When I started working with Author Accelerator, a book coaching company, in May 2017, one of my first lessons was to dig into why I wanted to write this story. Why this idea? Where did it come from? Why did it stick with me and refuse to let go?
My story is about a widow searching for the answer to her question: can I love again? I’m not sure what reason I originally gave my book coach for why I wanted to write this story, but with time, I came to realize that I must write this book to rationalize my fear of losing my husband—the man that has become the center of my universe.
This fear of death, and specifically of losing the one that I love, has been fostered in me since I was a little girl. My parents are very close, and by very close, I mean they do everything together. There are no girls’ trips or guys’ weekends. There is just my mom, my dad, and the life they have created around and with one another.
My dad has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD (along with a list of several other respiratory diseases). You wouldn’t really know how advanced the disease was if you met my dad. At 76, he still works. My mom helps him load his oxygen tanks and his lunch box in his car four days a week, and off he goes for several hours of work.
He’s a happy guy, always cracking jokes and laughing. On one visit to the ER last year, Mom and I watched in horror from where we had been told to sit in the hall after Dad let his oxygen run out and didn’t tell the nurses he needed it continuously. The doctors called code blue and ran behind Dad’s curtain. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and it didn’t match the winded laughter from my dad that I was hearing. Later, when dad was settled in ICU, the nurse remarked, “Mr. Ingram, I’ve never seen anyone laughing while they were in code blue.”
This is the character of my kind, positive, not-going-to-give-up Dad.
My Dad wound up in ICU again last week. He just couldn’t regulate his breathing with his inhaler or by cranking his oxygen up to 10. A scan of Dad’s lungs clarified what was happening. The scan showed pockets within his lungs from the COPD, lots of scar tissue, and fluid in his lungs. But worst of all, the scan showed that Dad’s disease is progressing.
The doctor suggested palliative care. We weren’t given grim timelines. Still, we weren’t ready to process the reality that palliative care brings to the foreground.
I’m not ready to think about all the maybes, could bes, or even will bes for a man living with a progressive lung disease who plays such a prominent role in my life or an aging woman who has built her whole world around that man and whose happiness is important to me. Thinking about these things brings grief and sadness. Thinking about these things brings me back to my fear of losing the man I married and created my life around.
I know that, someday, death will come.
And, even in the midst of that finality, life will continue.
My deep gut-level reason for my writing, the reason a story about a widow questioning if she can possibly love again has latched onto me and won’t let go, is because of the very fact that life will continue. Someone (more likely, many ones) will be left behind to navigate the effects of love and loss, and what I am truly exploring through my main character’s (Alexandria) grief is the best way to continue to live despite the pain.