A friend of mine in London just passed me a link to the following essay in The Guardian, which is written by her 83 year old mother and came out today. It’s an essay about how much this woman misses her husband of 60 plus years and how she’s learned to cope over the past year. She just won the Mary Stott Prize at the Guardian, an annual prize honoring women in journalism.
I love the fact that, at 83, this woman still has it in her to produce such a moving and reflective piece of writing. She’s a model for us all. But she’s not alone. A few years back, Joan Didion wrote a best-selling memoir of the year she tragically lost both her husband and daughter, entitled The Year of Magical Thinking (Haven’t read it? It’s a must). What Didion does brilliantly in this book is get you ready for the process of grieving – not so much the emotional side but the psychological side – narrating with a reporter’s precision the different stages one goes through.
There’s no doubt that one of the defining events of adulthood is losing a parent. And even if you’re not a writer by trade – Cynthia Walton isn’t – what both these women do is show you how writing can be a tool in letting you process that grief. In short, they are both fine examples of writing as therapy.
I also just finished Amos Oz’ wonderful (and L-O-N-G) memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness. In addition to being a captivating history of Jerusalem from the 1940s on, this is also a very personal account about how the author’s mother’s suicide when he was 13 fundamentally shaped him as a person, and more importantly, as a writer. Oz is such a talented writer that though he hints at the centrality of his mother’s death throughout the book, it isn’t until the very last page that you fully grasp the enormity of the event in shaping who he is and the writer he becomes. I cried when I read it, which is something I rarely do with a book.
But Walton’s article also made me think about the website I linked to the other day entitled Old Jews Telling Jokes. Because like these men, what Cynthia Walton is doing in writing this article is finding a hobby for herself at the ripe old age of 83 that is both fulfilling and enjoyable. We should all be so lucky.
You go girl!