The Muse and the Memories

“I had the most enjoyable little talks with my Dad in his workshop where we talked about woodworking, looking over his latest projects. He was so happy when I started woodcarving-he told me the Weis’s were always good with woodworking and some ancestors in Germany were woodcarvers. After Dad’s death, it seemed he was observing me at work because of the ideas I would get all of a sudden. I have never gotten over missing him, tho.”

1986-“I don’t mind being alone most of the time. Have to live with missing Bud, so I’m doing a lot of things I would have done if he was still here. Have been surprised a few times when I felt the nice pressure of his hand on my shoulder like he used to do.”

I’ve been reading my mother’s Memory Book, written between the years of 1985 and 1988. My father was still alive when she started it, but she began dating her entries after his death. I am happy to know that my mother felt some comforting presence after the deaths of her father and husband because I sense the same thing happening with me.

It was four months ago yesterday that my mother died and I am still finding my way through this labyrinth called grief. Reading my mother’s innermost thoughts has not been unbearable to me, as I’d feared. On the contrary, it has been very cathartic. Yes, I have found myself crying, sobbing even, over some sentences, but I have smiled over others, and even laughed.

I have been writing regularly in my mother’s empty house for a month now. “Thank you, Mom,” I heard myself saying out loud a few days ago, after yet another productive writing session. I’d accomplished three times as much as I had been in recent restaurant or library writing sessions. I felt a little foolish saying it, but I’d realized that something I didn’t quite understand was happening.

I can’t stop the ideas from coming:

A brilliant idea for additional sidebars in my book. Not one, but two topics, for a future book. An essay for an anthology. A dozen intriguing titles for a possible mystery series (and I don’t even write fiction!). What is going on? I wondered one morning when I got up at 5:30 just to write something down.

My pen can’t keep up with my brain.

There could be many explanations, I am sure. Creativity begets more creativity. The act of sitting down to write induces more writing time. My mid-life brain is recharging as the children get older. A lack of an Internet connection results in no wasted time on the computer.

My mother is guiding me.

I know many people believe in coincidences rather than put their faith in a Heavenly Father who would orchestrate anything in their life. Others insist that Satan is little more than a fairy-tale, despite having looked him in the eye. They have not recognized him, nor have they sensed the protection of an angel. My own mother taught me to believe in these things, so it is second nature to think that she might be a part of my inspiration, just as I think she is watching over my grandson and helping him through his cancer treatment. Reading this sentence from her memory book, written in 1986, gives me a great deal of comfort: “I liked to sing. I would play thespian by myself and sing Ave Maria.” I have not forgotten that moment when the doctor shut the door of the exam room after telling my daughter Elizabeth and me that Jacob had cancer and it had spread. I remember that beautiful voice singing the two words “Ave Maria” and then the generic Christmas song immediately playing afterward.

If she can be there for me, for us, she is. I like thinking that she could be encouraging me in my creative endeavors. Over and over in her memory book she expresses her hope that each of her children and grandchildren would use their respective talents, and she saw talent in all of us.

I have not felt her hand on my shoulder, nor recently smelled the smoke of a cigarette. I have not spotted a small feather in an unlikely place but one time. I have yearned for, but not felt the presence of her spirit close by. But today, while writing at my mother’s house, I felt the definite warmth of her approval.

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