A Conversation on Writing

One of the last “real” conversations I had with Sam was on the way home from a Thanksgiving gathering at one of my sisters’ houses, in the dark car with music playing quietly.  Some of our best conversations have taken place in the car, where there are no outside distractions and neither of us can actually leave or ignore the other person (this is actually true with all of my children).

At any rate, we were talking about our individual spiritual callings and how hard it is to discern them, about where our journeys were leading us, about our talents and gifts. Sam was telling me that I need to write. “Mom,” he said, “you have gone through so much and survived and you are such a good writer, you need to write your book.” At that point, he got emotional and emphasized, “You have important things to say and people need to hear them.” At the time, I was touched that he felt so sure of my abilities and believed in me so much that he was getting emotional about it.

Now, of course, the entire conversation is different when you take into account the fact that he committed suicide two days later. Many different things have come up that indicate (prove, to me) that his suicide was not an impulsive decision but a well-thought-out plan. In that context, I believe that he was silently telling me that he was going to be giving me another chapter, knowing that I process things by writing about them and encouraging me to do that so “the people” could also see.

That conversation with Sam is why I joined this 500 Word Challenge. It isn’t as if I am compelled to write simply because Sam wanted me to, although of course, his words carry some weight. Instead, it’s like I don’t have anything to be afraid of anymore. I have always wanted to write a book, ever since I was a small child, and I have always been crippled by self-doubt and fear of failure and fear of success and all of the other fears that get in the way of me not working toward my dreams. 

So doing this challenge, reviving the old blog ( I chose this just because the platform was already established), writing every day, is how I start actively pursuing this-not a dream, but a goal-book-writing thing.  Some of my words here will be used in it, but since I am not supposed to worry much about editing or how I “sound” or anything like that, I can simply write. The rest will come, as long as I just write. I am a routine-oriented person (which sounds so much better than rigid and averse to change!), so I know that establishing a daily habit will help immensely. 

Also? I am learning that part of the grieving process involves a lack of decision-making ability, poor focus, brain fog, numbness, and a general inability to function at anywhere near a “normal” level. I do not know how long this will last, and I accept that there are days where I will only be able to do the bare minimum. Some days, if all I can do is write 500 words and cook dinner, then that’s going to have to be ok. 

41 Days

41 days is not much time.  It isn’t time enough to, say, lose 30 pounds or write a book or undo a lifetime of mistakes or save enough money to buy a new car.  However, 41 days is enough time to have your life change irrevocably, for a cataclysmic event to occur that will shatter you into a million pieces with no hope of being put back together in any recognizable way.

41 days ago, my 19-year-old son committed suicide. On November 24th, 2018, at 3:26 in the morning, a county sheriff’s deputy rang my doorbell.  When I answered it ( after several rings; I was asleep and initially thought I was dreaming because the dogs asleep in my bed were not barking at the first ring. By the second ring, I thought I had mistakenly locked my oldest son out of the house, and by the third ring the dogs were barking like mad and I was annoyed as heck that my oldest wouldn’t just give me a second to get to the door), I saw one sheriff’s department vehicle, and then another, and possibly a third. Obviously, I knew it was bad. At that moment, though, my thoughts were still on my oldest, who had gone out with friends and maybe he got into an accident because the other kids were all safe at home with me, sleeping.

Only-they weren’t. When the deputy told me that my Sam had tried to commit suicide in my garage, I knew. I asked him, “Is he ok?” while knowing that he wasn’t. The answer was, “We performed CPR until the ambulance got here, and they continued it and are on the way to the hospital and all the while, in those first few minutes, there was a knowing inside me.  I was shaking and in shock and trying to rush around and find my clothes and call a friend to come to the house to sit with my younger two, while the deputies waited in my front room, I knew.  Before one of the deputies asked if I could answer a couple of quick questions, I knew. Before I asked if it was ok if I smoked while we talked outside and he said sure, there is no hurry, I knew. They wouldn’t (couldn’t) tell me, but I knew.  All the way to the hospital, I was shaking and driving more and more slowly, trying to postpone knowing the thing I already knew.

