So, I wrote a novel. Actually, it’s my second novel…and today, June 11th, is its official release day. It’s entitled Good Buddy and is a story about loss, love, family relationships, second chances, and ultimately…stepfathers and fatherhood.
It’s a novel written for…and dedicated to…my husband. My finished manuscript is the last “book” that Eric ever read.
Just over three years ago, my first novel, Scout’s Honor, was released during the midst of the most horrifying experience of my life: in the chemo ward at UNC Lineberger Cancer Hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, while watching my (otherwise) healthy, gorgeous, hardworking, 47 year old husband sit in a big chair, for hours, receiving toxic chemicals that would (maybe) fend off his incurable cancer for a few months so he could perhaps make it to age 48. (He did not)
After that fun day on the chemo floor, we went home with my husband attached to his 48 hour chemo pack special. The next day, my daughter called me on the phone screaming. She was 3 hours away in Boone, North Carolina in her college apartment room. Her longtime middle and high school boyfriend/close friend, just died out in Colorado at the age of 19. So, I called my husband’s mother to tell her that I had to leave my chemo-packed husband at home to go pick up my daughter in Boone to deal with the latest unexpected traumatic experience.
April 14th, 2016 was supposed to be one of the best days of my life. My book – my very first one – one that it took over 20 years to get the courage to write – was finally being released into the world. A lot of work, sweat, tears and hustle had gone into it. Like many writers, it was a lifelong dream to be a published author. It finally came true.
However, on what should have been a great day, I found myself meandering through the worst time that life could possibly offer to anyone. Granted, that “worst time” award went to my husband. But for those left watching someone die, ours was a close second. My husband was dying. My girls’ father was dying. We were watching this happen to him. Then my daughter’s closest friend was also unexpectedly dead.
Supposed to be one of the best days of my life. Instead, one of my worst. No doubt one my daughter’s worst. Certainly one of, if not THE worst, for this young man’s parents and family.
Over these three years since, I have had some time to reflect on that horrible day…my debut novel’s release day…April 14th, 2016. And what I have found is that writing the second book, Good Buddy, is what ultimately helped me contend with the magnitude and enormity of what was going on around me.
Not only was I grieving the loss of my husband – before he was even gone from this earth – but I had to be a spouse to a man who was still very much alive and struggling physically, mentally and emotionally; a mother to two daughters who were dealing with their own respective nightmares and grief, a daughter/sister-in-law who had to keep other family members informed and on notice, a gatekeeper of my husband’s treatment and energy, and an advocate for more, better, best…when there was nothing more, better, or best to give him. I was essentially rendered helpless no matter what I did all along the way.
Writing Good Buddy kept me sane in an insane time. It gave me a firm ground to walk on, a purpose to carry on despite the hopelessness of his plight.
When I started writing the book, long before I knew my husband was ill, the protagonist and story was inspired by my husband’s selfless act of becoming my infant daughter’s stepfather many years ago when we were young. He didn’t have to do that. The story is about a man who does the same for the woman he loves. He loves her daughter, too. Like my daughter, this daughter becomes his daughter…regardless of biology.
But when my husband received his out-of-left-field dire prognosis, finishing Good Buddy became a mission: I had to finish the book so he could read it before he died. The entire arc of the story remained the same, but the details became avenues in which to preserve him and our family’s memories.
Buddy Cordova, the protagonist, is not specifically my husband. But because of what happened to him, Buddy is brush-stroked with the best part of Eric, some of endearing his personality traits and quirks, his blue eyes and long eyelashes. Some of the vignettes in the storytelling became fictionalized versions of a few family memories, and the little girl in the book, Molly, is a fusion of our two daughters.
Writing this novel added to the wonderful legacy that my husband left behind. He led an honorable life of integrity, and I tried to ensure that was portrayed within the characters and the entire story. I even named my publishing imprint after him…EJD Press.
While you’re grieving the loss of your husband, consider writing some stories that help memorialize him in some way. It helps to do this. It gets the memories down on paper in a different way, and it can help you process them as you deal with the pain.
After all, when the ceremonies are over and the dishes are returned and the people go home…it’s the love and memories remaining that will hold you in your loneliness and tears.