After a call I received yesterday afternoon, I thought of the words of Matt Kearney’s Closer to Love : “I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.” I had intended a light and amusing post today on family relationships, but that call caused me to reflect on a much more serious aspect of family relations: when the relationships end in death.
A dear family member lost her father yesterday, and I can’t imagine the depths of the grief she’ll walk once it seeps in. It got me thinking of how thin the borders are between this life and the next, and the importance of taking care of each other and ourselves. It also got me thinking of the middle of the night phone calls over the years that mark dots on a timeline, and separate the everyday and ordinary from the life-defining moments we build our stories and measure our lives around as we live it.
I recall one such phone call a decade ago when we found out that my uncle was at shock trauma following a car accident. Over the course of the day we watched his reflexes and responses slip away, one by one, until his cough was gone, and we knew that after we said our goodbyes, we could let him die. On that day I saw my father cry for the first time. I remember the male nurse who stayed with us hours after his shift ended and cried like he’d known my uncle for years when he finally went. I remember the plastic bag of my uncle’s belongings they gave my grandmother when we left that said “John Doe” on the outside of it.
When my grandmother died several years later it was different. We knew it was coming. She’d been suffering for a long time. We’d had time to care for her, and tell her we loved her, and whisper our goodbyes. A few days before she died, a Native American woman sat at her bedside and mentioned that a bird at death was a good sign. When my grandmother died, a bird sang at her window and her beloved dog started barking. The dog–healthy and young–died several hours later.
It seems that there’s always a story with a death–either preceding it or following it. It’s such a shame when the death is not peaceful or a part of the natural progression. It’s a shame when the call brings us to our knees.
But all death should take us to our knees, at least in prayer. Prayer for the soul of the dead and prayer for those in mourning. And finally, prayers of gratitude for lives well lived, or the beloved living.
For my family member, my friend, my sister, I leave this.
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Today I’m participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We’re celebrating the release of Therese Walsh’s debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy, (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost when they were teenagers. Visit The Muffin (http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html) to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit Therese’s website (http://www.theresewalsh.com) to find out more about the author.
About the book:
The Last Will of Moira Leahy
By Therese Walsh
A LOST SHADOW
Moira Leahy struggled growing up in her prodigious twin’s shadow; Maeve was always more talented, more daring, more fun. In the autumn of the girls’ sixteenth year, a secret love tempted Moira, allowing her to have her own taste of adventure, but it also damaged the intimate, intuitive relationship she’d always shared with her sister. Though Moira’s adolescent struggles came to a tragic end nearly a decade ago, her brief flirtation with independence will haunt her sister for years to come.
A LONE WOMAN
When Maeve Leahy lost her twin, she left home and buried her fun-loving spirit to become a workaholic professor of languages at a small college in upstate New York. She lives a solitary life now, controlling what she can and ignoring the rest–the recurring nightmares, hallucinations about a child with red hair, the unquiet sounds in her mind, her reflection in the mirror. It doesn’t help that her mother avoids her, her best friend questions her sanity, and her not-quite boyfriend has left the country. But at least her life is ordered. Exactly how she wants it.
A SHARED PAST
Until one night at an auction when Maeve wins a keris, a Javanese dagger that reminds her of her lost youth, and happier days playing pirates with Moira in their father’s boat. Days later, a book on weaponry is nailed to her office door, followed by anonymous notes, including one that invites her to Rome to learn more about the blade and its legendary properties. Opening her heart and mind to possibility, Maeve accepts the invitation, and with it, a window into her past. Ultimately she will revisit the tragic November night that shaped her and Moira’s destinies, and learn that nothing can be taken at face value, as one sister emerges whole and the other’s score is finally settled.
About the author, Therese Walsh:
Therese is the co-founder of Writer Unboxed, a blog for writers about the craft and business of genre fiction. Before turning to fiction, she was a researcher and writer for Prevention magazine, and then a freelance writer. She’s had hundreds of articles on nutrition and fitness published in consumer magazines and online.
She has a master’s degree in psychology.
Aside from writing, Therese’s favorite things include music, art, crab legs, Whose Line is it Anyway?, dark chocolate, photography, unique movies and novels, people watching, strong Irish tea, and spending time with her husband, two kids and their bouncy Jack Russell.
Therese’s website: http://theresewalsh.com
Therese’s blog: http://theresewalsh.com/blog.html
Writer Unboxed: http://www.writerunboxed.com