Killing Off Characters

People often get really upset when one of their favorite characters in a book, show, or movie gets “killed off.” They often get angry at the writers as though the writer sadistically decided to murder the character. I understand the frustration – I can get pretty emotionally invested in stories too – but really I think people need to chill out.

First of all, having beloved characters die is realistic. People die. We don’t get to decide who or how or when. Sometimes the people we love the most die. Sometimes many people that we love die all around the same time. It happens. And fiction should, at least somewhat, mirror reality.

Secondly, though I still sometimes use the phrase, I think we should stop accusing writers of “killing off characters” unless it is pretty obvious that the death of said character was written purely for shock factor (I’m looking at you, season 3 of Downton Abbey…I don’t know, that all felt really cheap to me…). One time John Green was talking about this (I think someone may have asked him why he decided to kill a certain character) and he said something to the effect of “Authors don’t kill characters; Characters die.” (This is not an exact quote). And I really liked that. I know this sounds kind of mystical, but whatever: The stories and characters that we write, while they are technically our creations and come from our own minds, are separate entities that already exist before we put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, as the case may be). The story is already there and it’s our job to write it accurately. The characters already exist and it’s up to us to make sure the actions and dialogue we write for them are consistent with who they are. So, when I write about a character who dies, I’m not sadistically “killing him off,” I’m relaying to my readers the facts of his life. If I feel that a character is supposed to die in the next scene and I don’t write that death, the story is instantly cheapened.

It is perfectly okay to grieve a bit when a character dies, but please stop getting angry at storytellers for writing the deaths of characters. If you only want to experience unrealistic stories in which nothing tragic ever happens…maybe stay in the children’s section? Well… you may even be in danger there…

Nothing Left Unsaid

\\ Just a forewarning: this month’s post is going to be a bit emotional. I had told myself before that I was going to stop writing blog posts about losing my mother, but I just really wanted to this month. And anyway, it’s my blog, so I’m going to write what’s on my mind. This post might also be a bit scatter-brained, or “stream of consciousness” if you will, because I can’t be bothered to organize my thoughts. So if this isn’t your cup of tea, go pour yourself some coffee ūüėõ I’m not sure what I mean by that. \\

The month of May is probably always going to be difficult for me. May 6th is the anniversary of my mom’s death and Mother’s Day always arrives a painfully short amount of time after that. There have been a couple of years when May 6th didn’t really get to me, but¬†don’t worry, Mother’s Day tends to bring out the grief that the anniversary couldn’t manage. But this year it hurt on both days and even some days surrounding. I think it had something to do with the fact that this was the first year that May 6th has fallen on a Tuesday (same as the year she died) and I was really thinking about each day that she was in the hospital, etc. This is also the first May that I don’t live in a place where she once lived and my father is married to someone else. These changes aren’t bad changes at all, it’s just that sometimes the new things make me feel like I’m losing her even more. I remember the first year or so after she died, I became increasingly more afraid of big life changes because I didn’t want things to be too far from what they were when she was here. This kind of freaked me out because a month after she went, I graduated from high school, turned 18, got my license, and a month after that, got my first job and then later that year decided to switch churches. These changes were all normal changes. They were good changes. But they hurt. I hate realizing how many things she will not be here for. I hate noticing all the things she has already missed in these six years. I think that’s what hurt the most this year. I’ve become hyper-aware of all the things that are different and all the things that will likely change. I realized that the me that she knew is not the me that I am now. And it’s good that I’m different. There would be a huge problem if 23-year-old me wasn’t much different from 17-year-old me. But it hurts. It hurts to think that my mother didn’t know who I would become. It hurts that my mother can’t currently know me.¬†

On this most recent May 6th, I stayed home from work because I was not doing so well emotionally, and I have a nice boss who didn’t mind. After a long while of trying to distract myself, failing to do so, and then just full-on grieving, I pulled out my notebook and wrote something that I think might explain a bit better what I’m trying to say here:

 

It was Tuesday, May 6th. Just like today. I remember coming home without you. It was annoyingly sunny outside and there were children playing in their yards as we drove past. It made me so angry. 

The weather is more fitting today. It is finally raining after so much sun. It is quiet but for the cars on the street. 

I remember the three of us walking into that house that you made a home. We said nothing. I cried and they held me. I could not be comforted as I saw all the spaces you would never occupy again. 

Now I sit in a home you’ve never lived in, at a table you’ve never eaten at, living a life you cannot be a part of other than in my own heart and mind. I know you are much better off where you are now, but it still kills me to know what you will miss. You won’t hold me when I’m crying. You won’t give me advice when I’m lost. You won’t go anywhere with me. You won’t bake or cook with me. You won’t see who I’m becoming or the new interests I’ve developed. You won’t know my new dreams and ambitions. You won’t cry at my wedding or hold my hand while my children come into the world. Your chair will always be empty.
You left so early. 

