Tag Archives: Loss

SOME STORIES HAVE NO ENDINGS by Bonnie Hearn Hill

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Winter had settled in, and Central California carried a sharp, stringing cold that made me appreciate the warmth of the classroom as I entered it that night. With a year of teaching writing behind me, and several students who were now published, I had gained confidence in my ability to help other writers reach their goals.

That night just after class began, an attractive, dark-haired woman dressed in white entered the room, walked to the back, and slid into a seat next to Raquel Aleman, one of my regulars.

With shaking hands, Raquel read an essay that night. Unlike her bilingual children’s stories, “I Fought Back” described Raquel’s abusive marriage and her struggle to overcome her fear when her husband shoved her into the bedroom closet as he frequently did when he brought women to their home. This time, she burst out and confronted both the shaken husband and his woman.

When Raquel finished reading, everyone applauded, the first time that had happened in my class.

As students praised Raquel, the woman in white looked straight ahead, as if she didn’t hear.

“I’ve never told this to anyone,” Raquel said to the class. “I can’t begin to explain how free I feel, and how scared.”

We talked then about how the only things that own us are those of which we cannot speak. We talked about possible markets for her essay. Although we critiqued numerous manuscripts that night, Raquel’s was the one everyone praised as they left the room.

Usually quiet, she was animated as she paused at the door. “See you at the Robin,” she told me.

After class each week, many of us met at Red Robin, and some of our best ideas happened there. This was the first night Raquel would join us.

Students continued to file out until only the woman in white and I remained. Her black hair was pulled back from her face, her lips a deep red. Those are the only details I recall, and even they are suspect. When I think about her now, I’m sure she wore a white suit. In other attempts to recall her, I’ve told myself it was a white dress similar to one I used to own.

We stepped outside, and I started toward my car. “Which way are you heading?” I asked.

“The same way you are, I think.” Her voice was low and controlled.

Panic attacks hid out in the parking lot. Lights could play in weird ways, and even when I thought I was balanced and happy, a crippling wave waited behind every corner. I was grateful to have this stranger with me, grateful and curious. Side by side, we headed through the cold night air toward the parking lot, and I wondered if I should invite her to meet us at Red Robin.

“I liked your class,” she said. “I’m sorry I joined late. I just saw it in the school catalog yesterday.”

“I’m glad you came,” I told her. “Have you written before?”

“Only journals, but I can never get it down. I thought maybe this would help.”

We reached my car, and I leaned against the back passenger door. Something was making me anxious. If I didn’t have the solid surface against my back, I wouldn’t have been able to stand there.

“Maybe it’s time,” I said. “I’ve heard that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

“I hope so.” She spoke in a clear tone devoid of emotion. “Several years ago, my daughter was killed by a drunk driver.”

I hadn’t expected that, and certainly not in such a calm, practiced tone. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to get too personal.”

“Don’t apologize. I wanted to tell you. It destroyed my life.” Again, she spoke in a matter-of-fact way, as if she had rehearsed this speech for me. “Almost a year after that, my son died of a drug overdose.”

“That’s terrible. What did you do?” I didn’t know how else to respond.

“Part of me was furious with him for doing that, especially since he knew that my daughter’s death had nearly destroyed me. I was so devastated, so…” She stopped and stepped back as if she had second thoughts. “I know you want to go meet the others. Is it okay for me to tell you this?”

“It’s okay.” I felt glued to the ground. For whatever reason, I needed to listen to her.

She sighed, as if attempting to collect her thoughts. “I went to work for the IRS. It was easy because no one cared, and everything was rigid. I had to be on time. I couldn’t talk to anyone. Do you understand?”

“In a way I do,” I said. “You didn’t want to feel.”

“Do you think writing will help?” she asked.

“All I can tell you is it’s a great healer.”

“I believe that.” She glanced around the dim parking lot at the other students who were laughing and talking just a few feet from us. “I can’t share this with anyone at work. I set it up that way, of course. My marriage is over. Both of my children are dead. I’m not just grieving. I’m angry.”

“You’ll be safe here.” I believed that, and I felt connected to her and to the honesty of her words. “If you don’t want to read in class, you don’t have to. Just try to start writing what you feel. Don’t edit yourself or worry about what anyone will think. No one will see it unless you want them to, I promise.”

“That’s what I need.” For the first time, she smiled. “When I heard Raquel read tonight, I wondered how it would feel to be that open.”

“Raquel didn’t get there overnight,” I said. She got there by doing the work.”

The last car left the lot, and I realized my hands were numb from the cold.

The woman glanced at me and then at her watch, although I doubt that she could have seen it in the darkness. “I’m so sorry I took your time. I have never told anyone what I shared with you just now.”

“It’s all right,” I told her. “Remember what I said about healing. I know writing can do that for you. It has for me.”

