Thursday, May 23, 2013

Memoir - a way of keeping a loved one alive

Before I had any inkling that I would write my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living withHer Son’s Bipolar and Surviving His Suicide, I wrote to keep the memory of my oldest son Paul alive. It was almost an obsession. I continually wrote down everything I could remember. I didn’t want to forget one thing about him.

Possibly his last photo

It turns out my notes and journal entries were a huge help when I began to put my memoir together. My journals – even short entries – informed and rounded out my writing immensely. What else is memoir but memories?

Here is a list of memories I wrote down in the early days after Paul’s death. I’m especially glad to have them this month – my birthday month – one of the times I miss him the most.

  • I’ll always remember he slept without closing his eyes all the way
  • I’ll always remember he walked fast and way ahead of us
  • I’ll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes surrounding clear blue eyes
  • I’ll always remember he played the piano, legs crossed at the knees, leaning way down over the keyboard
  • I’ll always remember he liked to wear second-hand clothes and didn’t mind if they were ripped
  • I’ll always remember the way he stood at the pantry door munching almonds
  • I’ll always remember he liked to climb—trees, rocks, up the highest diving boards
  • I’ll always remember he was meticulous about his things
  • I’ll always remember he could play almost any tune by ear
  • And that he was always a loner
  • And how much he loved Janet
  • And wasn’t hugged enough after she left him
  • I’ll always remember he was sensitive
  • I’ll always remember he drove too fast and erratically
  • I’ll always remember he got lots of parking tickets
  • I’ll always remember he was in love with John Lennon
  • I’ll always remember he liked Doc Marten shoes
  • I’ll always remember he tapped his foot when he sat down
  • I’ll always remember seeing him on the stone stoop drinking coffee at Starbucks
  • I won’t ever forget the feel of his cool pale skin the last night I saw him
  • Or the sound of his voice
  • I’ll always remember his hair was thick
  • I can’t forget he knew all the nursery rhymes by the time he was two
  • I’ll always remember that he and his brother called the back of the station wagon, “the really back”
  • I’ll always remember he loved to fish.


kathleen pooler said...

You do bring Paul's spirit very much alive through your words and I'm hoping they bring you consolation and peace, especially on your birthday. Happy Birthday blessings xo

madeline40 said...

Thank you, Kathy. Milestones are especially hard, yet I do manage to get through them. I'm just so glad I was able to get so much about him down. Also I'm glad my memoir will help keep him alive as well.
Best, Madeline xoxo

Unknown said...

I am about half way through your memoir so far. It is heartbreaking, but at the same time it propels me to work more on myself and live a life worth living so I never get lost in suicidal thinking again. I hope Paul is doing all right now, whereever he is, if there is an afterlife. I thank you for writing the memoir and sharing a part of your life with people. I am glad that the writing has helped you.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Your touching list is a perfect example of the power of using "I remember" as a journaling and remembering prompt. Thanks for sharing it!

madeline40 said...

Thanks, Sharon. It's amazing what kinds of results such prompts can generate. I think the repetition is evocative.

madeline40 said...

Dear Sebastian,
Your words mean so much to me - it's like I wrote the book for you. It makes it all worthwhile. Please stay in touch.

Surgeon In My Dreams said...

I am so very sorry...

madeline40 said...

Thank you, Surgeon.

Penelope said...

What a wonderful way to remember Paul--and share his memory with all of your readers.

P. Reed said...

Madeline, I am reading this now, and must say that right from the beginning, it could have been me writing the words that you have written. My sweet and dear son, Jeffrey, also my oldest son, committed suicide on April 22, 2012. With no insurance, he was going to the local MHMR, where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in June, 2011. He was given meds for these conditions and an appointment for the next month. I remember when he came out of the office, he had a very genuine smile on his face, which was something we had not seen for quite some time. He was so relieved he was getting the help that he knew he needed. But when he called the psychiatrist's office the next month to confirm his appointment, they told him that his "level did not meet priority", whatever that meant. I called the psychiatrist's office immediately, only to be told that they could not give me any info. because of the HIPPA laws.

Then in January of 2012, he was taken from my home in an ambulance that was requested by the sheriff that was at my house to be taken to the hospital, as he was suicidal. It takes about 40 minutes to get to the hospital from my home, and when I arrived at the hospital probably an hour to hour and half later, I waited MAYBE 10 minutes for him to be released. Whatever happened to holding them for 72 hours for observation? Instead, he was there probably all and all, less than two hours.

Then the day came, April 22, 2012. He walked out of my house as if he were leaving, but instead drove his vehicle to one of our barns and hung himself. Of course when we discovered that he had in fact not left the place, but had driven his car to the barn, it was too late.

My husband, Terry, our other son, Cody and myself lived the life you describe. All the anger, arguing, begging, and even questioning why you could not feel the love that you know was right there in your heart. All the should haves, could haves, wished we had. They still pop into my mind quite often.

I am so, so sorry for your loss. Your son was a beautiful soul. So was my Jeffrey. He had a heart as big as Texas.

He will never be forgotten.

Thank you for your words.
P. Reed

madeline40 said...

Dear P. Reed,
My heart goes out to you. I'm so sorry about the loss of your Jeffery. It seems we are soul mates.

Thank you for sharing your story with me. I wish you and your family all the best and hope you will be able to move on as you remember all the wonderful things about Jeffery.

Please take good care of yourselves. xoxo

P. Reed said...

Thank you. Prayers for you and your family.

madeline40 said...

Dear P.Reed,
And I too will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

And when you are ready, would you consider writing a review of Leaving the Hall Light On so that other's will benefit from your words? If you have been able to relate to it, I'm sure others will as well.

Thanks so much. Here's the link to my Amazon site:

Sending love and appreciation for your kind words. Madeline