A remarkable thing happened to me this past weekend.
We spent the weekend with a group of Dutchy friends in an area close to where we had had our last family vacation together with Jan.
There is a process to grief and grieving and I suppose that I had become quite an adept in avoiding certain places or things that would remind me of the past and of loss. It may sound strange, but I think a lot of my coping process lay in avoiding the painful parts and focusing on the present.
So there we were, out on a walk in the countryside, and my eldest son suddenly says: Mom, isn’t this the place where we spent our last holiday?
That last holiday was memorable, not only because it was the last one, but also because we were staying at a really nice place with a lovely view of mountains and with a road going down to the river where the kids spent a number of afternoons wading or trying to make pebbles skip on the surface of the water.
That’s not possible, I said to my eldest son.
But even as I said the words, we rounded the bend and there was a familiar sight. The same road, we had argued over taking, the same road going up to the apartments where we had rented a room.
And just like that, I was in tears.
The great thing about Dutch people is how discrete they can be and how they will let you be alone with whatever it is you need to be alone with unless you ask for company to share that moment with you.
Later that day, in a conversation with another mother, the subject of my writing came up. It is very strange to talk about your work as a writer when you feel like you aren’t one anymore. But we talked about it and about her seven year old daughter who writes small interesting stories. She asked me how long I had been writing and I told her that I had dictated my first story to my mother when I was three or four years old. She told me about her daughter doing the same thing with her. And as we talked, I realised how good it felt to be able to encourage someone–to be able to encourage a possible young writer in the art of storytelling. (It was also very lovely to meet a Mom who was keen on encouraging their child’s creativity in this way.)
In that moment, I felt a shift in myself. I don’t know how to describe it, but on the trip back, I kept thinking of the word Alive.
I also thought of the conversation I had with one of Jan’s closest friends and of how he told me about the world narrowing down when his father died and how at a certain point, the world opened up again. Different, changed, but no longer a tunnel.
I am still quite astounded by it and so I had to write it here. To mark it in some way.
Pain and loss have marked us, but we are alive and the world has opened up. We are no longer in the tunnel. I am finally allowing myself to look forward with something more than just the will to survive and to make a life.
I started writing again over the weekend. It is still raw and unfinished, but it is honest and truthful and it is science fiction.