On Death and Writing

I’m in a funny mood lately. Some of this is due to the death of someone I considered my best friend. His remembrance day was Saturday, and I wasn’t there. I made the choice not to attend based on several things, but I still missed seeing our friends and sharing stories about the man.

He had a great life, though it didn’t start out that way. He grew up poor in rural Minnesota, born to fundamentalist parents who did quite a number on his head. It wasn’t until he got to college that he figured it out and finally started enjoying things like sex and pot. Lack of money forced him to leave school, but not before he met and married the woman who was with him until the end.

D was an entrepreneur, a fancy word for trying different professions until you find something that works. Being brilliant helped; he could take any job and figure it out enough to do it well. He got into programming, and when bulletin board services (BBSs were the precursor to our internet) were all the rage, he created one. That’s how we met.

We got to know each other online, eventually met, and in time became lifelong friends. Through him and his wife, I met lots of other interesting people, most of whom had no children, all of whom were smart as hell and usually atheists. The only Republican in the bunch was married to D’s sister, and he loved her enough to put up with him. It helped that he didn’t talk politics.

D had friends around the world. He lived in a house he designed and helped build. I was always welcome, day or night, as were all his friends. He entertained frequently; he loved spending money on fabulous food and drink, and we were the recipient of that. He may have grown up with no money, but when he finally acquired some, he wasn’t the least bit stingy with it.

D’s death made me realize yet again how tenuous our hold on life is. He was diagnosed with cancer only a few short months ago, and now he’s gone. I’m going to miss him so much.

I’ve gone off writing the last couple weeks, too. I wrote one quarter of the Weatherboy sequel, then put it aside to research a new series. I started writing the first chapter and stalled; it felt flat and uninteresting to me. I couldn’t seem to bring the characters to life, and the way I envisioned them, they should have leaped off the page.

Acknowledging temporary defeat, I’ve stopped writing anything for now. I’m working, reading, and watching movies. Yesterday, I took a long walk across a park, and last night my legs were covered with itchy welts. I figured chiggers got me. I’m spoiled, you see. The land where my condo sits is treated every quarter for bugs. I can sit outside in the dark and not get bit by mosquitoes. I can walk through the grass and know there are no fleas or chiggers. I forget the rest of the world is not treated for the most part, and I need an occasional reminder. Ouch.

No doubt I will get back to writing soon, but I’ve learned to respect my occasional need not to spin stories. It’s like depression: you can treat it with drugs and feel better, but if it’s the temporary kind, it’s better to wallow in it so when you’re happy again, you can appreciate it more. Without the dark, there is no light.

Sometimes an author has to stop writing for a short time, because it’s going to feel so very good when I start again.


About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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34 Responses to On Death and Writing

  1. Dreamer9177 says:

    I recently lost a very close friend as well. I understand what you are going through, and it isn’t easy. We all handle things differently. I chose to attend the visitation ceremony for my friend and it was very helpful to me to be able to share my grief with others. It also helped me to see that I was not the only person feeling a tremendous sense of loss.
    I still miss my friend, Hal and I will be there with his family for Xmas to help them out. We have pledged ourselves to help the wife and kids in any way that we can. The best way to remember Don is to help everyone that he touched move forward with their lives and not come to a complete stop over the tragedy. Support one another and let the pain exist so that it will heal naturally.

    • I remember reading about this loss on G+ and feeling it strike a nerve. It is never easy losing someone close. There’s a big fat hole where they used to be, and realizing I’ll never be able to speak with him again hurts bad.

      Instead, I try to focus on the time we did have together. I have lots and lots of memories, and I can mentally thumb through them anytime I want. In that way, he will always be with me.

  2. Jaycee Edward says:

    So sorry about D. <> I would imagine grief is even worse for an atheist because you don’t hang onto the belief that “we’ll meet again someday.” I have a friend who is a Buddhist. He doesn’t believe in any “god” as such, but he believes that every living thing has a spirit and that the spirit lives on. He’s fascinating to talk to. He believes that everything has lived once before in another form. I tried to debate him on that once, pointing out things like computer keyboards and pens, etc. I failed miserably.

    Didn’t you do a blog post quite awhile back where you mentioned that you were struggling to write and you walked away for awhile and when you came back (think you had an epiphany in the middle of the night) you realized you’d been forcing the story to go in a direction it didn’t want to go?

    • Unfortunately, walking away from the writing happens all the damn time. I may only do it for a day or three, but I have to do it.

      “Normal” people get weekends off. Except for extremely brief periods in the last four or five years, I’ve had no weekends off. I work every day. Now throw writing in on top of that and you begin to see why I stall from time to time. My batteries run down and need recharging. The older I get, the less hard I want to work, too. We retire for a reason. 🙂

  3. Jaycee Edward says:

    There were hugs inside those brackets, but they vanished. ;o)

  4. Patricia says:

    Lots of death around me lately, lots. Funerals and remembrances that turn into laughter with tears. Mostly laughter. But life resumed, and then, last week, suddenly more death. Violent. Now peace and healing starting. My little town made the national news with a triple murder. It’s different when it’s your friend. On top of all this, the time came to say good bye to our dog, and so we had her put down, in a very tender, loving and civilized way. She had no fear or pain. The absence of the dog after being with her for 13 years is a loss that will occur daily, until the day comes when I don’t expect to see her, stumble over her, walk around her, call her to the feeding bowl, or just watch her sleep on my feet. She didn’t do much except BE THERE. Loyal, loving and gentle. We don’t want to replace her. We can’t.