There is so much I want you to see. So much I want to tell you. 
I am blessed that when you died, there was peace between us and I had no regrets – nothing left unsaid. But the trouble is that life keeps going. There are new things to be said. I can’t say that they are left unsaid because there was never an opportunity.¬†
You left so early.

…anyway, I don’t really know how to end this. I’m sorry if that was depressing or anything, I just felt like sharing and I know that there are many who can relate. When I learn about other people’s grief it makes me feel less alone and more connected with others, so I try not to hold back too much. If you powered through my ramblings… well, thanks ^_^

 

Here’s a picture of my mom and me because of reasons:

Image

Two Empty Stockings

The other day, we put up christmas decorations. As I adorned the tree with¬†ornaments, I remembered how that last few years it was my mother and I who would decorate the tree together. At first I was decorating it all by myself, but my dad eventually came and helped me. I managed to keep my composure while we finished the tree together. I walked back to the box of christmas decorations and found all the christmas snoopy stuffed animals that my mom had. Snoopy was her favorite. I got misty-eyed as I carried one over to her urn and placed it near the vase of roses I put there a few days before. Then there were the stockings. As I hung the stockings over the fireplace I remembered last christmas when looking at my brother’s stocking knowing he would not be able to come home from christmas caused tears to stream down my face. Now there will be two empty stockings. Only one of them will never be filled again. As I stood there staring at them, thinking such things, I became confused. I wasn’t crying. Tearing up a little bit, maybe, but not crying as I did last year when I only missed my still-living brother. I felt a numbness. I wasn’t¬†devastated. But why? I should have lost it. I should have been weeping. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother, not too long after my mother died. We were talking about how everyone expected us to always look sad and not to laugh or smile at anything. Or at least we felt like that’s what they expected. So we felt kind of guilty¬†every time¬†something made us laugh. That’s kind of what I’m feeling now. Like I should be mourning every second. Because my mother is a woman to be greatly missed. When I really think about this I do realize it’s not quite right, but for some reason it feels like it is. I know that my mother would want me to feel happy. I know that she wouldn’t want me to be in mourning all the time. I know that nobody expects that of me. I know that it’s not disrespectful to to be happy. I don’t understand why it makes me feel guilty.

Unsettling Familiarity

A while ago (I’m not quite sure how long ago, maybe a week or two), I was out to lunch with some of my friends. We were having fun, joking around and whatnot, when my friend corey got a phone call. He got up and walked a way from us so he could take the call without distraction. We all just continued in our odd conversations, not realizing what upsetting news was being brought to our dear friend. When he finished his phone conversation, he slowly walked over to his cheerful friends. He quietly sat into his seat, and with tears in his eyes and a quivering lip, he informed us that his father was in the hospital and not doing very well at all. Instantly my heart sank. I wasn’t hungry anymore. We all just stared at him just as helplessly as he stared back. My mind was racing. All the images of my dying mother flashed across my mind. All the terrible emotions flooded out through my eyes. My friend Lisah, wise as can be, suggested we all pray for him right there in the food court. So we bowed our heads and one by one we prayed for him. It was so hard for me to get the words out because I was crying just about as hard as he was. All I could think of was I didn’t want him to hurt the way that I was hurting. I didn’t want him to have to go through all of this.¬†

When we finished praying we threw away our half-eaten meals and headed for my car. I put my arm around corey and offered whatever comfort I could, knowing all the while, there is only so much I can do. I drove as fast as I could to get corey to his car so he could get to the hospital. I know that when I first heard that my mom was in the hospital all I could think about and all that mattered to me was getting there to be with her as fast as I could. We got there safely despite my speeding and despite the blur of my tears. I brought corey to his car, knowing that he was going to drive as fast as he could, I reminded him that the last thing his family needs is to be visiting him in the hospital as well. I drove home praying that he would get there safely. 

When I arrived home, I fell to the floor. I cried as hard as I did the day that I knew my mother was going to die. I felt so helpless. I didn’t know what to do. So I tried to think of what I could do for them. So I went out and put together a little care package and later that day my friend Jennifer and I went to visit the family in the hospital. I wish there was more I could have done. But in situations like this…there really isn’t much you can do. The family was happy to see us, and things seemed like they were getting better. So I went home feeling a bit better.¬†

From there, there have been many ups and downs. One day Corey tells me his dad is doing better, and the next, something else is wrong. And it seemed to keep going back and forth in this fashion. 

The other day, Corey informed me that things were getting worse again. Much worse. So I kept praying. 

Today, I got a text message. He had passed away. 
I’m really getting tired of people I love losing loved ones. It hits me harder every time. I really don’t understand this, but I am convinced that God has a purpose for all of it. I just wish it didn’t have to be so devastating.
But I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t want a God that I can understand.

 

In Memory of Jerry Todd. 

