Monday, January 18, 2010

Coping with Loss

I've never liked the Forrest Gump "Life is like a box of chocolates" analogy. While it's true that you never know what you're gonna get, let's face it, there is never a shit flavored chocolate in the box. They don't make a reality flavored box of chocolates. It would taste too bad.

I look at my life as traveling along a road. Sometimes it's a regular paved road. Comfortable, with no surprises. Other times its filled with danger - quicksand, sink holes, wild animals ready to tear you apart. Life gives you a variety of roads. I've walked on gold plated roads and ones so covered in dog shit that there's no way to avoid it. That's the way life is. We can only hope the bad stretches are shorter in duration.

Last fall it was clear that I'd left the paved road behind and was traveling along a steep rocky path alongside a cliff with no side barriers. My revisions were never good enough for my agent, my mother needed surgery, and my sister-in-law entered a long term stay in the Intensive Care Unit. My husband's only sister had a successful bone marrow transplant to cure her leukemia, only to suffer from host-vs-graft disease for nearly 2 years. But she's so strong, so tough. I'd never met anyone so determined to beat a disease. After all, she'd so much to live for. A beautiful little girl who's just turned 8 years old and possibly the most wonderful husband a woman could ask for.

In December, a small earthquake shook the road, leaving craters to carefully navigate. Isn't it always the case that right before the holidays, when you most need the extra cash, your car will break down or your garage door breaks, etc? Then the week of Christmas, with no internet or phone service, I stood in 27 inches of snow a block from my house in order to get email on my iphone. That's how I found out that once again my agent didn't agree with the direction of my revision and suggested another agent might be better for me. A week later we got the news that my sister-in-law was failing.

Last Friday, she passed away quietly in her sleep. She'd held on so her daughter could enjoy her birthday party the week before and play in her first ever basketball game. My last memory of her was when she was still conscious, grasping my hand strongly, smiling her beautiful smile and thanking me for taking care of her daughter.

Life has a way of reminding us of what's most important. Family and love and our dreams. Before she had her daughter, it was my sister-in-law's greatest wish to have a little girl that she could raise into beautiful young woman. Even in the hospital, her hopes and wishes were centered around going home and being a good mother. Going shopping with her daughter, attending her piano recital's, buying dresses, taking her for hair cuts and manicures, watching her grow - looking forward to prom. It's a dream that can't come true not because she didn't do everything in her power to make it happen, but because her body failed her. But she never gave up hope. She never stopped believing that she'd get home someday.

This is a lesson that I have taken to heart. I will not give up on my own dream. Not until my own body fails me. I will keep trying. Because she never gave up. Through the worst pain and suffering a person can endure, she never gave up hope. For her sake, I can't give up either. I will take over her dreams and see that her daughter is loved and cared for as one of my own, that I am there for my niece whenever she needs me, just as her mother would have been. I'll also see my own dream through and continue to seek out a new agent or go back to the editors who were interested in seeing a revision myself. And I hope that I'll find someone who, like my wonderful critique readers, loves my new MS. And if and when my book gets published, I will dedicate it to my sister-in-law whose beautiful and strong spirit will forever be my inspiration.

50 comments:

Lisa L. Leibow said...

This is a beautiful, heartfelt message. I hope the road turns soon, my friend.

thinking of you...

Jenn Reese said...

This is a beautiful entry, and a wonderful tribute to your sister-in-law. I am in awe of your strength, and of the power of your resolve. I have no doubt that you will find an agent who loves your book.

I'm so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family, and especially with that little girl.

moonrat said...

x x x

strugglingwriter said...

Heartbreaking. I can't think of much worse than not being able to see my kids grow up.

My condolences to you on everything.

Paul

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Ellen.

And best of luck getting a new agent for your book.

Lily Cate said...

This is really lovely and heartbreaking, Ello.
I lost an aunt and uncle last year within months, both to long illnesses.
It's hard to be so thankful for the extra time you had with them, and still bitter about all the things that will be dearly missed.

Patti said...

peace to all, our sweet ello.

Stephen Parrish said...

I'm sorry about your sister-in-law, Ellen. You were lucky to have known her.

As for the agent, he was in the way, now he's out of the way.

Whirlochre said...

Sorry to hear about your multiple misfortunes and losses.

But you're right, it's like that sometimes.

And right again, that it doesn't last forever.

