|original watercolor and mixed media painting|
& digital remix (M.A Reilly, March 2017)
I have begun to assemble, write and rewrite what I hope will be a memoir based on Rob's illness and death, and the grief process my son and I have come to know during the last 19 months. I spent most of last weekend assembling the first 350 pages--and these represent the time from the initial diagnosis in August 2015 through June 2016. For some odd reason, I find rereading the posts, emails, and other artifacts I have written and now assembled works best between the hours of 2 a.m. and 8 a.m.
There are two things I notice as I reread: Dev and I have come a good distance since last year. I had no idea when I started writing about Rob's illness, death, and our loss that this record would be so important--that I would forget so much. As I read some of what I wrote a year ago, I didn't recall feeling so lost and bereft, yet because of the record, I had a written and visual record of the many things I was feeling and learning.
The second theme that seems to be emerging is that the definition of grief is not stable. What grief means and how it is expressed changes across time. It does not hold still.
During the next few weeks I will dig into the writing and see what through lines seem to be emerging--lines I can tug and use to shape the work. My goal is to write an honest account of what it has meant to travel on this journey: a woman in her mid-50s who was awoken by a phone call and learned that her beloved 60-year-old husband had lung cancer. I want to retell the six months of Rob's illness, his many fights to survive the three staph infections, the treatments, the long hospital stays, the drugs that confused him, and eventually his death. I want to show how all of that opened new sorrows sometimes too much to bear and possibilities. I want to show how all of this affected our then just turned 17-year-old son and myself. Mostly though, I want to write about the enduring power of love and how even that knowledge some days does not dull the hurt.
Now a single mom, a widow with a child finishing high school and off to college next year, I want to share how these last 19 months have (re)shaped me and him, requiring each of us to learn new definitions of bravery--the two most critical being: asking for help and claiming responsibility for our lives.