Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26,1962

I took this picture, not very clear, of my Mom, Lorrayne on the beach in Galveston. TX in June 1956. Just over six years later she died of lung cancer. During the entirety of her long illness while I was a sophomore and junior in high school my brother, sisters, and I were told that in spite of numerous operations, no one knew what was really wrong except that she would eventually get well. Forty-nine years ago tonight my father called us all together and finally told us the truth...that she was dying of lung cancer. She died the next morning Sept. 26th, 1962. Being totally unprepared, it took me years to process what had happened and how I felt about it.

To this day, I have always tried to tell my own children the truth about everything I could. Right now I am writing a children's book called "HE'S DEAD" about how wrong it is to use euphemisms or lie to childeren about death.  After listening to a short piece on “euphemisms” on National Public Radio (NPR), I was struck by the tale of a woman who, as a girl, was told her cat was “put to sleep” and kept expecting it to wake up and return. That is, until her mother explained that “put to sleep” meant that her cat was not coming back…i.e. dead.

There is no happy way to write this type of book, because it is not about a happy subject. And some people have told me not to write it as it will upset children. ( AS IF TV AND MOVIES AND VIDEO GAMES DON'T ALREADY frighten childen.)  It is about death.  For the truth is ( and I always tell kid’s the truth) every thing that ever lives will someday die. This means that their body or physical part will no longer move, or eat or breathe. When I say “no longer” I mean forever…that when some person or animal or plant  dies, they will be gone for the rest of your life. And, I say the rest of your life because all of us will die some day. It is both true and fortunate that most people live for a long long long time. Most people live to be old people. But not everyone.Not my mother.

So as my newest children's book explains, "When you hear that the nice man who lived around the corner and gave out great candy at Halloween…”has kicked the bucket”..he is dead." This is followed by two illustrations, first, an older man kicking a bucket....and second, a grave site.  

This is a very difficult subject for me to write about. Not something I usually share with people, but I have come to a point where it is more important for me to be able to express myself about certain subjects than to keep them to myself or worry what other's will think of of what I have to say. I do know that grieving is a developmental process that we do not not simply experience a loss one time when we lose those we love. It is experienced many times, on anniversaries especially, on holidays, and when we become introspective.  The developmental aspect of this process is that hopefully, each time we grieve we add to our appreciation of the one we have lost, and return a small piece of our broken hearts to our heart of hearts and continue repairing it as long as we remember our loved ones who have died,     

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