With Tears Comes New Life
Updated: Mar 22
Yesterday, I wrote the scenes in my memoir where my best friend, Stacie, dies.
And today, I feel terrible.
Years ago, at a Society of Children's Books Writer and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in New York, I attended a talk by Katherine Paterson, author of the award-winning classic children's book, Bridge to Terebithia.
If you have not read Bridge to Terebithia and would like to, please stop reading before I ruin it for you.
During that talk, Katherine Paterson shared that the main character, David, was based on her son, who had been a lonely boy. She recounted the wonderful day her son came running in the house after school yelling, "Mom! I made a friend!"
Every day, Katerine Paterson was grateful for the new friend who had brought joy to her lonely little boy. When that friend was struck by lightning, her heart broke as the light went out in her son.
Her son and his friend were the inspiration for Bridge to Terebithia. At that SCBWI conference in New York many years ago, I cried as Katherine Paterson described the days leading up to when she wrote Leslie Burke's death.
Paterson said she did all the dishes, scrubbed every floor, and cleaned out every closet in her house (and she heated to clean). She did whatever she could to avoid writing Leslie Burke's death, but she had a deadline to meet, and finally she just had to dig in and do it.
And she felt terrible.
I thought about Katherine Paterson this morning when I woke at 4:00 am couldn't go back to sleep. I thought about how every writer's approach is always different.
I hadn't procrastinated writing Stacie's death at all. In fact, I barreled through those pages because I, too, have a deadline. Before I started, I asked Stacie to help me write the story and then I just began to type.
I wrote details about how when someone you love is dying, they no longer look like themselves. I typed out her exact instructions about what kind of services and celebrations she wanted and the hilarious way she asked, "How do you want me to haunt you?"
I wrote about when she came home from her last date with her husband and how it felt to lie on her couch in the glow of Christmas tree lights and rub her feet while she whispered about the beautiful orchestra, crystal chandeliers, and champagne.
I wrote every last detail of what it was like to lose my friend.
And today, I feel terrible.
I'm grouchy, and teary, and so ridiculously tired because I woke up at 4:00 am and couldn't go back to sleep. So, after reading emails and medical records and piecing together my timeline for five hours this morning, I decided I needed to take a break from working on my memoir.
I took myself out to my favorite place for lunch and sat at the counter. Then two men sat, one on each side of me, and I felt squished and annoyed that not even food could make me feel better. So, I went to a used a bookstore and bought a book and then felt lousy about it because the author wouldn't get a penny of that sale. And then I did what I should have done in the first place and I went outside.
In Northern California, the sky has been raining at the rate people breathe. It's dreary and depressing until I zoom out from the dark skies and notice all the beautiful wonders growing around me. A million different greens in a million different ways remind me that with tears comes new life.