A Dream and a Realization

I know, you probably don’t want to read another blog that has to do with my deceased mother, but you can complain to me when you lose someone you loved with all your heart…tell me you can get them off your mind, and tell me you can go without¬†incorporating¬†them into various aspects of your life…in this case, writing. But don’t worry, this one’s not quite as depressing.

Anyway…I had a strange dream today when I fell asleep on the couch (I was exhausted because I got up early). I dreamed that I was watching TV and my mom was in the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen and saw a HUGE spider. Its body was almost the size of a baseball. I screamed and pointed so my mom could see it. She, in her composed manner said “I got it” and as I left the room in fright she killed the spider and disposed of it. “Its gone, you can come back in” she called and went back to whatever it was she was doing. I walked back in and saw another big insect, I don’t know what it was, but it looked something like a black lobster without claws. My mom ran to it and disposed of it the way she had the spider. “Thanks mom” I smiled, I am terrified of insects. She said nothing, but smiled back at me and went back to what she was doing. This is when I woke up from my dream. I sat there for a while thinking about it, and looked up at my mother’s urn. My mother always would save me from the spiders that terrified me. I thought “well I guess I’ll have to learn to face my fears.” I also thought it odd that in my dream, the fact that my mother was still alive was completely normal to me. It just felt like any other day. I find that¬†every time¬†I dream of her it’s like that. It’s just as though she still walks in this house. When I dream I think nothing of it. I guess when I sleep I forget that my mother no longer lives. Maybe subconsciously I’m not as used to it as I thought I was.

Watching Someone Die

I’ve heard this song many times before, but never really understood it until I had a very similar experience.¬†

“What Sarah Said”
by Death Cab For Cutie:

And it came to me then
That every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time
As I stared at my shoes in the ICU
That reeked of piss and 409
And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself
That I’d already taken too much today
As each descending peak on the LCD
Took you a little farther away from me
Away from me

Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our minds
But I knew that you were a truth
I would rather lose than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground
As the TV entertained itself

‘Cause there’s no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous paces bracing for bad news
Then the nurse comes around and everyone lifts their head
But I’m thinking of what Sarah said
That love is watching someone die

So who’s going to watch you die
So who’s going to watch you die
So who’s going to watch you die

 

The line “love is watching someone die” keeps replaying itself in my mind. I never quite understood it. But I do now. I litterally watched my mother slowly die right there in front of me in that ICU hospital bed. It was at that time that I realized just how much I loved her. ¬†I didn’t want to leave her side, I forgot about everything else, suddenly she was, not only the most important, the only important thing in the world. There was no place I wanted to be more, than to be there by her side in that moment.¬†
Now as I listen to this song, I can’t help but notice that it is frighteningly similar to my experience and my emotions. The picture painted by those words has never been so real to me.¬†

Tribute

I wrote this for my mother’s memorial service which took place on May 17th of this year. I’ve just been thinking about her a lot today and thought I’d post this in honor of her. This is what I wrote:

¬†¬† ¬† “Since my mother’s passing, the picture in my mind of her character has become more vivid. I never completely realized how self-sacrificing she was. She would pretty much do anything for me. No spider was too big, no story too long, no event too boring, no distance too far. She always took care of me before she took care of herself. If I needed her, she was there.
     Of all the things my mother has taught me about, the two things that stick out most are love and prayer.
     She loved without limits and without condition. She allowed the Lord to be the source of that love. She always told me that the only way to truly love is to let Jesus love through us. And thats exactly what she did.
¬†¬† ¬† My mother prayed without ceasing. She knew without a doubt how powerful prayer is. She would pray for the same thing over and over knowing that the Lord was listening and eagerly watching for all the things He would do. She wouldn’t just pray for people who treated her kindly, she would pray just as fervently for the people she should have hated. She knew that prayer could change things.
¬†¬† ¬† There are so many things my mother has instilled in me. I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world. I know that she is now with that God to whom she so¬†diligently¬†prayed. And she will praise him for ever and ever just as¬†diligently. And someday I will join her, singing side by side to our king.”

 

 

Oh, the silence.

Lately I have not really been upset about losing my mother, I haven’t been missing her as much as I did when it all happened. Today I realized why that was. I have been surrounding myself with noise. I have been¬†subconsciously¬†guarding myself from thinking about her by never letting it get quiet. I always have music playing, or the television on in the background, or I have friends over, etc. Today I decided to not turn on anything for a while, thinking it might be relaxing. But I came to realize that the silence causes me to feel and think the things I was trying to suppress. I keep tearing up because suddenly my mother is all that I can really think about. Suddenly I miss her more deeply than I have before.¬†
All that noise is ruining me. I have shut myself off to who I really am and what I really feel and think.
Today I just feel…odd. Things are not the way they should be, and they haven’t been for quite some time, but I haven’t allowed myself to stop and think about it, so I didn’t realize it until now.

I guess I need to remember how sobering silence is and take the time to shut things off and realize where I am and what I am doing.