It was still dark out when I walked down to my daughter and son-in-law’s house to babysit two of my grandchildren while they took Jacob for a three-month post-cancer CT scan. (which turned out all clear, praise God) Before I left home, I grabbed a cup of coffee, my writing bag and a book off my “to-read” shelf. Three-year-old Joseph (aka Jo-Jo) woke up before his parent’s left and allowed me to snuggle with him on the couch. While he watched a cartoon, I started reading The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux. Few authors have spoken so many of my own thoughts about writing and about losing someone so well. Madeleine L’Engle was another. I yearned for Post-It notes to mark passages. I wanted my own journal to jot down pertinent paragraphs and sentiments. Nuggets of wisdom like this:
‘Thinking about Mother, I compare her to the late stage of a dandelion. All the earlier, fleshy brilliance is gone. Now she is a fluffy globe of light, holding herself erect as ever but ready, with one puff, to fly away, be gone.” (page 39)
That was my mother, after her cancer diagnosis.
“Whenever I think of Mom, I can’t help feeling somewhat inferior to her. By temperament and spiritual habits, she was more refined than I am. It would not make her happy for me to be thinking this way, and I am, in fact, grateful that she left behind such an astonishing life to emulate and love. But it is daunting to feel that so large a mountain remains for me to climb. By slipping over the top, she compels me to follow.” (page 167)
I finished over half the book with Jo-Jo in my lap. Later in the day, while I played cars with him for what seemed an interminable amount of time, I couldn’t wait to get back to the book. The irony did not escape me; wanting to hurry up some precious moments with my grandson in order to get back to reading a book that reinforced the importance of living in the moment. Determined to do exactly that, I played yet another round of “push the cars back and forth, while making appropriate vroom noises.” My patience was rewarded. By 2:00 in the afternoon he was sleeping in my arms once again and I finished the book.
When I got home last night I rushed to my cabinet where I had stored this lovely journal until I knew its purpose. On the front is a picture from my mother’s house last winter. Her table and chairs where I spent so many writing sessions after her death. My laptop, piles of papers, and a bright red cup of hot tea. In the background, you can see the snow through the windows. I will always treasure those months of writing in her empty house.
“Some days I can think of nothing worth writing down. Fortunately, I am not alone. By my chair, I keep a small, revolving collection of essays, spiritual autobiographies, poetry, and other writer’s journals to inspire me. When I’m out of fuel, they pull me out of the creek and into a broader, deeper river.” (page 275, The Journal Keeper, by Phyllis Theroux)
Now I know my journal’s purpose. I will begin writing down the inspiring words of others, so that I can refer to them when my muse runs dry.