We held onto hope that my husband Kurt would beat this cancer. The first brain tumor appeared four years ago. The brain surgeon removed all the cancer he could see, but he had to leave a few cells near the speech center of the brain or Kurt would be unable to communicate.
My writing time turned victim to this new priority. Whereas I had been a prolific writer, I now wrote sporadically. I could have written during Kurt’s recovery from surgery, but I didn’t. He went through chemo and six weeks of radiation. I could have written in the waiting room, but I didn’t. Writing was fading into my past. Kurt’s healing was all I could think about.
Then a second and later third tumor appeared, and Kurt again underwent chemo and six weeks of radiation. Again, I could have written while in the waiting room, but I didn’t. By that time, I was starting to lose hope of continuing my writing career. Yet I continued to have hope that Kurt would be healed.
When a fourth tumor appeared, Kurt resumed chemo treatments. I sat quietly in the waiting room. I could have been writing, but I didn’t.
Four years had passed. Kurt felt good most of the time which gave us great hope. While I wrote infrequently throughout those years, during the last two months of his life his health declined fast, and writing never entered my mind. I sat with Kurt. I held his hand. I told him how much I loved him.
When he passed away, hope passed with him. I vowed I would be sad forever. Being sad certainly did not include resuming my writing career. Sadness destroyed hope.
After Kurt died, I had to buy cemetery plots. We hadn’t even done that because of the hope we held that he was going to beat brain cancer. My daughters helped me locate a beautiful burial spot under a tall oak tree.
Then, I needed to choose a headstone. I looked through a brochure and found a double heart, black granite headstone. I fell in love with the marker and added a personal touch to its design. Besides our names and dates appearing on the stone, I included our occupations. What a great tribute that would be! Kurt was an artist, so I asked for an artist’s palette and paintbrushes along with the word “artist” to be engraved by his name. An open book and fountain pen along with the word “writer” were to be engraved by my name.
Now that Kurt was gone, there was plenty of time to write but there was no desire or inspiration. I had vowed to be sad forever and that allowed no room for creativity.
The day arrived when the headstone was finished and set into place at the cemetery. Tears filled my eyes as I stood by his grave. There was his name carved in granite. The headstone made it real. There was no hope. Kurt was not returning.
Eventually, my eyes focused on the word “writer” engraved above my name. How could I not write? My occupation was in plain view for everyone visiting the cemetery.
A few days later, a story my mother had relayed to me came to mind, and I wrote and submitted it as an “as told to” story. The following week, an editor from a publication that had published numerous stories of mine invited me to write a story for an upcoming theme.
Yes, I will be forever sad that Kurt is gone, but I realize that sadness does not mean my writing career had to end. My occupation has returned with new hope that I will remain inspired the rest of my life. After all, “writer” is engraved on my headstone for all to see—and for me to live up to.
N.K. Wagner is the Executive Editor and Publisher of Page & Spine.