Monday, February 16, 2015
What Does It All Mean?
Whatever memoir I choose to write, I am looking to construct a larger meaning from the experience. Why does this specific experience matter to me in the grand scheme of my life? Why should - or would - it matter to anyone else?
In the last ten days, my family has suffered tremendously. My Aunt Cindy suffered a heart attack and spent three days in the hospital; as I was taking a shower last Saturday morning, preparing to visit her, my husband came in to tell me, gently, that she had already passed away. During the same weekend, physicians admitted my Uncle Bill to a different hospital to treat his pneumonia. While there, doctors discovered he had suffered a mild heart attack at home. When the nurses took him for a routine echocardiogram last Sunday, he suffered a massive heart attack and underwent CPR for 20-30 minutes, leaving him brain damaged and on life support. This past weekend, my Aunt Arlene made the heartbreaking decision to remove his life support. We wait for news of the worst kind.
In the paragraph above, I have barely scratched the surface of what has happened. It certainly is no memoir - yet. There's little in the way of emotion in my bare bones account, nor catharsis; in fact, as my uncle clings to life, we have not had the chance to process what has happened to either my Aunt Cindy or my Uncle Bill, or to assess what kind of hole their deaths will leave in the fabric of our family. There's also the question of what I should include - my own feelings, yes, but what of those of my husband or daughter? As I mull over this subject as a possible memoir, I think of William Zinsser's advice, of the advice of Marion Roach Smith: what is this about? It is about my sadness and grief over the death and severe illness of two of my favorite relatives. It is not about how my husband feels or how my daughter feels, nor do I need to add in every last cousin who came to the hospital. As much as I love them, I can leave them out. And perhaps this isn't the memoir to write right now - it's too fresh, too painful, and definitely lacking resolution. I can't complete the memory because I am still in the middle of making it - however agonizing that might be in this moment.
It is, however, a story of loss and grief and despair, and perhaps with time, I will be able to construct some kind of meaning out of this adversity for myself in a way that will also reach a reader's heart.