You see, Sam attempted suicide one other time before, in September of 2017.  I told my ex-husband, “He is going to kill himself.” He kind of blew me off, not in a derogatory way, just in the, “no, we will get him some help, he will be ok” kind of way. Sam spent a week at a mental health facility, and during that time he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was prescribed medication and attended therapy for a time, but since that day there was always that ever-present fear in the back of my head. The feeling of waiting, always.

Even at the hospital, the deputy who had followed me to town and a police officer who was there waiting for us would not tell me the words.  They led me to a room, and I remember stopping at the doorway and saying, “That’s the dead room.  That’s where the doctor is going to come to tell me he’s dead. Why can’t you just SAY it?” And they very kindly and gently led me to the room and held my hand when the doctor came in to tell me that they had done everything they could but…”Unfortunately, your son has passed.”

41 days. Enough time for many things, but not for absorbing this horrible thing we are experiencing. Most days? Still numb. Other days? Wishing I was still numb. I am participating in this 500 Words Daily Challenge for many reasons, not the least of which is that it will give each day some sort of routine-a new routine, trying to figure out how to get to a new “normal.”


The months have flown past and my baby isn’t a baby anymore, suddenly turning into a full-fledged toddler. She did not walk forever, content to scoot around on her butt and then, finally, crawl, until last month-when she walked, finally. She whirls around like a drunken dervish, still not steady on those pins, but a bona fide toddler indeed. It makes me crazy with joy and sadness to watch how much she grows and changes every day. I should have been writing every day, if only to chronicle the changes; after having four other children, I know I won’t remember. I won’t remember the silly little things she does like climb upstairs and pop into the bathroom saying, “Hi!” as if she hasn’t seen me for weeks and weeks. I won’t remember the nights where she still cries for me to come nurse her, regressing to infancy in her half sleep. Some of the memory loss is good; I won’t remember how she drives me to distraction by screaming at the top of her lungs simply because she can, nor will I remember how hard she still is sometimes to be with all of the time. The nights where we both cry from exhaustion will be forgotten, and all I will remember is the sweetness.

Funny how everything changes in the blink of an eye, or at least that is how it seems. A month ago Owen cried because we kind of MADE him try to ride his bike without the training wheels, and yesterday he and Sam took a long bike ride together like they had been doing it for years. Three seconds ago Sam was peeping his head up the laundry chute hollering,”Let me love you!” and now he disappears into his room and closes the door.

It’s a strange time here, with one of my adult children struggling mightily and the other one just beginning to thrive, and yet I have these small little creatures who still depend on me for so much. I feel crazy sometimes, going from dealing with very serious issues with one child to convincing another that these shoes are just fine, she does not need the black church shoes. It’s like living a double life in a lot of ways, and requires so much more of me than I thought. For many reasons.

So I sneak up early before anyone is up and I have started to write. I have been blessed with a couple of good paying jobs that make me feel useful and I have fun, but I need to write more. Here, for eventual publication, for my sanity. My children keep me grounded and happy, but the writing makes me fly. Strange times indeed, and I am not sure what I even did before all this.

Christmas Eve morning. Aubry woke up puking in the middle of the night, poor girl, meaning Hannah and Sam both woke up as well because they were all sleeping in the same room. Josie heard the commotion and woke up as well, wanting nursies and snuggles. Hannah got Aubs settled back to sleep around 4:30, but Josie woke back up at five and did NOT want to go back to sleep. Instead, she thought it would be more fun to throw a screaming, back-arching fit because Daddy was leaving for work. Finally at about six thirty, Josie went back to sleep, but within moments Owen woke up. You see, he was sleeping in our room, so he slept through all the noise and woke up ready for the day. Can I FINALLY have my coffee?

The thing is, puking and fussing and commotion is all part of life, and I still feel really grateful. We have everything mostly ready for Santa to come, we will go to church tonight and have dinner with the friends we always have Christmas Eve dinner with, and we will come home and the kids can open their Christmas pajamas and then Santa will come. Hannah and Aubry are staying the night again,so we will all be together to celebrate the day. We are all missing Eli, of course, but life is still good.

Wishing all of you the happiest of days today no matter what is going on in your life. There is joy to be found.