I have this theory that death brings about new birth--I remember when my grandfather died, I met Mike—my husband and soulmate. When my Nana died, I found how much I loved words (over architecture) after reading through volumes of Edna St. Vincent Millay poetry that I found on her bookshelf. When my Father died, our miracle boy Nicholas was born.
Energy is never lost--it just changes.
When my brother David died, I really felt like I'd given birth to all the things I would. I wrote posts about his accident, his coma and his death. I wrote his eulogy. But I had nothing left.
I noticed it in all my projects—I was still writing and the writing was, okay. But, I found myself not caring which words I placed on the paper. I had no more moments of racing out of the shower to find my notebook to write down a brilliant turn of phrase. I have not written a brainstorm on a Post-It in two months. I did the writing work. I wrote the words. But I have not told a real story since I lived the story of my brother dying.
David choked; and so did I. It was as if the right words—the perfect words—were choked right out of me.
Monday, I had a particularly horrific writing day. I just could not do it anymore—even placing words on paper felt pointless. A colleague gave me negative feedback. I gave myself even more negative feedback--verbally lashing myself until I felt raw. I spent the day grieving David and grieving the words and grieving that I was failing my responsibility to be the surviving sibling who was living life to the fullest. The grief was so intense I had a hard time not crying in public and spent a large part of the morning stress paralyzed in a coffee shop with tears streaming down my face.
Because for a writer, a world without words is gray and sad and empty.
Tuesday, I thought maybe I should focus my energies on learning time management or accounting or something practical. Then a random email about a writing program I’d been casually researching for a few years popped up in my email notifications. I deleted it.
Wednesday, I had 15 minutes of downtime waiting for an appointment to start. I decided to be practical and clean out my inbox. There was that email from John Hopkins University—I thought I had deleted it. I noticed it was a reminder about an Open House--an Open House in October.
The email was dated 9/18/17; the last Monday of my brother’s life.
I clicked the links and then started an application on a whim. I am not sure why; I just did it. And then I forgot about it. The day got busy. I moved on to other things.
Then Wednesday night, my computer was crashing and blinking and the only thing that would work, was the application to John Hopkins for Science/Medical Writing. So I worked on it a little more--I was not going to apply, but there was something therapeutic about filling in forms about myself. It kept my mind off burials and David and Christmas without him.
Then Thursday afternoon, John Hopkins called me for a pre-admission interview. During the interview, I still thought, "I am not really going to do this," but then I mentioned my work with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and the Admission Officer told me how much she loves Alex's. Her younger brother is a childhood leukemia survivor. She said when he was diagnosed in the 1990s, there weren't family resources and she remembers her family feeling so alone and confused. She said she loved that there was a charity that helped families make a difference, together. She thought it was nice I supported a charity and thanked me for helping families like hers.
Then I told her that I was a mother—just like her mother—the mother of a survivor and yes, I understood. ALSF exists because of an amazing child and an equally amazing family—and yes, I love writing about the research, because ALSF is the leader that will find cures for childhood cancer. And then I told her about all the amazing projects and researchers I get to interview and write about and talk about. Then I told her about my work for Happy Family and my new project writing about raising environmentally friendly kids and infant/toddler nutrition and how much the world needs organizations like ALSF and responsible corporate partners like Happy Family. I told her my brother was an organ donor--and the world needs to understand the importance of tissue donation and medical research.
The world needs complicated information-translated into language that we all understand. Technology and science and medicine and nutrition should not be secrets or inaccessible. I told her that I had the words to do it---but sometimes those words are just out of my reach, but I know if I just stretch myself a little bit, I can grab those words.
And she said:
We will expect your application sometime this month.
And suddenly, the words are back. Energy is never lost—it is just changed.
Instead of a eulogy, I’ve got a Statement of Purpose to write.