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Archive for March, 2010

Praying for Death

Before anyone reads too much into the title, no, I am not suicidal.

For those who have not heard yet, I recently lost a wonderful teacher and mentor to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a.k.a. ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.)  This disease kills off motor neurons in the brain, slowly paralyzing the person affected although the rest of their brain functions normally.  When I found out that my teacher was diagnosed, I prayed she wouldn’t suffer with this disease and that it took her in the early stages.  I know it sounds awful to think like this but isn’t it worse to hope that she would be buried alive inside her body for my own selfish reasons?

After battling the disease for a little over six months, she began going into sleeping comas and passed away peacefully in her sleep.  While losing a mentor and teacher is a heart wrenching experience, I remain thankful that she did not have to suffer with this disease long.

Those that have known me for a while might be shocked reading this since I strongly believe in fighting diseases.  I put no stock at all in life expectancies as I have yet to find an expiration date tattooed anywhere.  If there is a chance to live, I believe that one should take that chance.  That being said, the fight should go on only as long as the person afflicted is able to fight.  I have watched people kept alive against their will while suffering more than words could ever describe (this was prior to living wills.)  I know that if I am ever diagnosed with a terminal illness I will fight it to no end, but I hope that those around me will understand when my fight is over.

So what does this have to do with writing?  A book I am currently working on deals with the Holocaust, particularly those in Dr. Josef Mengle’s care.  Researching the heinous things done to those in concentration camps, I couldn’t help thinking that if I was in their position; I would pray for death.  Granted, I am glad for those that fought and were able to educate others on what happened during that time so that we could prevent anything similar from happening again.  I have had the honor of talking with a few survivors and they all agreed that during that time, living was their form of fighting.  I understand what they mean, and have a great amount of respect for them because I still maintain the belief that in the same position, I would give up.

This belief has created issues between me and my main character, Tamas.  Tamas believes that living is the ultimate rebellion against his oppressors.  While I understand his belief, it is very hard for me to get into his head when he deals with the obstacles he is going through.  Certain scenes take me weeks just to get ready to write them and I end up curling up in a ball crying two sentences in.  I no longer want to fight the fight.

The death of my teacher made me realize that I wasn’t the one fighting.  In life, we fight alongside our friends and family as they battle, doing what we can to help.  We battle our own battles while standing beside them, but we know our battle is nothing in comparison to what they face.  We stand by them as long as they want us to, no matter what.  As authors, we have to create the battle and stand by our characters as they battle.  It creates quite a conflict of interest at times.

So, I have finally realized that I am not the one fighting Tamas’ battles, he is.  If he chooses to rebel by living, I will stand by him all the way.  I just have to figure out a way to deal with my own battles and pray Tamas doesn’t suffer too much.

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