by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
When I was fourteen years old, my friend Paul’s younger brother was struck by a car and killed. Two months later, my friend John’s older brother drowned. And two months after that, my friend Judy’s older sister died in a car crash.
After I had attended three funerals in this short period of time, I overheard my mother’s telephone conversation with a friend. Mom said she was worried because I had “witnessed” too much death for someone so young. But these siblings of friends were no more than nodding acquaintances to me. What I witnessed was not death, but the effect death has on those who are left behind. I ached for Paul, John, and Judy. I watched the way each of them dealt with the sudden death of a sibling.
These were not the last funerals I attended. And the losses have hit much closer to home. Death is part of Life’s cycle. At some point in our lives, each of us will lose someone close. It’s how we deal with that loss that makes us who we are.
Death is also a universal theme in books. Even books for young readers often handle this subject well. From Walk Two Moons to Mockingbird to The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, readers are touched by characters who have to deal with loss.
My husband grew up in a motherless home. His father never remarried after his mother died. What books do you suppose would have most appealed to him as a child? Books about characters with two happy parents or books about children like the one he was?
With the loss in the past month of my brother-in-law and of a longtime friend, I have thought once again about the touch of death. I realized that many of my own stories deal with death—and those left behind.
I like to explore the way each of my characters overcomes the hardships in his/her life. They might hide from reality, dwell in self-pity, or grow stronger in spite of it. A reader can find hope in watching a character rise above a situation Life has dealt with a heavy hand.
Even when my stories cover hard ground, they usually end on an “up” note. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, so I like to provide one for my readers. It might not be a “happily ever after” kind of ending, but I try to show hope for the character’s future.
Many readers of this blog said they were “touched” by the blog post about my husband’s mother, who died when he was an infant. It was a tragic event, but I tried to find a bright spot within it.
Touching readers is what Story is all about. And that is what my writing tries to do.