A hard truth about being a writer is that we mine everything that happens in our lives, if not to recreate the actual event, then to use the emotions involved.
My brother died last week, too young at sixty-four, taken by an aggressive cancer diagnosed too late, a lack of symptoms until it had spread irrecoverably. I am devastated; even writing these words is hard.
There is a difficult balance to maintain, too: I am the bereaved sister, but I also must be the strong adult aunt, the practical sister-in-law, all at once. Not easy, and tiring, on top of the jet lag.
But. There is that detached observer in my brain, saying: remember this. Remember how you feel, every bit of it. Watch how your family members are reacting, remember it. Remember how the two days and 5000+ miles of travel felt, the exhaustion. Remember that peanut M&Ms and Tim Horton’s coffee made you cry, because that’s what we shared on birding trips. Remember the deep breaths you took before facing your sister-and-law and the nieces and nephew. Remember everything, because some day, you’ll use it. Not in its present form, but you’ll use it.
And part of me hates that. I can’t stop it, though; it’s who I am. I shape and define and explain my world with words, some of them – most, these days – fiction. Imagination can take a piece of writing only so far; it needs to be fed by honest emotion as well.
So I accept that detached observer in my mind, recording dispassionately what’s happening. Some day these feelings will make their way into a story. I have no idea when, or what story. Maybe they’ll generate their own. It won’t be soon. But when they do, that story will be, in its way, a memorial for my brother, whom I loved, and love, and will miss forever.