How my book dragged me into writing it
I handed the transcriptionist a Ziploc bag with eight micro-cassettes.
She gave me the raised index finger—wait a sec—sign.
“We’ll have to get the machine out of the back closet, but I think we can find someone to get these done for you.”
I’d been dictating my memorable hospice memories into a hand-held Dictaphone for the last fifteen years. At stoplights, waiting at drive-throughs, sitting in the park; I burned to document these stories because no one I knew wanted to hear me talk about them. I eased my ego by telling myself that everyone is too busy, but the truth was that almost everyone was afraid to hear what they perceived would be horrible stories about pain and suffering. I realized that no one wanted to talk about dying or death. Only those who’ve witnessed this sacred life event understood why I wept when I saw a father holding a daughter, or when I witnessed two very old people laughing, or, or the reason I yelled at two women as they complained incessantly while they stood in line at the grocery store. My friends and family simply assumed my Latin heritage made me “overly emotional and demonstrative.”
But that wasn’t the reason.
The emotions were triggered by memories; countless lessons learned from the beauty, the tragedy, the un-decorated rawness of pure love. The stripped bare examples of love in all it’s forms. Even when it wasn’t pretty.
So, I decided to take a year off of working full time. I took the copious transcription (I never realized I said, “Um,” so often) and shaped them into a journal that I anticipated my attorney would give to my three children after I died. After all, they were profoundly affected by my life as I served the dying. I was on-call two or three nights a week, and sometimes it made me a very weary mom.
I hired a retired English professor to keep my tenses, punctuation, and grammar in check. Then I sat. And sat. A fifteen pound weight gain, and a realization that I do not thrive as a solitary creature, were two of the good and bad aspects of sitting and writing.
A dear friend who was dating James Patterson’s first literary agent, sat on my couch reading the first spiral-bound copy of my hospice memoir, and quietly “borrowed” it for her lover to read. He generously sent it to a famous editor, and she was extraordinarily kind, offering to help me get the manuscript in shape. Working constantly, fixated, obsessed and running on adrenaline and fear, I completed the hundreds of questions, corrections, and requests.
A book coach, two editors, two years, and six beta readers later, I had the story I was pleased to share with the world. I felt as though I was the voice that was obligated to share the end of life experiences of these twenty-one people in a non-religious, non-dogmatic way.
The face of love is different with every individual and every family. I believe these stories had to be shared, because I witness people afraid to talk about the end of their life.
These stories will show people that love has many faces and is individual, complicated and valued. I simply want people to be easier on themselves, and embrace the differences of their particular journey.
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