We talked longer, close to thirty minutes.

Then I watched her walk to her car and realized that I had somehow slipped into panic mode. I, who had been leaning against the passenger door, was so weak that I had to feel my way to get into the driver’s seat. Inside, I took deep breaths and tried to calm the crazed flutter of my heart. It was as if I were expressing the anxiety the woman in white could not.

She never returned.

At first, I made excuses. Perhaps she had to work late. Maybe something else had come up. But the moment I walked into my classroom the next week and saw the empty seat next to Raquel, I knew.

“It’s because she confessed to you,” a friend told me later. “Every time she looked at you, she would have to remember.”

I wonder.

What happened to the woman in white? Why didn’t she return? Did she ever write? Could I have said or done something to encourage her?

At first, I thought I had failed her. Then I had to remind myself that our encounter that night was about her, not about me. I may have been only one person on her path to share that story, only one of many strangers who would bring her closer to coming to grips with it.

Raquel sold her personal essay that year and much later, her memoir. In the twenty years I taught that class, we celebrated many successes, including my book deal with a major publisher for my first six suspense novels.

For a long time, I tried to remember the name of the woman in white, as if that detail would anchor other memories and maybe an explanation. I can’t believe that I would let a student float in and out of my classroom without asking her name.

Some stories have no endings, no structure to contain them, no red bows on top. When I share with others what I recall of this one, I always hear the same question. “Could you have imagined her?”

I’ve asked myself that as well. No one else with whom I’ve discussed it, including Raquel, remembers seeing her that evening.

Was the woman in white some part of me, a metaphor for that quality in all of us who dare to confront our pain and try to put our voices on paper? Was she part of my own healing?

No. The woman in my classroom and that parking lot was a real as I am. One night many years ago, she stepped into my life and allowed me a glimpse into hers. Even now, I’m not sure what I saw, or why.

 

 

Bonnie Hearn Hill’s many mysteries can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Hearn-Hill/e/B001HMUYPQ

Seasons By Cynthia B Ainsworthe

 

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Sitting in the hotel’s lounge, dressed in my finest, waiting for him. Another afternoon to relive my youth, as I will gaze upon his. My mind brushes away my past years and dreams, and live only in the present. The future has lost its brilliance—what might be a new adventure around a worn corner, and only presents with the sameness of routine.

He enters in a well-tailored suit—a diversion from the autumn of my life. I look at his trim physique and smooth skin over firm muscles and high cheekbones. Eyes that are filled with hope as he lives his spring—a spring he must feel is eternal. Laugh lines have yet to make their mark. His quick, energized steps bring him closer as he reaches out his hand and a broad smile emerges. Oh, to be in that devil-may-care season that is his home.

I stand as he approaches and discreetly hand him the room cardkey that I secured an hour earlier. My stilettos click on the marble as we walk to the elevator. If Charles had lived, would this same situation be my refuge. I chuckle to myself at such a silly thought. Charles and I had been married for twenty-five years before that terrible car crash that put him into a never-ending coma. The hardest last gift from me to him was to give permission for cessation of life-support measures.

In the elevator, he holds my hand and smiles. I smile back, knowing that for a brief afternoon I will whisk away all the pain and loneliness that has become my existence. As prescribed by such an arrangement, he kisses me with passion—a passion that he has honed from many such assignations with others. He knows his part and plays it well.

He slips the card into the door-key slot. The familiar buzzer rings, and then opens the door. I enter first. Opening my purse, I retrieve crisp bills and place them on the dresser. The money is new and is as untainted as possible from the bank, as if this small detail will erase all seemliness from what is about to be. He takes no notice of the payment and proceeds to unzip my dress.

I shut my eyes as his lips caress mine in passion. It is Charles kissing me—not this young stallion marketing on his youth and the loneliness of an older woman. My husband whispers in my hungry ear that he loves me. My heart cries out, “Forgive me Charles. I never wanted to let you go. Be with me again, even if only briefly, through this young man.”

Afterwards, he lies next to me in a light slumber. I look at him and wonder if my body and lined face repulses him. Does my sagging jaw line remind him of his mother? As we make love, does his fantasies create a beautiful young lady to replace the older woman who paid for his attention? I have no idea why these questions come to my mind. They shouldn’t. He gives me time with Charles and that is what keeps me sane in this dark pool of grief.

I slip out of the bed, lean over and kiss his temple as I once did to Charles. He doesn’t open his eyes, merely smiles.

Having dressed, I quietly leave and look forward to another day in my autumn. I shudder to think of my winter. When winter comes, I fear I will no longer be able to taste the sweetness of spring.

© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

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Author Bio

http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8

and http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=3142

Cynthia B. Ainsworthe is a multiple award-winning author. She started writing seriously in the autumn of her life after having raised a family. Her epic length novel, “Front Row Center”, earned the IPPY Award in romance. She has also gleaned the Excellence in Writing Award by It Matters Radio for the short story It Ain’t Fittin’, and shares the Reader’s Favorite Award with other authors for the horror anthology, “The Speed of Dark”, where her two short stories, When Midnight Comes and Characters, are featured. Ms. Ainsworthe has received many 5-star reviews for her novels. She has recently released book 2 in the Forbidden Series titled “Remember?” and is writing the third book in that series. Cynthia is also working with known Hollywood producer, screenwriter, and director, Scott C. Brown on adapting Front Row Center to screen. She is actively honing her screenwriting talent.

Keep Your Heart Open by Louise Malbon-Reddix

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On 8-8-08 I married the love of my life. I lost him tragically and so unexpectedly on 12-07-09. Some people say there is a limit to grieving. To them I say, “You have never lost a piece of your heart.” Surely some losses are easier than others to go through. But, when you lose that special someone, you will be spending some considerable time mourning and grieving. Even when you think you are finished, you aren’t. There will always be that street called familiar. Perhaps you’ll hear a favorite song, or notice something very special that was once your loved one’s, that will start the grief again.

And if you are one whose loss is fresh; as in it happened yesterday or a few weeks ago, or just over there in the distant past; I want you to know that here is one who truly understands.

Turning back to a page of my own story, not sure of the exact page, but somewhere way back now, about 5 years ago when the loss of my own beloved was so, so, so fresh, I found sleep to be elusive. Grief tormented me.

Oh to have a word or a way to come to terms with this pain. My heart and mind could not find lovely words to use to explain how to cope. A friend of mine did find those words. They are “keeping my heart open”. In retrospect, flipping back through these pages, that is what you are doing as you travel through this tumultuous time in your life.

You see, I had never been in this place of deep loss before. Never (even though I have had other losses in my life) had I been in such stark, raving grief. Not knowing what to do or what to say. Exhausted. Trying to come to terms. Scared and in pain. Still in love, but so terribly alone. Yes, still in love! Night after night, and day after day, because at some point I didn’t know if it was night or day. Still holding on to the essence of that pure and perfect person who had entered my life and now left me so suddenly and without warning—with no chance to prepare and no chance to say goodbye. My life and times of being unconditionally loved and desired now gone, just like that.

I could tell more, but I will stop except to say, “Yes, I still love him, still live with the soul of that love.”

Is this perchance your story? I call this whirlwind of emotion a dance with the Divine. Only at times, I feel like God is playing my 33 1/3 album at the speed of a 45 single, and I’m still trying to do the two-step. And I don’t feel like bopping and all of that snapping of my fingers and doing the jitterbug. I go on because grief has a way of making us feel that we must, that we have no choice.

Looking back, I know that agony was a time of learning how to “keep my heart open.”

At the time, crying, and more crying, was all I could do.

This is what I know now: tears are the only way our soul can speak when it is so profoundly and deeply hurt. Tears are the only language the mourning soul has. Let them flow. It is okay! Let your soul say all it wants. We dared to love, and love is huge. It has many expressions, times, and ways. So wonderful! When we feel its loss, our grieving reveals wounds that never show up on the body. But they are there, deep and more hurtful than anything that bleeds!

So, my grieving Sister or Brother, no more words for now. Please know that yours is a dance with the Divine. Just like with any other long, emotional dance, there are going to be some physiologic things that will happen; they are the adaptive responses of our bodies. Not being able to sleep is one. Headaches, fast heartbeats, and sweats are a few of the others.

Both your soul and your body are learning how to deal with grief and loss. Things like sleep and rest and good food can help the body.

But what of your your soul? It still has some pages to write. Let it! Even while life somehow is still going on around you, it will write on. God made us that way. The sun still will come up and day will come. The sun will go down and night will come. But during this time of pain and sorrow, the soul doesn’t understand all that. It just knows what it knows, and you will have no choice but to let your grieving soul take the time it needs.

During these five years, I have learned there are some things that will come. Grief is like a river, it flows until at some point you can come to a place where you can allow yourself to catch up with the speed of life. Now I know why God has put banks on the sides of rivers. As with any river, grief may overflow its banks at times. Don’t worry. Allow yourself the time you need to learn again how to “Keep Your Heart Open.” Know that it is still a dance, and you will learn the steps to this dance, too. Like the river, flow along and “Keep Your Heart Open.”

I hope these words give you some relief, for a moment or two, or maybe more. Day by day, you too will learn just how to “Keep Your Heart Open!”

Louise Malbon-Reddix is the Author of Stand In Your Anointment-This Too Shall Pass. It was written with the hope of coming along side of others to help and guide safely as they navigate through a time of unimaginable pain, grief and misery.