So keep swinging the bat.

The ball will be on its way back soon enough.

(Not the best of metaphors I know, but the cake one got a little complicated).

Angie said...

I'm so sorry, hon. You've definitely had more than your fair share of suck lately. [hugz]

About your agent never being satisfied with your rewrites, though, I have a link for you:

Dean Wesley Smith's post on why the statement "YOU MUST HAVE AN AGENT TO SELL A BOOK" is a myth. Smith is published in multiple genres, has published almost a hundred books, used to be a publisher himself (of Pulphouse) and his wife is Kristine Katherine Rusch, who edited The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for a number of years. He knows the business.

According to Smith, revising your manuscript on your agent's orders is ridiculous. An agent is your employee, they work for you and follow your instructions like any other employee, and if they don't then you fire them and find someone who will. Selling the book is your job and there are reasons (which he goes into) why you're likely to do a better job than an agent; agents exist to negotiate your contract and do other business-related jobs you don't want to do yourself, like nag your publisher about late checks.

Here's another post on the same topic, with more detailed practical info and advice.

I'll admit that this goes against a lot of the info flowing around the internet these days. It also makes sense, however. And as someone who followed the publishing end of the internet back in the late eighties and early nineties, then went away for a while, then came back just a few years ago, I was kind of surprised at that point to hear about so many writers flailing around and making all sorts of changes, and even reluctantly scrapping whole projects, on their agents' say-so. I thought maybe the industry had changed; Smith says no, only the information going around, and the young agents willing to take advantage of new writers (even if they're not actually scammers, even if they think they're doing it right) have changed.

Something to think about anyway. Good luck. [hugz]

Angie

JKB said...

I'm with Stephen re: agent.

And I'm sending you mongo mongo hugs.

You're in my thoughts. and your sister in law as well.

McKoala said...

Ello, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Kappa no He said...

I wish I could hug you. You are exactly right, family and health is the most important. You will most definitely reach your dreams. I know it in my heart. The road will once again be paved in sweet green grass and beautiful flowers.

Colleen_Katana said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss, Ellen.

You're in my thoughts...

Jacqui said...

I am so, so sorry. And so glad you are not giving up.

out of the wordwork said...

A heartbreaking series of struggles and losses can defeat a person - but I see how strong you, and your sister-in-law, are. You will not break. I'm sure it was a great comfort for her to know you will be there, helping raise her beloved daughter.

I have no doubt you will be published one day. Your dreams and wishes will happen. I'll be cheering for you the whole way.

Kelly said...

A beautiful tribute to your strong, caring sister-in-law. So sorry for your loss, Ellen. Hugs to you and your family.

beth said...

Oh my gosh. I am praying for you and your family. This is a lot of hardship, and I am amazed that even as you recognize the difficulty of the road, you also realize the beauty of the journey, and the importance of the struggle.

But still, this must be a very difficult, hard time for you all. Loss and change are never easy. So I will be praying for you all, especially your niece.

pjd said...

I am so terribly sorry. Your commitment to your niece is very important; don't let it fade as distance from last Friday grows. There has been so much loss around me the past few years... I am so sorry for yours. You have many friends thinking of you now.

Cheryl Kauffman said...

Very sorry for your loss. Will keep your family in my prayers. Keep on trying, I'm sure you will get published.

mynfel said...

How heartbreaking. :(

My condolences for your loss. I hope the tide starts turning for you soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sometimes it piles on and piles on, and you wonder how so much crap keeps falling on your head. But family is a big help, and dreams too. I'm sorry for your loss and your struggles. My thoughts are with you.

jjdebenedictis said...

You made me cry at work.

(((hugs)))

Nandini said...

Oh Ellen, I'm so sorry.
((((hugs))))

Lana Gramlich said...

I'm so sorry, hon. Let me know if there's anything I can do.

Lorin said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Kim Kasch said...

When we go buy a bottle of wine, in the future, we will pass on 2009 because it was NOT a very good year.

I have you in my thoughts and prayers.

Christina Farley said...

My heart goes out to you Ellen and your neice. This is a beautiful message and it made me cry to read all that you've been through! You've so much to share and I know your sister-in-law will be watching you as you fulfill your dreams.

Hugs.

marcie said...

I am so sorry for your loss. The words are so little, but I'm thinking of you and your famiy, especially your dear niece. I am so thankful she has you.

