Death, Dying and Deep Feelings of Doubt

This was originally published in Watch the Skies – should you be interested you can find it here: Watch The Skies

I’m not good at sharing feelings. I’m not good at it in person, I’m particularly bad at it when writing it down. I don’t jump on Facebrick and load up an episode for the public to see. I don’t Tweet it or Instagram it or even post it to the Pretend Blog. I do spend a lot of time wondering if that means I’m not meant to be an author. Authors are meant to be expressive, to have words and share words showing others part of the human condition. I haven’t been able to do that. I’m private about the most sensitive parts of my life. I still have the old fashioned belief that some things are not for public consumption. I have also found that my train of thought is frequently on such a distant track that I fear others won’t relate to what I’m thinking at all.
A clear and recent example of an author sharing his emotions and the whole process of a difficult struggle is Jay Lake. I didn’t know Jay, but I know a number of people that did know him. I was actually invited to go to a dinner and meet him some time ago. I missed that opportunity and now there won’t be any more dinners with him. I am moved by the writing he shared on his battle with cancer and more so by the response of others to what he wrote. His honesty about the ugly parts of the battle draws people out. He could share all this with his words.
More recently another larger than life member of fandom and also an excellent author also passed away. CJ Henderson was a man I had met. I can’t say that I really knew him. I own a number of his works. I had the occasional chance to chat with him, but being a full time raconteur he spent most of the time I was around him chatting with my wife and her girlfriend, convincing them the stories he wove were worthy of parting with their hard won cash. He was always entertaining. His death hit my circle of friends quite hard. As I write, less than a week after his passing, the ripples are still flowing outward from him. The words of others flow.
Something I suspect only a few folks know was that in between these two events death strode into my personal life. My mother’s brother Sid died, unexpectedly, right before Father’s day weekend. I left very early that Saturday morning and drove to Georgetown (north of Boston) to be with my family. Unlike the men listed above, this was an immediate connection. I’d known my uncle all of my life. He’d always been, and I had never given thought to when the time would come when he simply wouldn’t be. I can’t say I knew him as well as some, but we’d recently spent time chatting over things by e-mail. We talked a little of publishing and submissions and what made comics funny. Our communication was a work in progress but now it’s done. It’s over and there’s not going to be any more. It’s a struggle to deal with that thought. I’ve been amazingly fortunate in my family to have avoided more than one or two folks passing away in the past twenty years. I’m leaving that statement, despite the gnawing in my gut that’s telling the superstitious portion of my brain I shouldn’t tempt death or fate or whatever. It’s sad when a creative spark goes out and it’s difficult to deal with that feeling.
That Father’s Day weekend with my family highlighted just how much people live in their own little set of connections and don’t look to the world or even to other people beyond their immediate circle. That is in no way meant to be a disparaging remark toward anyone, merely an observation. My schedule was completely dumped, work shifted, child care rearranged and travel plans fixed. I put more than one thousand miles on my car in a three day span. Emotions were raw. Work needed to be done. Cleaning up, cleaning out and summarizing a life. It was an intense span. At the end of it? The world kept spinning. Other people’s summer vacation plans went on ahead, fireworks displays and cookouts still happened. At the end of it? It was my job to jump back into the stream and keep swimming along.
Now, after a great deal of stress has washed along I find myself wondering if I should have been writing this all down as I went. Should I have been making notes or posting updates or writing anything while this was going on? I wanted to mention Jay Lake’s cancer blog months ago. I appreciate that he wrote what he did. I meant to say something about the excellent celebration that happened at Balticon for CJ and his wife. It was good to see a storyteller still getting words out there for others… and yet I didn’t. I kept my words, my stories, my pictures inside and didn’t get anything on a page. I didn’t share my fun or my frustrations, the anger or the deep sadness. I neglected the ability to push the disgust and weariness out into words that might help or move or amuse others. I neglected that creativity.
I don’t know an author or artist that doesn’t have that little part of them wondering if what they do is really good enough. My doubts linger and float nearby. They gather and join each other. Doubt has become a pair of ankle weights as I swim along in life. A function of getting older? Perhaps. More likely it relates to the passing of the talented men I’ve talked about here. The flow of things putting those sparks out. My uncle wasn’t known in the science fiction community, nor was he a published author. He was a talented photographer, sculptor and cartoonist. He was genuinely creative and finished some amazing work. In the end, it didn’t go anywhere. That hit some kind of nerve inside me. Doubt soaked up all the depression, frustration and heartbreak adding more and more weight.
So here I am, writing it all down. It’s important for me, but I hope that others will be able to read this and know shared experiences are out there. Getting words onto a page helps. It’s expression, and it’s creativity. It’s catharsis. This is the first thing I’ve really written in weeks. It’s not a passing post on social media, it’s a line to help others that might be out there feeling like they’re going to get washed away and their creativity drowned. I’m so glad I got the chance to see, to feel the creative works of those recently passed. Those works will remain when their creators have gone. There are more words, more works of art, more creative expressions coming from me. I hope others will find a way to express themselves too. Don’t wait, don’t doubt, create.

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