Crawling From the Abyss
Like the song says, I know I'm not the first and of course everyone's experience is different, as it should be, but one soon finds out some aspects of grieving are universal. Since Jeff passed away on a Friday, at least I had the weekend surrounded by loving friends before the business of death overtook my life. These are more details I won't hoist upon the reader, but will say, it all seemed cold and cruel and an overbearing burden I was not equipped to handle.
We held Jeff's "Big-ass Party" at Craft Conundrum, a craft beer bar which was our favorite place to hang out. This venue was more than simply a "place." It was comfortable. The owners, their kids, the other patrons, their kids--and dogs--we all became family. When the most evil of humankind, an unscrupulous business partner, forced their closure almost a year into my grief over Jeff, it felt like another vicious blow dealt on my already-fragile emotions. Words here cannot adequately describe my devastation over this added and unexpected loss.
December 2019 found me ready to receive grief counseling and I found a sixteen-week course nearby. There was much unrestrained crying during the first session and the two men who started the course amongst us dozen or so women never returned. It was hard on all of us, and I can't speak for everyone, but it helped me greatly.
And then COVID hit. Everything shut down and we began the Great Lockdown of 2020. I've been fortunate to have a close group of friends. We learned to Zoom happy hours, which carried over to my writer's group, and FaceTime with my brother and other friends. Neither I, nor any of my close friends or family contracted the virus; we have been wearing our masks, even now that governments far and wide are saying we don't need to. We're all vaccinated. I'm also grateful for my three canine partners who entertain and comfort me with their companionship.
And so I started thinking of writing again, "thinking of" being the key phrase. I had journaled, but not enough. Did I want to continue working on Chance? Definitely one of my favorites and I do have an ending for it, but, like so much of my work, it needs more focus to clear out the rubbish. How about Highwire? It takes place mostly in South Carolina and I've done a great deal of research for it. Then there's Beach Story. That's only the working title. It does take place in Charleston, but it involves one of the characters from The Guitarist. No, not Oliver, sorry.
Then one day, driving in the car, a song came on Pandora by the band, Black Veil Brides. The song is called "In the End." I'm not going to post the entire song because some of the lyrics aren't relevant to the motivation the song inspired, but I will post the chorus, which is relevant.
"In the end, as we fade into the night
Who will tell the story of your life
And who will remember your last goodbye
'Cause it's the end and I'm not afraid,
I'm not afraid to die."
I thought of Jeff's life and his final days. Much like the many other struggles he had faced throughout his life, he faced this one without fear. Could I be the one to write the story of his life? Maybe not so much of his childhood I hadn't already learned through his family and photographs, but I had down the last twenty-eight of his fifty-seven years. Of course, I would fictionalize it because fiction is what I do. I came up with a name, a place, and a beginning. I saw it happening in Central Florida but then I changed it to Charleston. Hard to say how that will end up, I may change it back. My character has experienced two or three of Jeff's major incidences that impacted me.
But then I got stuck. Where would I go from there? I wrote a list of events (not necessarily a list of diabetes-related events) which basically turned out to be an outline of our time together; from Mt. Pleasant to Orlando and back to Charleston, at least from my perspective.
I thought of the research I had put into The Guitarist, and Highwire. How could I research this subject? (Lightbulb moment) I'll ask his family and close friends for some of their memories of the man and extract inspiration for my character's experience. One of the first things I learned was that he was known as Jeffery, not Jeff, during much of his early life, until someone in school nicknamed "Funk." Some of his very close friends still call him Funk. I love it. I was introduced to him as "Jeff" so there ya go.
And now the research and gathering of stories begins. There's bound to be much laughter and many tears along the way, but it will all be worth it. In that vein, I offer these two songs to end this post. Please disregard certain misspellings, misplaced capitalizations, or any other grammatical errors. I did not create these videos. If I had, you can bet the editor in me would not have let such flaws color an otherwise beautiful work.
Disclaimer: Have tissues at the ready.