It's been my habit, for the past several years, to sit down every night after the kids are in bed and write. I aim for 500 words written, or two pages edited. It's not a huge goal, but it's one I kept through tornadoes, hurricanes, babies, illness, and everything else life threw at me.
Until April 11th, 2007.
That's the night I quit writing.
It was after 10pm. I was working on a dramatic prisoner of war rescue when I saw lights in the driveway. My husband was overseas and it wasn't uncommon for friends to drop by unannounced, but I generally encouraged them to not come by after 9 unless something was wrong.
When I unlocked the door my friend walked in sobbing. Something was very wrong.
I asked first about her baby, a preemie who often went to the hospital in the middle of the night. He'd been sick the week before, but she assured me between the tears that he was fine. I asked about her husband, and then mine.
And then, with a sinking feeling, I asked about our friend's husband. She was out of town visiting family because her son and husband shared the same birthday. They'd gone up north to blow out candles with Grandma.
Her husband was dead.
My friend, my husband's best friend, wasn't coming home.
A little boy, not quite two, never got to blow out candles with Daddy.
I quit writing.
The weeks that followed were chaotic and surreal. My friend was under heavy sedation because she couldn't sleep. I knew the family well and was filling in as a stop gap between them and the news reporters that kept calling. I missed my own daughter's second birthday to hold my friend after she viewed her husbands body.
And I couldn't open that scene again.
I couldn't look at the character I'd created and not burst into tears. I couldn't look at my character, ready to die but about to be rescued in just a few pages, and not see my friend that I couldn't save.
That story is still on a shelf. Two years later and the emotions are still too raw. Some day, maybe, I'll pull that story out again and finish it. I know what the dedication will be. I know who the book truly belongs to.
For those who have loved and lost, you aren't alone. Memorial Day is for survivors too. It's meant to be a day to remember. Try to remember the good times, the silly jokes, the quiet moments, the chaos and noise and joy. You're in my prayers.
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