Forging a new path…when you really don't want to.



I was a journalist for most of my career, so I was very comfortable continuing to do that ad infinitum for the usual reasons: I loved the work and I could do it well.


So when I sat down to write my memoir three years ago, I figured I'd just gather the facts and write the story that I wanted my children to know. I started out with two essays recounting the facts surrounding the drowning death of their sister Jessica, and about how my own sister Jan had ended her life by leaping from a bridge. The drama would tell the story, right?


Not really. I wanted to tell them more than the facts.


I wanted them to know that the losses and limits we face really do have a purpose, and that we have the power to put them to work in our lives. I wanted to show them how I had done that, and how they could, too.


But to tell my children how to survive what happens to them - and survive well - I had to mine facts that turned out to be buried in me. And this was not an excavation I wanted to conduct.


I thought I was writing journalism – the assembly of objective, outside facts – but I ultimately discovered that the source of the facts for this story was me. I had to go looking for facts within myself, and interpret them as best I could for my sister.


I was nearly crushed by the task. It took me months to uncover the fact that my severe stutter had been an excruciating burden for much of my life. I had never wanted to admit that; I just wanted to be seen as strong.


And for nearly 20 years, I dared not delve into the stack of typed papers my sister had written about her own life. I knew the story would be tortured. And it was.


My memoir is the product of this unearthing.


Sometimes it's important to go where you really don't want to go.