One of the few authors I’ll spring for straight up (instead of waiting at the library or until I find it on sale) is Louise Penny. I’ve written a few (okay, okay, probably more than a few) times about how much I love Penny’s mystery novels here. She’s one of the authors writing today that I really want to meet, though I’ll admit that I’m a little terrified that if I did, in fact, meet her, I’d just fan-girl all over the place and embarrass myself.
In any case, Penny’s latest, Kingdom of the Blind came out last week and I’ve spent the last few days reading. Yet again, I’m struck by Penny’s ability to get to the heart of life, living, and human emotions. One of my favorite parts of the books are the author’s note at the end, where Penny writes so evocatively about her own life and struggles. For a number of years, Penny’s husband Michael suffered from dementia and died in 2016. Penny has also been open about being a recovering alcoholic and the incredible loneliness, anger, and sadness she felt for so long as well as many wonderful things she values in her life now.
“A funny thing happened on my way to not writing this book,” Penny notes, “I started writing.”
“How could I go on when half of me was missing? I could barely get out of bed.” She continues. “But then, a few months later, I found myself sitting at the long pine dining table where I always wrote. Laptop open.”
I relate to that in such a big way. While I’ve never lost a spouse, I have lost loved ones, as well as other, less tangible bits and pieces along the way.
It’s hard, losing, whatever that loss comprises. Especially at this time of the year, when everything seems suffused with traditions and the place at the table seems all the more empty than usual. When it’s impossible not to remember and the commercials and pictures and expectations are designed to evoke emotions that often I’d rather leave in the background or unexamined.
Sometimes living, moving, feels a bit like a betrayal. With an ache that has the sharpness of a gunshot echoing from 2015 and holes that rend the threads to keep weaving it all together, it feels impossible to tie the knots and work to keep creating. To set the empty place and also hold the feast.
That’s been a struggle for me lately, even though my grief isn’t new. I’ve reached that sort of half-mourning stage, where the sadness doesn’t seep into every moment or corner, but comes out at both expected and unexpected times with a startling strength.
I’m grateful to Penny for not denying the darkness, but also for the joy she takes in how moving forward encompasses her loss: “Far from leaving Michael behind, he became even more infused in the books. All the things we had together came together in Three Pines. Love, companionship, friendship. His integrity. His courage. Laughter.”
In so many ways, that’s what I’m seeking. Not to leave behind, but to hold the love and live.
This post is a part of Microblog Mondays. If you want to read more, please head over to Stirrup Queens! Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.