“Write what haunts you, lest you spend your life amidst drivel. Write what you care most about, the beauty, the absurdity, and the sorrow of the world.”–Jane Resh Thomas
In the quiet of an unoccupied room, I exhale the words I’ve just read in a whisper… “Write what haunts you…”
Had you asked me prior to my mother’s death if I thought it would be tough to lose her, I would have said no. So I was ill-prepared for the grief that would settle over me after the details of dismantling her material life in Portland, Oregon, were checked off my list.
The truth is–just as I did while she was living–I have missed her. After all, isn’t it absence that leaves us yearning?
Into the small U-haul we rented to tow back to California, alongside other beloved treasures, we packed four enormous boxes, boxes chock-full of what I had saved of her writing.
When finally the rush of metal wheels rolled the trailer door shut, the speed at which the previously sunlit draped boxes disappeared was equal to the short-lived euphoria I felt for having emptied her house.
Afterward, I stood in the center of what days ago had been her living room, and the slow creep of reality stung me; the countless times I had helped move, first my parents, then later just my mother, were over.
They were gone.
Hours later, Portland had vanished, and California stretched out in front of us like a dream. As the miles rolled away, my mind teased the idea that in the back of the trailer, inside the taped-up boxes, were insights into some of what my mother kept closed away.
Once home, much like a miner, I excavated the contents of the boxes.
Among the pages were the ingredients of her living–a pinch of this and a dash of that. I poured over her words: poetry, essays, and short stories, some finished, others not. And with each word, the sound of her voice spread through me as if a heartbeat…
Now the words that arrested me earlier again rise like a refrain…
Write what you care most about, the beauty, the absurdity, and the sorrow of the world…
Indeed. My mother did just that. She was a wonderful writer, a gift I dare say I am grateful she did not squander.
…write what haunts you.