Grief and Legacy

Grief is weird, isn’t it? Sometimes it hides and you go days or weeks feeling great. Then it jumps out at you at the strangest times.

A few years ago, I went to the LCLC literary conference held by Sapphire Books. There, I met Amanda Kyle Williams, a lovely, brilliant, introverted author. She gave an incredible keynote speech and later, volunteered to speak to the writing academy students twice.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, my mother knit her a blanket which was promptly taken over by the pets in her home.

I have a few fun and funny memories of Amanda, but my favorite was when I tried to teach her a song to sing to Spike, the neighbor cat.

(To the tune of Let’s All go to the Lobby)

I like singing to kitties,

Cuz kitties like my singing

And humans don’t like my singing

But kitties like it a lot.

There’s another verse, but you get the idea. We sang it together a couple times, then I told her she could sing it as she went to feed all the neighborhood cats. Her response – “Right, because the neighborhood doesn’t already think I’m insane, wandering down the street in pajamas and rain boots with a wagon full of pet food and a herd of animals following me.”

This is only relevant because years later, for some reason, this morning I woke up with that song in my head. And as I was singing it, I was swept with such a huge wave of grief for this lovely woman who fought long and hard and ultimately lost her battle with cancer.

I was thinking about grief and how it attacks when you least expect it when I logged on to my email this morning and saw this blog post by my friend, Carleen. She was reviewing an excellent book by Anna Burke – and in the post, she referenced Sandra Moran, an author who also died way too young because of cancer.

Thinking of Sandra, reading about one of the authors who is succeeding because of her, lifted my grief. These women left a legacy – that of using their talent and their voices to help other writers find ways to bring their own voices to light.

And that’s the legacy I hope to leave. Through my work with the writing academy, through my beta reading for my students, through teaching everything from freshman comp to advanced studies in literature, I am using my voice to help other writers find theirs. Just like Amanda. Just like Sandra.

That’s why I devote so much time to the GCLS Writing Academy. And it’s why I spend time helping my students really understand the concepts we’re addressing in class. It’s important to me and if it’s important to them, I want to be there to give them every chance to succeed, just as others have done for me.

That’s the true circle of life – supporting others so they can go on to do the same.


Cancer Sucks

So, another friend has cancer. And a good friend of my sister’s, as well. Oh, and a friend of a friend is possibly going through her second bout. Cancer fucking sucks. How many of us know people who have had cancer, who currently have cancer, or who have died from cancer?

1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer this year. 1 in 8. Do you know 8 women? If so, one of you may be at risk. I strongly suggest, no implore, that you do breast self exams monthly. Examine them to see if there are any changes. Feel them looking for hard lumps, or any changes from the last month. I have a friend who doesn’t like to do a breast self exam because she says it feels uncomfortable. I promise, having your breast removed, and possibly your lymph nodes, then having to go through the hell of chemo or radiation is far more uncomfortable than feeling your own breasts.

For my part, I am raising funds for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation. I will put myself out there to walk 60 miles over the course of 3 days. I am doing this because I BELIEVE that we must fight for a cure. Please help. Please consider a donation, even if it is just a few dollars. You may be helping to save a life.