Monday, March 31, 2008

Surprised at the Pain

Some people know I lost a child in an auto accident. A lot of people don't.

It happened 17 years ago, and I thought I was fine . . .

until I read something today that somehow, I'm ashamed to say, I had not read in all the intervening years--maybe subconsciously avoiding the task.

I don't even know how the file got on my computer, and I have far less idea how it came to be on my flash drive, but there it was, staring me in the face. It simply said KAREN. I thought to myself, Oh, maybe there's a photo in the Word file, so I opened it, since I've been looking for photos of that daughter. Odd that I don't have any pictures of my dead daughter or husband on this computer, but it was built long after they passed on, so maybe it's not so odd.

Anyway, I know I'm wandering, but maybe it's because I'm avoiding getting to the point of all this. The point is, the file is an account of the accident and the aftermath, written by the driver of the car, my then-teenaged older daughter.

I'm surprised at the depth of the pain I felt as I read her words. They brought me back to that terrible November day, the call that woke my husband and I from a drowsy Saturday nap, the awful horribleness of facing a parent's worst nightmare. Even now, a half-hour or more after reading the file, I'm not sure I can complete this post. I'm overwhelmed by the pain that's been lying dormant for years.

We tell ourselves that we have gotten over a tragic event, and perhaps we think that's so. Perhaps not. Maybe the grief just sits hidden away, pushed deep down inside ourselves until we unexpectedly run across something that brings it to the surface again, like this account has done to me.

I'm not sorry I found that file. I should have read it years ago. I'm glad it was written. I'm glad I have a copy. It simply blindsided me to read it.

Feeling grief isn't a bad thing. After all, I'm a writer, and I use the emotions I've felt to make my fiction live for other people. I've discovered that I can use my experiences to help other people get through a time of sadness in their lives, to realize that all is not lost, that adversity can be surmounted and overcome. It adds a rich dimension to my work.

I just need a minute here to regroup and regain my equilibrium.


  1. Marsha, thank you for sharing such a personal memory. I am sorry for your pain, but I admire your willingness to confront it. My prayers are with you.

  2. Thank you, Dan. It was surely a jolt to find myself sobbing my heart out in the middle of the day.

  3. Mom. I cannot ever get over the death, the loss, of Karen. It's nice to hear someone else in the family say that, too, finally. The big question when people tell others they should get over something is: What exactly are we supposed to be getting over? The truth is: There's nothing you can really ever get over and whatever it is we're compelled to be getting over is really something quite intangible and unreal, therefore impossible a goal to obtain and unrealistic a task to complete, much less begin. Sorry. I miss her, too. Every day. Love you! ---Greg

    I love that picture of her. Now I have one for my computer! Thanks!


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