The other day I ran into my friend’s mother, L. We’ve known each other so long and we have such a mutual affection, she is also my friend. L is also a suicide widow — her youngest child was my daughter’s age when her husband killed himself. Her daughter and I became friends just after this happened and I recall the shadow of sadness that hovered over their home. But the other day when L and I stood in the bookstore parking lot chatting, she said: “It was 36 years ago. You know, now when I tell the story, I think ‘isn’t that terribly sad’ as if it were someone else”. Time has turned an awful tragedy into a story she tells dispassionately.
For most of my life, I compulsively filled pages of my journal. I still have them all and sometimes crack a tattered notebook for a glimpse of what I was seeing and feeling during a certain time and place. But not much. I don’t really need to remember every joy or more likely, angst. I recall wondering when I was in high school, why I felt the need to write things down, half-believing that if I did not record it, it didn’t really happen. Oh, if that were true! Now, when I think about writing — about N’s suicide, my bout with cancer, M’s premature birth — I realize for me, writing is a kind of alchemy. As if by focusing on telling it, the once-unbearable loses the power to haunt me. The balm of time gets speeded up, a healing distance is created. In telling the story, it becomes just a story. And perhaps, also remembrance.