness off the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain… Time… to die….” No matter what we see, do or experience throughout our lives, those things are personal and seen only through our own eyes. That viewpoint is unique and not something we can share completely. And yes, it does die with us. Some things, you cannot leave behind you. Likewise, everyone is made of the way others see them. Our memories are unique to us, and our memories of the people we love are likewise unique. As we go through life we are like ripples on the water, we do things that touch others, we cause things to happen, we experience things in our own way. How we touch each other’s lives may not at once seem all that important, but can have far reaching effects. Sometimes we cannot even see what we do.  We have to understand that often, even though we don’t know it, we do great good with the simplest of actions, the smallest of ways. I am a strong believer in the Butterfly Effect, the science of the small. I might consider a smile or a small complement a tiny insignificant thing, requiring no effort on my part, but who knows what it means to the recipient? Don’t discount actions because you feel they are insignificant to you. Everybody’s viewpoint is unique.

If in my lifetime I touch a few lives in a positive way, then I’ll be happy. I have no expectations of anyone in a hundred years knowing who the hell I was or how I felt about anything, but that doesn’t matter. If I have been loved half as much as I loved my grandparents and parents, I’ll be happy.

If they gave you love and good memories, then remember your loved ones, the ones who are still here as well as those who have gone, with happiness and love in your heart. Hold all who have gone before close to you, remember their legacy and know they loved you for a reason. To them, at least, you were worth it. Take heart that you were loved and let it lift your self-esteem and don’t stop doing those small things you feel are maybe insignificant. Who knows what seeds you plant today that you may well reap tomorrow. What goes around, comes around. May you achieve your dreams and may you, through adversity, reach your stars.

Thoughts on 9/11

Anniversaries like this are difficult things to write about. I personally don’t look forward to October much. Although my own wedding anniversary is in it, which lifts the gloom, so is the anniversary of my father’s death, twelve years ago. He said to my mum after my grandparents died that life after the death of a loved one is a series of firsts: the first time you laugh, the first time you go back to somewhere you both loved, the first time you do anything you were used to doing together.

As the anniversary of 9/11 is upon us, my own thoughts turn to more personal brushes with acts of terrorism. Having just read fellow author Damon Suede’s ‘walk-through’ of living in Manhattan at the time, a moving and educating account on reviewer SJD Peterson’s blog (link below) I found out things I never knew had happened. For instance, how many times Manhattan residents were evacuated over the next days and how others survived by the skin of their teeth. As Damon says, “One of my dearest amigos had been temping on the 64th floor that day and only survived because she walked barefoot and blind through the rubble… six miles home into Brooklyn. Another colleague had left a meeting in World Trade 2 for a cigarette and almost got decapitated by falling masonry.”

http://sjdpeterson.blogspot.com/2011/09/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none.html

Our own country would follow in 2007 with the London bombing. 7/7 as it came to be known threw terrorism in our faces once more. My mum had a friend whose daughter survived because she had simply decided not to ride that bus that morning but to walk. It passed her as she made her way to work. Moments later, chaos reigned. What decides whether you live or die? Chance? What made her decide to walk that morning? Fate? Who knows?

Perhaps the thing that stands out most in my own memory is the Manchester bombing of 1992. My family and I had gone on holiday that morning. I recall it was a Saturday. We got to the farmhouse in Northumberland where we were staying and saw it on the news. I remember my mum asking if I should call my long-time friend who lived there and I said I knew she was safe (which she was) because I had spoken to her on the phone only that morning. The blasts happened a scant half hour after I had talked to her and I knew it would take her at least 45 minutes to get to town. Little did I know then though that two of our other friends had a lucky escape that morning. They both worked at an office block near the center of the blast and one had been standing at one of the windows when the bomb went off. The window bowed in but did not shatter, being made of blast-proof glass. If she’d been on the floor higher she wouldn’t have been so lucky. Apparently the firm had only fitted blast proof glass to that floor and no higher because it was deemed unnecessary.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/3/newsid_2519000/2519715.stm

For the rest of us watching through the window of television, we are often removed from the main event by dint of being miles away. It doesn’t touch us because it’s happening to someone else. However, the thing that strikes me most about 9/11 has always been the final communications from those people who died. The advent of mobile phones allowed a few to contact their nearest and dearest to tell them they loved them or to tell them, sometimes mistakenly and tragically, that they were safe. That is the thing that has always moved me to tears. What would I do if I got such a phone call?  No damned idea. I hope it never happens to me.

