Before and After: Losing the “real” Nana

I feel like I’ve written enough about death and grieving to last a lifetime (I think I intended the pun there), both in my book and on this blog. But after I was done reflecting on my “before and after” experiences with nine big life events for “The Beginning of After” blog tour, I had to continue with a tenth because…well, this stuff just keeps generating sticky ideas for me. Although I do think I’m done with the theme. For a while.

Here now, as an unofficial wrap up to the blog tour, are some thoughts about the Before of a first big personal loss, and what it brings After:

In “The Beginning of After,” Laurel has Nana, a well-coiffed, brownie-baking powerhouse of a protectress. I also had a Nana. She was not unlike Laurel’s. (Well, duh.)

When she died, it was the first time I’d lost someone I loved deeply, and even though she was pushing 90, I was totally blindsided.

Here I was, a college graduate and reasonably intelligent human being, and it had never sunk in that the important people in my life wouldn’t be around forever. And so I took my grandmother for granted. One year, I was home in New York from Los Angeles for the holidays and couldn’t make the time to see her. I was busy with friends, and didn’t feel like driving three hours in bad weather to lose a chunk of my vacation. “Next trip,” I’d told her. You can probably guess what happened then.

Less than two months later, I got the call that Nana had had a stroke and wasn’t expected to survive. I flew to her bedside to sit with her and then eventually, say a last goodbye. When I had to return to California, I wished and wished that the plane could instead fly back in time even just a week. I would settle for a week — just long enough so I could talk to her on the phone again.

It was the only Before and After in my life where the biggest part of the After was wanting the Before so much that it hurt…I could even put my finger on the part of my chest that ached most. It was the After that made me realize this: every day is part of a Before — before what, we don’t know; maybe it’s good, maybe not — and I was lucky to have any of it.

That’s tough to hold on to in the daily crush. I constantly forget, and then I remember, and then forget and remember again. Nana must be doing that…reminding me when I need it the most.


Thoughts on release week

Well I have to say, I’m glad that’s over.

Two book launch events, two live online chats, several blog interviews and guest posts, one child starting first grade, buckets of rain and flooding, and an injured foot from slipping in cat puke on the hallway floor. Now I finally have a moment to reflect, and I think I know how I feel about the fact that “The Beginning of After” has been published.

This is my beginning of After. All my life, I’ve dreamt about being an author. I don’t think I’ve ever walked into a bookstore and not fantasized about seeing my own book on a shelf. So now, look here:

And here:

It’s really as simple as saying it’s a dream come true, and a totally new phase of life starts today. Now I’m on a hard deadline to finish the draft of my next book because my editor is waiting for it, and even with the pressure it’s a sweet relief to be writing again. The journey with this novel will be very different from the first one; shorter, of course, but probably stressful in different ways, skewed by expectation.

In the end, what I’m feeling most sharply is grateful that thanks to many people, including everyone who’s already read the book and will read the book at some point, I get to be sitting here:

Now I’m gonna go work on a new scene. My foot’s finally better and I’m not so embarrassed about the whole cat puke thing, and the keyboard already feels different under my fingers.

Peace and love to all, my friends!