Deidra said...

Life is hard. It's definitely good that you learn from this, that it reminds you to live your life to the fullest. Best wishes for you and yours.

Chris Eldin said...

What Moonie said...
xoxox

Aniket said...

I am so very sorry Ello.

You'll get a better agent. You must believe that.
Take care of her daughter, and you.

Take your time off, we'll be right here waiting.

Merry Monteleone said...

Ellen, you have no idea how much it takes to make me cry, but that did it.

I'm so sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. But I am so proud of you, for stepping up to the plate and being a fantastic sister and aunt and filling a place in your niece's life in whatever ways you can. You are a brilliant writer, and the most awesome of crit partners. But You're a great person, which is more.

Have faith, El, the road will turn. You'll weather this. Believe it, because I sure as hell do.

Sending you prayers and hugs.

Rebecca Knight said...

"When we go buy a bottle of wine, in the future, we will pass on 2009 because it was NOT a very good year." HA! This is so true.

Blessings to you and your family, Ello, and thank you for sharing this part of your life with us :). I know you're going to be an amazing role model for your neice, especially chasing your dreams like you do! She's very lucky to have had two such strong women in her life.

Here's to 2010 being a year of healing for us all :). <3

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Ello, I happened to link through from another blog. I haven't been here in a long time! I am sorry for your family's loss. Take comfort that your niece is so very lucky to have you.

Peace to you and yours, and I have no doubt the writing bit will work itself out.

Vivian said...

What a beautiful tribute to your sister-in-law, Ellen. My thoughts and prayers go out to her daughter, her husband and all of you. I know you have given your sister-in-law much comfort and peace, to know her daughter will be in good hands.

You have many challenges ahead, but your courage and strength will carry you forward.

Hugs.

Ello said...

Thank you all of my friends for your wonderful comments and thoughts. I am so grateful to all of you. Reading your comments have been a blessing for me.

Thank you so much.

Ello

J.A. Palermo said...

Ellen:
What a beautiful tribute to your sister-in-law. I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts. Take care.

captainstupendous said...

A wonderful testament to your sister-in-law, and a message that has significance for us all. You have a heart as big as the sky, Ellen.

Jill Corcoran said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Ello.

I lost my sister-in-law when she was 36. Her two children then 2 and 5 have grown into the most amazing young adults because they were always loved by so many. With your brother and you to help her through, I know your niece will also grow strong and beautiful.
May 2010 bring you all love, health, strength, peaceful memories and better times.

JaneyV said...

Ellen - I've been hibernating for a while now so I'm sorry not to have left a message sooner. My deepest condolences for such a terrible loss to your family. There really aren't adequate words to express how deeply this post has affected me so I just want to send you all my love and the warmest of friendship hugs.

Re the agent - Stephen is right. Onwards and upwards. The right one is out there.

XOXOXOXOXOXO

nathaliemvondo said...

Ellen, thank you for the courage to share such a painful trial. I know you by doing that you gave me the courage to keep moving forward, a lesson I will remember for a long time

God bless you and your loved ones. You're in my prayers.

yachicka said...

Oh, Ellen! Such a beautiful tribute!! I have tears in my eyes as I go off to paint my daughter's nails - so grateful for the blessing of time with her. It's wonderful you will always be there for your niece. Puts everything in perspective.
And kudos for hanging on to your dream. Powerful example all your girls need! You will succeed, I am certain!
xo yachicka

Precie said...

I'm so sorry.

xoxoxo

C.R. Evers said...

A beautiful and thoughtful post. ((((hugs)))) Well put.

Jennifer Ambrose said...

I'm so sorry to hear of the difficult road you have been traveling and of the loss of your sister-in-law. I'm inspired by your strength and determination. Please know I'm thinking of you and wishing you nothing but the very best!

Demon Hunter said...

OMG, Ellen. I am so sorry for your loss. My condolences to you and your family.

Rena said...

Heartbreaking, and yet, beautiful. My thoughts & prayers are with you Ellen.

Vijaya said...

Oh, Ello. This is just heartbreaking. I will keep your family in my prayers.

Mary Witzl said...

Ello, I'm so sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. You did her proud, writing what you wrote.

And you probably already know this, but I can't wait to buy your book. (And you know what a cheapskate I am, right?)

XXX from me too.

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