Us Brits have lived with terrorist acts for decades (the IRA were often too close for comfort) so I guess we were inured to it to some degree. We were familiar with bomb warnings and abandoned packages and the evacuation protocol should we receive a bomb threat while at work. I dare say that a goodly few of us were shocked at the scale of 9/11 though and no doubt some had probably thought we were free of such acts since the IRA had reached ceasefire agreements. If such thoughts occurred to us, how wrong they were.

One decade later, my thoughts are with everyone touched by such acts. I hope you have found peace. We can but pray for a safer and more enlightened world. I can but hope that the next ten years is more peaceful and tolerant.

May your God go with you all.

Lest we forget.

 

Update on new novella

Well, so far as anyone can tell me, my new book will have an October release. First edit done, next one on the way. Update when I know more.

A wonderfully Loving Family.

When a fellow author, Mickie Ashling, posted this link I had to follow it and read. I found this to be a wonderfully positive and uplifting entry. I bless the parents of this little boy and thank them for their contribution to the world. Well done and may your son, however he turns out, be both a credit to you and to his world. I hope, some day, he gets his Blaine. I just wish there were more out there like you.

http://getstooobsessed.tumblr.com/post/9004061623/mommy-they-are-just-like-me-my-oldest-son-is

Am currently editing my second book.

My second book is in process, hopefully for a September release. I’m excited, I have to say. The first book was awesome, everything to do with it, from the acceptance to the printing. This one will only be an ebook because it is a novella and not as long but it’s still a book and it’s still mine. As awesome as the first…

It will be released through the lovely Dreamspinner Press. These people are the best, supportive and helpful.

Will keep you updated as to the release.

Life Begins at Forty

Well, apparently my sequel is in the “editing queue” and I have submitted my ideas for art work. Am awaiting the results. I anticipate a September release for this one, but will update as things become clearer. It is a novella, not a novel, so it will be released on ebook format only.

I am also still working on my new novel but have hit the inevitable writer’s block and am struggling to get through it. Major continuity error in the first draft… Where would I be without my lovely betas?

If you are trying to write, get yourself a beta (for people new to the term, this is a helpful reader who can give you an honest opinion of your work, not to mention constructive criticism). If you can get two or three betas then you can balance them against each other and get a broader opinion of your work. This is a good learning curve because it will give you insights into your work and also valuable feedback before submitting/editing. If you can get a beta who is also able to edit, all to the good. However, do not necessarily accept everything they say. Take things on board and be ready to defend your reasons why you did something, but listen to their comments and don’t ignore a consensus of opinion.

So, watch this space. I will update when I know more and the link to the book will go up here alongside my other novel, the prequel.

Into This World We’re Thrown

I have recently finished reading Mark Kendrick’s second book concerning teen couple Scott and Ryan “Into This World We’re Thrown”. While I am not normally a fan of gay teen stories (I prefer my guys a bit older) I was never-the-less impressed by the writing style enough to read both books in the series. Beginning with Desert Sons, Mark weaves a story of teen angst and passions between two boys with markedly different backgrounds and characters. Somehow they fit each other well, they have their highs and lows, their threats and reveals and obstacles to overcome. The sequel ties a lot of loose ends up and (without revealing too much) manages a successful conclusion. Am not saying if this was a happy end or not, you’ll have to read it yourselves. However, these books were published a decade ago, in 2001 and 02 respectively. Reading the sequel, I could not but notice the opportunity that Kendrick had taken to show up the high instance of gay teens who were committing suicide even then. In light of recent movements, it seems that this world has taken far too long to wake up to this, a whole decade in fact. God only knows how many we have lost in those years. Now the “It Gets Better” and Trevor Projects are doing their bit to stop this. Lets make sure we don’t fail our young people again. Support both these projects by letting as many people know about them as you can. That’s what the internet should be for – networking, spreading the word – so let’s use it that way. I offer my respect and thanks to Mr Kendrick for including this theme in his work. The more of us who do, the better.