Friday, 18 March 2011

The old rules still apply

When your child dies, it shatters everything you used to believe was true; that the world is a safe place, that bad things don't happen to good people and that children don't die before their parents.  Someone, somewhere has ripped up the rule book and your cosy, confined world is suddenly awe-inspiringly vast with possibilities.

After we lost Juliette eight years ago I stopped budgetting our money, no longer talked to people I didn't like and avoided anything that wasn't going to make me feel better. In one sense this was very liberating. I used to give too much time and care too much for the opinion of individuals who suddenly didn't matter, and started to find gold in people that before losing Juliette I hadn't noticed.  I wrote a book.  Never mind that writing is all I have ever longed to do since I was about 7, it took Juliette's death to give me the confidence to do it.

It was a shock after three or four years to realise that in fact, nothing has changed.  Or at least, I had changed beyond recognition but everything else was just as it had always been. It seems that credit card companies charge interest, even when your child has died.  I had a close and loving circle of friends, but the world at large no longer gave me special treatment because of what had happened to me. I don't have an automatic right to be published just because my book is about the daughter I lost. Watching Petals Fall has been and will be judged alongside books by authors who still have all their children.

So the old rules still apply.  What I have lost and what I have gained is mine, and mine alone. The world has not changed and to move forward, I am bound by the same rules as everyone else. Whether this is fair is irrelevant because like Juliette dying, there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.  What I want to hold onto is that the depths I've plumbed are equal to the heights of my love for her.  She taught me so much about seizing life and not to do so now feels like a betrayal.

I'm taking up my novel again and feel really hopeful once more that I can turn it into a story that people will want to read, and will be moved by.  Juliette is sitting at my shoulder, urging me on.

6 comments:

  1. Lovely post, Geves. Although a tutor once recommended that I follow the slash and burn approach to editing, be careful not to destroy too much of what was / is heartfelt...

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  2. Thanks Petra, and good advice. I have to beware that slash and burn mode.

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  3. I think these are really deep questions you're raising. Do you think people really want to read a book about a child dying? And if they do, what are their motivations - not implying they are necessarily bad ones, but what exactly are they? And why do you want to write a book that people are moved by?

    I suppose I want people to be moved by Catherine's death - and a lot of my shock this year has been coming to terms with how unmoved they are... how quickly they have become accustomed to it, and gone back to business as usual. But I sort of think that whatever I wrote down - whatever I did - nothing would help them understand how I feel, or the extent of the loss, other than them losing a child of their own.

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  4. Susan, I was talking about my novel here. Watching Petals Fall is from my heart. Juliette's was a story I had to tell, and if no one else ever reads it I'm happy that those who have, can see my daughter live in the words there.

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  5. Hi Geves. Is your book about Juliette available to buy? Cos i would really like to read it.
    Love from Cath, Peter's mum, @ TCF xx

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  6. Hi Cath, thank you so much for wanting to read the book. It's not published yet but if you like I can email it to you via TCF. xxx

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