    • Losing a pet is hard. They are so integral to everyday life, it’s hard not to see and hear them even after they pass. Some years ago, after a dog died, I kept seeing her in the front seat next to me. She always went to work with me. It took months for that image to finally fade.

  5. Helena Stone says:

    Losing someone close to you is brutally hard and not something you ever completely come to terms with or get over. In January it will be 25 years since my mother died and while I mostly relish the memories I have and smile when I think about her I still run into moments when the pain knocks me for six. I’ve resigned myself to the fact the pain is proof of how important she was and still is in my life and allow it to run its course.

    As for your working hours. If I lived anywhere near you I’d put my foot down and insist you take at least one weekend a month off. And when I say off, I mean off; no editing and no writing. You’re burning the candle at both ends and that never works for very long.

    • I promised myself I would schedule things so I could take at least one day off a week, but it hasn’t worked out. Ever notice how everyone is on a tear to get things done RIGHT NOW? And I’m the type of person who wants to deliver and make them happy.

      However! I am burning out. I can feel it. So I am going to make another attempt at scheduling one whole day off every week, come hell or high water. And make myself stick to it if at all possible.

      • Helena Stone says:

        Just tell me the day you’ve picked and I’ll check up on you to make sure you stick to it. Pleasing others is no way to live your life. It’s wonderful when pleasing ‘them’ fits in with living your own best life. When it doesn’t you have to put yourself first. After all. You’re the only person you’ll have to live your whole life with.

  6. I think your last sentence says it all. Sometimes we just have to step back for a bit.
    I know you and I have different beliefs and you don’t believe in prayer so I’ll just say you’re in my thoughts.

  7. W. Lotus says:

    I’m sorry you lost your friend, but I know those warm memories of him will stay with you forever.

  8. A.M.B. says:

    This is a beautiful post, Theo. It exemplifies all the reasons why you should never stop writing. However, taking a break is often a good idea. I’m sorry you lost your friend. This is a beautiful tribute to him.

  9. Yvonne says:

    I’m sorry you lost your friend. Take care.

  10. diannegray says:

    I’m so sorry about your friend. It feels like a blow to the soul when we lose someone we love and care about. It’s also a stark reminder of our own mortality. Take a break and take lots of walks (plastered with something to keep those bugs away). Hugs xxxxx

    • Thanks. Just finished running sheets and my shorts through the washer. Just in case a chigger was hiding in there. Heh. Walks are good, and the weather continues to be fine here. After a gray morning, the sun popped out and it warmed up nicely. 🙂

  11. Allison says:

    ((Hugs)) Losing someone that means so much to you is never easy, the only thing that helps is time and good memories. Probably trite to say but it’s true. I hope that you get to celebrate his life with your friends next summer when you might be looking forward to visiting the beauty of Minnesota and Wisconsin again for a bit. 🙂

    Walking away for a little while can be a good thing as you know. It can lead to better ideas at times. Thinking of you always my dear friend.

    • He and I spoke about death once in a while. As neither of us believed in any kind of afterlife, we realized we had to enjoy each moment we had here. I’m happy to say he did. Even fucked up badly from cancer and chemo, he still managed to get out and do things often. He never let it keep him in bed or depress him for long. On his deathbed, he said he wished he could see certain friends one last time. He didn’t piss and moan about his fate. He lived and died beautifully.

      In life, he was an example to me. He will be one when I’m dying, too.

  12. Karen H. says:

    I have to admit, I wish I didn’t know how you feel, but I do. I lost my dearest friend in the world 5 years ago this past September and in 2 days it would have been her 61st birthday. We were friends for nearly 30 years when she passed away and in spite of the fact that it’s been 5 years I still miss her dearly. She knew things about me that my husband is the only other person to know. We went through her bad marriage, my bad marriage, my getting re-married to a wonderful man because of her, the birth of each others children simply put everything and when her oldest child got married a few years ago I walked her down the isle because her mother couldn’t be there.

    When she passed away I was in Montreal. My husband and I had a business/vacation trip planned and we all knew her time was close, I wanted to cancel our trip and stay home but my friend and her daughters insisted we go. To this day I hate that we went on that trip. She promised me she’d be there when I got back and it’s the one promise that she ever made to me that she didn’t keep that I wish more than anything she had. So as much as I wish I didn’t I do know how it feels to lose a dear, dear friend and I know sometimes even after 5 years the urge to talk to her to share something is so overwhelming that I guess I kind of do the same thing and I shut down. I let myself wallow in the memories all of them…the good and the bad and then I do what I’m doing now I listen to ‘Stand’ one of my favourite songs (ironically it’s a C & W song by Rascal Flatts. I’m not a big C & W fan) it doesn’t fix everything it just starts my mind going in the right direction.
    (I’ve added the link to the you tube video, in case you want to have a listen)

    Take care, be well and remember every time we follow our dreams we’re paying tribute to our friends.

  13. ludwigcarol5 says:

    You honor your old friend with such beautiful words Theo. All of our hearts are warmed by them. Hugs to you.
    (p.s. those chiggers are nasty little buggers but the fire ants are the ones that always got me.)

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