When I was a young mother, chopping vegetables for dinner, I had this vision of the knife slipping, then suddenly ricocheting into my son as he crawled across the floor.
What was that? And how could I have pictured such a thing?
Sometime later, I learned that it stemmed from anxiety and my need as a parent to protect my child, even from the blade in my own hand. What if it flew and he ended up in its path?
Inspiration from Strange Places
It never happened, of course, though it did get me thinking: I would have sacrificed my life for my son and infant daughter in a flurry of knives. Which led to the next thought: What if I did die? In a car accident or from a terrible disease? Who would bathe them, feed them, read to them and love them with the passion I felt? They wouldn’t have become orphans, not with a devoted father in the house, but he was busy with a full-time job and, more than anything, he wasn’t me. He couldn’t teach them what I wanted to or impart all the experiences of my life. He couldn’t be their father and their mother.
I began to explore the idea of dying as a writing project, more specifically, a novel. I put myself in the mind of a terminally ill parent with only weeks to live. Would she be frantic to create a legacy so her children would remember her? And if so, what? Speaking to them through a video seemed too… brief. After you watch a video, what’s left but to watch it again?
What About Letters?
The concept of writing letters was more intriguing. Imagine you’re a dying parent, a mother or father with young children, pouring your emotions out on paper. What would you write? It seemed like a good premise, but was it enough for a novel?
There were certainly ways NOT to do it. I didn’t want to author a book that was all sap and no substance like a series of Hallmark cards. So I thought about it and wrote, thought and wrote.
Letters to Daughter
What eventually emerged is a preacher and his wife with closely-guarded family secrets, all set in 1960’s Portland, Oregon. Young Grace has no idea her dying mother is writing letters to her. They only begin to arrive after her mother’s gone, revealing, in time, a teenage romance and leading to a confession that will change everything.
In the meantime, I’m launching this site to which you can subscribe, and I’d love to get your thoughts on parenting and anxiety. Have you experienced anything similar? Faced with leaving your children, what would you do?