if I wanted to write a really sad story, I might write about someone who was too young to die. I might write a story about a 42 year old mom, who suddenly feels ill, goes to the emergency room with her husband, and dies ….dead from a massive heart attack. I might start at the hospital…code blue, doctors placing paddles on her chest, like a scene from Gray’s Anatomy. I might start in the late afternoon, when she unknowingly kisses her thirteen and ten year old daughters good bye for the very last time. Or maybe I might start at the point when her shocked and bereaved husband, is racing to the church festival, to find their two daughters, who are laughing and riding rides and filled with the joy and anticipation of the summer ahead, to find them and tell them that while they were being typical 13 and 10 year old girls, their world has just shattered into tiny, unrecognizable bits that can never be totally put back together….that there will always be missing fragments and sharp edges and nothing will ever be just typical again. I would surely make the weather set the tone. So, I might make my setting as dramatic as the event…a warm, breezy evening, exploding into raging thunder, lightning, pounding rain that pummels the windows. I might even throw in a backstory. A Facebook page, where the woman’s mom posts a tribute to her late husband, the woman’s father, saying that even though it’s been 25 years to the day since he died of a massive heart attack, not a day goes by that he is not missed by his family. I could decide whose point of view to tell the story from: the woman, a devoted mom who wouldn’t leave her girls for a weekend, suddenly leaving them forever. Or maybe, the woman’s mother, who is no stranger to loss, trying to physically stand up and hold her two granddaughters and her own hysterical children. Or, maybe from the pointof view of the sisters who thought they endured the worst when they were young girls and lost their dad, now reliving the nightmare, losing their sister and best friend and watching in agony as their nieces relive the hell they survived. I could end end with a scene of the 10 year old girl, clinging to her dad as the storm rages outside and the world…her world is ending, wanting only to be held one more time by the mom by the mom whose warmth and comfort she seeks when she’s scared or feeling alone.
It it would make a heck of a story. I wouldn’t be thrashing around at 1:20 AM, though, because it wouldn’t be real, and I could revise the ending. But, it’s not a piece of fiction. and I can’t rewrite the ending. So, I stare at the clock and pray that even though I’m still wide awake, those two little girls, my friends great nieces, are sound asleep and that they can sleep through the night. I’ll be saying that same prayer for many days to come.