E is for Endings

Cemeteries are places of endings. But when one thing ends, another begins. Yesterday I realized that my participation in the A to Z Challenge is coming to an end. I love this challenge. I completed it last year and made lots of new blogging friends. I loved the sheer variety of interests and perspectives that can be found in the blogosphere.

I’ve got some new beginnings happening in my life. Work has become a little more complicated. I also have a few writing projects that need more attention – and I want to give them that attention. Plus there are the ongoing adventures of watching my kids grow and change every day. They are the epitome of the cycle of endings and beginnings.

So I bid you farewell for now. I’ll be back to blog regularly here, although my normal schedule is more like a few posts a month, rather than over two dozen. Happy blogging to everyone in the A to Z Challenge! See you around.

D is for Death (Of Course)

As a reminder, this month I’m blogging about my year of cemetery walks, as well as the questions I pondered about writing and life. A is for Arrival outlines the context for this month’s theme.

Oh wow, I certainly struggled with identifying a topic for this day. Writing about death seemed too obvious. And honestly, I’ve found that my first few posts were more grim than anticipated. (I suppose I should have expected that, seeing as I’m writing about cemeteries and all.) I ran through a bunch of options: dreaming, devotion, duty, drafts, drama, desks, darkness (on the edge of town)?

Then I realized I really did need to sit down and write about death.

I am no longer a young woman. (I don’t even get carded anymore, or the few times I do I laugh about it and the server invariably says, “We card everyone, ma’am.”) I’m not an old woman yet, either. I’m in the middle of my life. I hope there are many more years ahead of me. But it’s time to stop talking about what I’m going to do when I grow up and time to start focusing on my dreams for the next part of my life. My dreams before death. My 2013 cemetery walks gave me the space and setting in which to discern the next steps of life. (Discern! Aha! Another d!)

Here are my dreams: to write. To write words that people enjoy reading. To write words that people find moving. To write words that make people laugh and think and provide some escape, if necessary. This is what I want to do before I die.

I have to balance those dreams with my circumstances and my responsibilities. I have a day job, one that I like a lot, but one that also takes time and energy away from writing. But this job also provides stability, income, health insurance. I have young children who need A LOT of attention. (Seriously, when do they start ignoring me?) I have a house and a spouse and friends who deserve my attention – and I want to give them my attention.

Death still frightens me. There’s the fear of pain and the fear of simply not existing anymore. There’s the terrifying, paralyzing fear I feel thinking about it happening to those I love. But contemplating it has made it less frightening. At the very least, it has helped me better shape my life and discern what I want to do before it’s over. And that is not a bad gift at all.

C is for Cemeteries

Okay, so maybe this letter is a bit obvious, since my theme for the month of April is cemeteries. So consider this a meta post.

Why cemeteries? When I was a kid, I didn’t like visiting cemeteries. I was keenly aware of what lay beneath my feet. I used to walk wide swaths around graves so as not to step on them. Cemeteries made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to confront the truth that my loved ones would die someday. Or that I would.

I avoided cemeteries until the summer of 2013, when I drove past one on a misty July morning and got an idea for a new novel. (More on that in an upcoming post.) Then I started visiting cemeteries to get a sense of setting. What they gave me in return was time and space to reflect on mortality, on my discomfort with death, on what I wanted to do and explore before my life was done.

I haven’t made peace with death, by the way. I want to get to that place, where I can accept the fact that my life will end, and to do so with peace. Perhaps it involves some letting go. And some more time in cemeteries, listening to the lessons of those who have gone before.

I took one of my sons with me on a cemetery walk. At four, he had a rudimentary sense of death. He grasped somehow that the dead were buried beneath our feet. I watched as he stepped carefully around each plot, just as I had done so many years ago. I wondered what he made of it. As I was strapping him into his carseat later, he gave me his gift of wisdom: “The dead are beneath us, holding us up.” He may have meant it literally – and it is true in a literal sense – but there is wisdom there. I hope I can live into it.