38,000 Hours


My mother died in 2014. Mom’s death was an abrupt end to a sad and slow winding down of her body’s mechanisms.


Four years later the earth is still turning. How is that possible?


Although its roads are well-trodden by the entirety of humankind, the journey through grief is singularly lonely. Until my mother’s death, I had never experienced such a profound loss. More than 38,000 hours passed before I could write about that loss, and even after all this time, it’s still raw.


Good mothers are gifted at making their children feel like they’re number one at whatever they do. Mine was no different. Mom was my most enthusiastic supporter, the greatest fan of my work. Despite that, I self-censored my writing.


I worried what she would think about some of my off-the-wall ideas. I was afraid salty language would embarrass her. I thought she might hate the characters I created, the ones who did terrible things.


After she passed, I found myself letting loose in my writing. Characters developed profane ways of speaking. They murdered other characters. They screwed each other. I wrote passages that would make my muse blush.


Now the worlds I create are rich. The people who occupy those worlds are fully formed beings who think and speak and act in ways I can’t always predict. That’s a good thing. There’s an organic flow to my creative process these days.


On top of that, grief has made me fearless in submitting my work. Rejection used to be earth-shattering. It isn’t now. Having my work rejected by a stranger or by someone I barely know doesn’t even compare to losing the person I loved the most. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a matter of opinion.


In 2017 I had ten pieces published. 2018 has been grand, too.


Don’t get me wrong. I would give up all of that in a hummingbird’s heartbeat if I could have Mom with me again. I miss her.


I miss the touch of her hand on mine. I miss hearing her say “I love you” and “be careful.” I miss the sound of crinkling cellophane when she opened hard candies. I miss sitting on the back porch with her, talking about family and food and flowers.


I can’t change the laws of nature. I can’t bring the dead back to life. I cannot roll back those 38,000 hours. So what can I do?


I can make the most of the time I have left, though it’s an unknown quantity. I can learn from the loss. I use those lessons to tolerate a pain that will never leave me.


I write.


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Neva Bryan, St. Paul, Virginia, USA

Contact: neva (at) nevabryan dot com

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