What does a writer do when an elegy to the mother he lost at a tender age 60 years ago touches so many who read it that their effusive and compassionate responses warm his heart?
He expresses his gratitude at the next available opportunity. Like now.
Gratitude to those who took the time to reach out and touch him.
Gratitude also to the publisher of this paper (Halston Media) for affording columnists like me the generous space to express whatever crosses our minds in a given week.
When sharing a deeply personal, life-changing experience (as I did here Sept. 19 with “Little Boy Lost--and Found”), columnists are afforded a rare privilege and a valuable outlet that others, with similar stories, do not have. Committing to the page innermost thoughts and emotions can be a form of therapy (as our daughter Elissa, a teacher, observed after reading my piece).
Writing as Therapy
Yet, it’s only when words forged during a lifetime of reflection meet unseen eyeballs out there that a literally metaphysical connection is formed: what starts out as organic therapy at the hands of the author is transmuted (through ink, paper, cyberspace) into vicarious therapy for the reader. For a writer, it doesn’t get more humbling than that.
Here’s a sample of the many people I heard from who revealed themselves to me as soulmates (they are purposely unidentified by name to maintain their privacy)...
One woman I’ve never met wrote, “I, too, lost my mother when she was in her 40s, from cancer... it’s a very personal loss that is always with you and is a void that is never filled. [My sister] suffered a great deal, and that is painful to remember. What is most sad is that my children could never experience having such a wonderful and happy grandmother.
“Your personal thoughts on this brought back my own feelings, and maybe it will motivate me to [write] something to share with my children and grandchildren.”
Sometimes, the outreach happens at the least expected moments, stopping you in your tracks and adding a sobering splash of cold reality to momentary escapism. I was with my friend Tony Fusco bopping to a great live band, The Amish Outlaws, at Putnam County Golf Course a recent Friday night when a text message flashed on my phone at 10 p.m.
The man, also a stranger to me, wrote that after his parents divorced, while still in his teens, his father died “in the line of duty.” The “textspeak” he used made his pain more immediate and poignant: Echoing what I expressed, he wrote, simply, “Also miss and wounded,” adding, “Just have to trust in God and move on,” ending with, “Peace God bless.”
A former neighbor of ours we’ve known for a quarter-century realized she had only discovered in what I wrote something tragic we have in common. She texted me, “My heart hurts for you. [My] Mom died at 48, I was older but pain just as deep. I can totally relate to you with this. I know the feeling of your mom being there one moment and gone the next and life changing forever. That never goes away. Our paths are so similar that I am stunned.”
Yet another acquaintance I know through acting, shared that “I understood it viscerally. My mom was 39, and I was 4. She’s always been a mystery to me.”
And this from a writer I know: ”Lost my dad when I was 2-? (he was 38), and each poem I write about him keeps the memory alive.”
Two high school classmates told me on Facebook they never realized my family situation.
One commented, “I never realized what you were dealing with in our younger years. We guys from the old neighborhood would try to get you to come out to play some ball or for a snowball fight and I always wondered why you turned us down most of the time.” I can’t say I remember that as well as he does, but I also can understand why I must block it out.
From another high school friend’s Facebook comment: “I had no idea what you went through during our childhood.”
A Yorktowner who lost his musically gifted high school son to an overdose posted, “With true stories like this, we don’t need fiction.” I replied, “Without stories like this, we wouldn’t have fiction.”
One of the most startling responses has come from another columnist for Halston Media. In her Sept. 26 column for The Somers Record, Adrienne Kavelle, who lost her young son years ago, and recently lost her husband, kindly wrote that my “odyssey” has given her “an insight” into her own.
One of my favorites remarks is “As sad and painful to read, it was a love letter.” Yes, it was.
Sixty years on, I am indebted to all those kind-hearted enough to understand why I had to write what I wrote, particularly the countless, kindred spirits out there whose pain is at once unique to them and all too common to others.
“You are making connections and allowing other people to know they are not alone,” Elissa commented after reading her dad’s ode to her grandmother.
“As you go through life,” I replied to her, “you continually learn that a lot of people have secret stories of loss and great sadness. The trick is using all that to make yourself stronger in dealing with all of life’s difficult moments, big or small, which are inevitable.”
Bruce “The Blog” Apar is a writer, publicist, actor, and civic volunteer. He is sole proprietor of regional marketing agency APAR PR. He is the ghostwriter for new ForbesBooks title, “Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer,” by Bob Fisch, now available at Amazon, WalMart, Barnes & Noble, Target, and other online bookstores. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (914) 275-6887.